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For whom the (door)bell tolls

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52The humble doorbell, perhaps best known as that device that only works ‘sometimes’, is the recent recipient of a high-tech facelift. Paul Skelton explains.

When George Frideric Handel composed his famous oratorio, Messiah, little did he know that one day his masterpiece would undergo a monophonic transformation to become little more than an annoying doorbell chime.

You know the one I mean – it’s the one that goes just a little too long, making you regret pushing the bell in the first place (maybe this is just me?).

Now, doorbells are joining the technological revolution, transforming into robust security devices that connect potential visitors directly to a home owner’s smart phone.

Adrian van der Heijden is the chief executive officer of Lite Automation, one of the the Australian distributors of the popular Doorbird product.

“Doorbells were never a very practical solution in larger homes,” he says.

“People are starting to realise that central intercom stations are pointless – most of the time you’re not home or you’re outside.

“With a system like Doorbird, you don’t have to hang around your intercom or front door anymore. When a visitor pushes the doorbell, it will connect them straight through to your phone which is a lot more convenient.”

Doorbird is also available in Australia through My Clever Home.

Recently, market analyst IHS Markit released the Audio & Video Door Phones Report, which forecast that global revenue from the sale of video doorbells would grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.2% from 2016 to 2020, to reach approximately $A356 million in 2020.

This vastly outpaces the growth rate for competing conventional video door phones, a market that is forecast to grow at 3.5% CAGR over the same period.

By next year, video set to account for 50% of unit shipments.

If the 2016 CEDIA Expo is anything to go by, video door stations are expected to play a significant role in the future of home automation. All up, 16 companies were showing off new or improved video doorbell solutions for both the pro and DIY markets.

“I believe what’s driving the market is the same thing that’s driving a lot of the automation market: security. People just want to know what’s going on in their home,” Adrian says.

“That’s why encryption is so important. In fact, it’s the most important thing to look for.

“A lot of companies don’t implement enough encryption. 128-bit encryption is minimum you should accept. 256-bit is better, but not many companies are doing 256-bit because of the associated cost.”

Other key considerations when selecting a door station are signal strength and internet access, especially if you’re using it for video streaming, he says.

Interestingly, Doorbird holds a unique position in the market in that it sits somewhere between the pro and DIY channels.

Made in Germany, Doorbird’s IP54-rated enclosure houses a 180° infrared motion sensor and can be connected to a network via WiFi or Ethernet. It pairs with up to eight devices and supports both iOS and Android platforms.

Another of the 16 brands on show at the Expo was Ring. In March, the company announced that it had raised $61.2 million in Series C funding from venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) with add-on from Sir Richard Branson.

The Ring Video Doorbell installs in minutes and can be accessed through the free Ring app on any iOS or Android device.

It features a low voltage Wi-Fi PCB that operates on an internal rechargeable lithium polymer battery that lasts for over a year while cloud recording allows for footage to be accessed through a smart phone, tablet or computer.

“At Ring, it’s our mission to reduce crime by creating a ‘ring’ of security around our customers’ front doors, homes and neighbourhoods,” Ring chief executive and chief inventor Jamie Siminoff says.

“With these new funds, we will expand that ‘ring’ of security by adding to our high-quality, diverse line of smart security products.”

Perhaps some of the biggest news to emanate from the video doorbell market, though, was the August launch of August Pro.

The August Smart Lock has proven itself quite popular among US integrators and home owners and the company is now making an effort to better support the pro channel.

“Our August Smart Lock and smart home access products have already generated significant demand and brand awareness. We established the August Pro division to meet this demand and support the installer community who are being asked about August products from their customers who are embracing the connected home,” says August Pro director Mike Buckingham.

The August Doorbell Cam is equipped with two-way audio and one-way video using an HD camera, which gives a clear view of visitors from a smart phone, while ensuring privacy.

The Doorbell Cam operates as a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) WiFi bridge giving users the ability to securely unlock/lock their door to let visitors in remotely, from a smart phone, from anywhere. It is easy to install and replaces an existing doorbell and wiring.

“The August Doorbell Cam builds on our vision for delivering smarter home access by giving consumers even more control to their front door,” says August Home chief executive Jason Johnson.

New features of the platform include intelligent motion detection and digital video recordings. Intelligent motion will detect movement to identify people at the door and sends an instant alert to a smart phone whether someone drops off a package or is lurking at the door – even if the person doesn’t ring the bell. Users will also be able to record each interaction at their door and replay conversations and video recordings of visitors or a missed visitor or delivery through the August app.

Both Ring and August are not yet available in Australia and New Zealand, but Doorbird can be purchased by integrators through Lite Automation and My Clever Home.

About Paul Skelton

Paul Skelton

Multiple award seeking journalist and magazine editor Paul Skelton has been involved with the electrical industry for the best part of a decade. Email him at paulskelton@build.com.au.

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