Smart door locks and video doorbells These are great conveniences for those who live in single-family homes, but what about the millions of people who live in flats, apartments, and condos? They may also like to open their front door from their phone, whether they’re home or not, and perhaps call their visitor without getting up from the couch or rushing home from the office. Ring, maker of the original video doorbell, thinks he has a solution.
Ring Intercom is a DIY upgrade device that connects to the intercom inside your home and connects via Wi-Fi to the Ring app on your smartphone. It is specifically designed for European apartment buildings where multiple floors (or apartments) have one entry point and only one audio intercom system installed. With Ring Intercom installed, when someone calls your apartment, you can talk to your visitor and alert them through the app. There is no video component, it is all audio, and there is no recording function. Ring Intercom simply replicates your existing intercom feature on your phone, allowing you to talk to your front door from anywhere.
The main benefit of Ring Intercom is the ability to talk to visitors and call them remotely, using your phone from anywhere or an Echo device if you’re at home. But having packages or food deliveries arrive inside the building and possibly on your doorstep, rather than sitting on your doorstep exposed to the elements and potential thieves, also adds another level of security and convenience.
The battery-powered Ring Intercom will launch this week at IFA in Berlin. It will be available first in the UK for £119.99 and in Germany, with pre-orders starting September 28 and shipping scheduled for October 26. A bundle with a Ring Battery Charging Station and a spare battery will cost £149.99. Ring, which is owned by Amazon, is also offering the product at an introductory price of £89.99, including devices with extra battery, the total value of which is around £48. Ring Intercom will be available in France, Spain and Italy in early 2023 and is scheduled to arrive in the US next year.
“It’s as obvious a solution as the video doorbell,” said Jamie Siminoff, Ring’s founder and principal inventor, in an interview with the edge. “If he had been born or raised in Europe, maybe he would have built this first.”
Three times as many people live in multi-unit buildings around the world as single-family homes, he says, so this solution was one the company had been trying to develop for a long time. Siminoff said that while his product line of doorbells “has done well in Europe,” there was a large percentage of the population that simply couldn’t use one.
ring introduced the peephole camera a couple of years ago, which worked for apartment doors (the doorbell camera was in the peephole). But that didn’t solve how to talk to someone who was knocking on the door of her building (and Ring discontinued the peephole last year).
“There are tens of thousands of variations [on intercom systems]Siminoff said. “This is designed to work with more than 90 percent of them. It took a lot of work to develop, and it has a lot of packaged intelligence that decides what it’s connected to, similar to how some smart thermostats work.”
Ring Intercom connects to your internal intercom headset and is powered by a reusable, rechargeable battery. It is compatible with most audio intercom phones (but not video systems), and there is a compatibility checker at Ring.com. No structural changes to your apartment are required, and the installation process is completely DIY.
When someone presses the button for your apartment at the front entrance, a two-way conversation is activated through the Ring app. You can only answer calls when someone is calling your apartment, so you can’t use it to listen to people hanging out at the door whenever you want.
There’s no recording capability, like there is with Ring Video Doorbells; there is only live two-way talk. “I don’t know if people would want [recording]Siminoff says. “And there are local laws about audio recording.” The activity log in the Ring app will tell you if you missed a visitor. The activity log is also displayed whenever you or any shared user in your home to whom you have granted access activates the remote unlock feature.
Ring Intercom also has an optional feature that allows Amazon drivers secure, time-based access to your building to drop off packages, similar to Amazon’s Key program, so you don’t even have to answer the doorbell. Ring says it will add an auto-verified guest feature that allows you to share revocable virtual keys with, say, your dog walker or cleaning person. This is something most smart door locks allow you to do.
Ring Intercom can also connect to Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, allowing you to use any Echo speaker or smart display as a hands-free intercom and talk to your visitor through it. You can also unlock the door by voice, but you need to set and use a voice pin code.
While Ring Intercom will work in the US, Siminoff said Ring chose to focus on Europe for its launch, where there is a larger potentially untapped market. “I think everyone always thinks that once you get to Amazon, you just have magic wands full of unlimited engineers and resources,” he says. “But we have to focus, so we wanted to focus on Europe, launch it there, get it up and running, then we’ll bring it to the US.”
While Ring says you can link Ring Intercom to other Ring devices like Ring Indoor Cam, there’s no combined functionality; it’s just that both devices can be accessed from the same app. The intercom is a purely audio device. “There are ways to add video to these kinds of devices,” says Siminoff. “But it’s a much more difficult thing to do and it involves more parties, like the building owner. “With Ring Intercom, you can stay connected to your front door with a device you can buy and install yourself “with just a couple of screws and half an hour on a Sunday,” says Siminoff.