Smart door locks and video call bells are great conveniences for those who reside in single-family homes, but what concerns the millions of people who dwell in flats, apartments, and condos?
They might also like to respond to their front door from their phone — whether home or not — and perhaps buzz their guest in without getting off the couch or running home from the office. Ring, the original video doorbell maker, believes it has a solution.
Ring Intercom is a DIY, retrofit gadget that attaches to the intercom inside your house and connects via Wi-Fi to the Ring app on your smartphone. It’s specifically designed for European apartment buildings where multiple flats or apartments have one access point and only an audio intercom approach.
With Ring Intercom installed, you can speak to your visitor and buzz them in through the app when someone rings your flat. There’s no video component, all audio, and no recording feature. Instead, the ring Intercom reproduces the existing function of your intercom on your phone, letting you talk to your front door from anywhere.
The primary benefit of Ring Intercom is the ability to speak to visitors and hum them in remotely, using your phone from anywhere or an Echo gadget if you’re at residence. But having packets or food deliveries inside the establishment and potentially to your front door, rather than sitting on the doorstep uncovered to the elements and potential burglars, adds another level of security and convenience.
The battery-powered Ring Intercom is launching this week at IFA in Berlin. It will be available first in the UK for £119, and in Germany, with preorders starting on September 28th and shipping scheduled for October 26th. A bundle with a Ring charging station and a spare battery will cost £149.99.
Aligned by Amazon, Ring also offers the product at an initial price of £89.99, including the extra battery devices, which tally a value of about £48. Ring Intercom will be open in France, Spain, and Italy in early 2023 and is planned to arrive in the US next year
It’s as evident a solution as the video doorbell. Three times as many people live in multi-unit buildings worldwide as in single-family homes, so this solution was one the company had been trying to develop for a long time. However, Siminoff said that while its doorbell product line “has done well in Europe,” a large percentage of the population couldn’t use one.
The Ring did introduce the Peephole Cam a couple of years back, 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 door.
There are tens of thousands of variations [on intercom systems. It is designed to work with over 90 percent of them. So it seized a lot of work to generate, and it has a ton of intelligence packed in it that decides what it’s been connected to, similar to how some smart thermostats work.
The Ring Intercom connects to your internal intercom handset and is powered by a rechargeable battery. It’s compatible with most audio intercom handsets, and there’s a compatibility checker at Ring.com. No structural changes to your apartment are required, and the installation process is entirely DIY.
When someone presses your apartment button at the main entrance, it triggers two-way talk through the Ring app. Unfortunately, you can only answer calls when someone buzzes your apartment, so you can’t use it to listen in on people hanging out in the doorway whenever you fancy.
There is no recording capability, as there is with Ring Video Doorbells; there’s just live, two-way talk. However, there are local laws around recording audio. The activity log in the Ring app will tell you if you missed a visitor. The activity log also shows every time the remote unlock feature is activated by you or any shared user in your household to whom you’ve granted access.
Ring Intercom also has an optional feature that allows 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 answer the buzzer. In addition, the Ring will add an Auto-Verified Guests feature that lets you share revokable virtual keys with, say, your dog walker or cleaning person. It is something most intelligent door locks allow you to do.
Ring Intercom can also connect to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, allowing you to use any Echo smart speaker or 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 code. While Ring Intercom will work in the US, Ring chose to focus on Europe for launch, with a larger potentially untapped market.
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 can be accessed from the same app. The intercom is a purely audio device. There are ways you could add a video to these types of devices. But it’s much more challenging and involves more parties, such as the building owner. With Ring Intercom, you can stay connected to your front door with a device you can buy and install on your own with just a couple of screws and half an hour on a Sunday.