Smart door locks and video doorbells are great amenities for those who live in single-family homes, but what about the millions of people who live in apartments, apartments, and condos? They might also like to answer 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 it has a solution.
Ring Intercom is a DIY device that attaches to the intercom inside your home and connects via Wi-Fi to the Ring app on your smartphone. It is specially designed for European apartment buildings where multiple apartments (or flats) have one entry point and only one audio intercom system installed. With Ring Intercom installed, when someone rings your apartment, you can speak to your visitor and call them through the app. There’s no component video – it’s all audio – and there’s no recording capability. Ring Intercom simply duplicates your existing intercom function 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 inside the building and potentially all the way to your front door, rather than sitting on the doorstep exposed to the elements and potential thieves, also adds another level of security and convenience.
The battery-powered Ring Intercom is launching this week at IFA in Berlin. It will first be available in the UK for £119.99 and in Germany, with pre-orders starting on September 28 and shipping scheduled for October 26. A pack with a Ring Battery Charging Station and 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 the additional battery-powered devices, which total a value of around £48. Ring Intercom will be available in France, Spain and Italy in early 2023 and is expected to arrive in the United States next year
“It’s as obvious a solution as the Video Doorbell,” Ring Founder and Chief Inventor Jamie Siminoff said in an interview with The edge. “If I was born or raised in Europe, I might have built this one first.”
Three times as many people live in multi-unit buildings globally than in 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 range of doorbell products “did well in Europe”, there was a large percentage of the population who simply couldn’t use one.
Ring introduced the peephole camera a few years ago, which worked for apartment doors (the doorbell camera was in the peephole). But that didn’t solve how to talk to someone calling at your building’s door (and Ring ditched the peephole last year).
“There are tens of thousands of variations [on intercom systems]”, said Siminoff. “This is designed to work with over 90% of them. It took a lot of work to develop, and it contains a ton of intelligence that decides what it is connected to, from the same way some smart thermostats work.
Ring Intercom connects to your internal intercom handset and is powered by a rechargeable, reusable battery. It is compatible with most audio intercom handsets (but not video systems), and there is a compatibility checker on Ring.com. No structural changes to your apartment are required, and the installation process is entirely self-made.
When someone presses the button for your apartment at the main entrance, it triggers a two-way conversation through the Ring app. You can only answer calls when someone rings your apartment, so you can’t use it to listen in on people hanging around the doorway whenever you want.
There’s no recording capability, as there is with Ring Video Doorbells; there is just a live, two-way conversation. “I don’t know if people would like [recording]“says Siminoff. “And there are local laws regarding audio recording.” The Ring app’s activity log will let you know if you’ve missed a visitor. The activity log is also displayed whenever the remote unlock feature is activated by you or any shared user in your household to whom you have granted access.
Ring Intercom also has an optional feature that gives Amazon delivery 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. not answer the buzzer. Ring says it will add an auto-verified guests feature that lets you share revocable virtual keys with, say, your dog walker or housekeeper. This is something most smart door locks allow you to do.
Ring Intercom can also connect to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, 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 with voice, but you must set up and use a voice PIN.
While Ring Intercom will operate in the United States, Siminoff said Ring chose to focus on Europe for launch, where there is a larger potentially untapped market. “I think everyone still thinks that once you’re on Amazon, you just have magic wands full of engineers and unlimited resources,” he says. “But we have to focus, so we wanted to focus on Europe, launch it there, launch it, and then we’ll bring it to the United States.”
While Ring says you can link Ring Intercom to other Ring devices like the Ring Indoor Cam, there’s no combined functionality; it’s just that both devices are accessible from the same app. Intercom is a purely audio device. “There are ways to add video to these types of devices,” says Siminoff. “But it’s a much harder thing to do and involves more parties, like the owner of the building. “With Ring Intercom, you can stay connected to your front door with a device you can buy and install yourself ‘with just a few screws and half an hour on Sundays,'” Siminoff says.