Monday 25 September 2017

Ring Video Doorbell WIBNIF (Wouldn't It Be Nice IF.....?)

I will admit that I am a gadget lover, and have had considerable experience with various gear over the years. That being said, there have been instances when my purchase of a gadget had been influenced by real/true/genuine necessity rather than curiosity. When I moved home a few years ago, I fould that the analogue door bell that was in place was useless. It was a wired set-up but the bell was placed, still, in the entrance hall. Even after cranking its volume or adjusting the solenoid, it was still inaudible when one is upstairs. Moving the bell anywhere was going to mean running long cables.

Now my first solution was obvious. I had the house already set with LightwaverRF smart lighting, smart power sockets and heating ( This is one of the cheapest, easy and yet stable smarthome solutions (if one does not want to tinker with Domoticz). So it  was a no-brainer not to consider LightwaverRF's door bell offering, which came at about £30. What you get is a traditional metal bell (solenoid hit) and a push button to install at the door. The good thing is the two work wirelessly (433Mhz RF like all other LightwaveRF lighting products) and the bell is battery powered by 2 CR232? batteries which can last for almost a year.

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LightwaveRF Door Bell set

You get to pair the push button wiith the bell, and you can place the bell anywhere in the house, and indeed its loud enough. Mine I hanged it up in the stairway,  hanging on just a single wall nail/screw.

I also paired the bush button with my bedroom lights, and set it so that when someone rings, the lights flash (on-off-on-off) These settings are set by 4 small switches at the back of the push button, so you can check the manual to set them according to your desired lighting response,

My main issue with this bell was, it was quite expensive for what it offered. The flickering of lights was quite mundane because you would not notice it on a bright day, and also was not necessary as long as the bell was still working, save for cases when your bell battery goes flat without your knowledge, which should be quite a rare event.
This bell was markerted as a LightwaveRF wireless bell, but there was nothing smart about it. There are better wireless bells with a mains plugged chime (no need to buy batteries) which cost £6 online.
I would have loved a situation where this bell could notify me via the LightwaveRF app, whenever the bell was rung, but alas. I have the same issue with LightwaveRF's door/window magnets, they are quite dumb.
I tried to search IFTTT (www,ifttt,com) for recipes that use the bell push or the magnetic switches, but there are none. It seems you can only use these 2 products to activate lights when the push button is pressed or when the door is opened, no push notification or anything else.
At least ifttt recipes would have been better, but you cannot select the 2 devices as sources because LightwaveRF's devices are passive, and STATELESS! They do not communicate their state (eg. is light on? is door open? etc, you cant make such queries)

So what I decided on was to try something better in terms of functionality. I therefor sold my LWRF bell on ebay for £24 gross (that was a good sell)
I bought the much talked about Ring Video doorbell (, the battery operated one. I bought mine from Argos, which sells the bell bundled with a chime unit (the sounder) for £169, but I had a £10 voucher which any Argos customer can get hold of easily, so it costed me £159 for both. The chime is around £24 separately, so it means I got the bell for £135, which is a very good find. Also Argos  offers buy-now-pay-later for 6 months on this, so thats slightly over 20 quid per month, interest-free. Thats equivalent of me skipping my after-lunch coffee for just 2 days per week, honest its worth it.

Image result for argos ring door bell and chime bundle
Ring Video Door Bell and Chime set

Now on to the Ring itself, the device is well made and quite sturdy. At the time of this writing, Ring has just released its second version of the door bell called "Ring Video door Bell 2" From what I can tell, this new video door bell only differs with the original in that it records videos in 1080p (instead of 720p), is a bit slimmer (not thinner!) and removable batteries. On the downside it comes with slightly reduced field of view (FOV) There could be another subtle differences but I believe I have mentioned everything thats worth highlighting.

You connect your bell and chime to your wifi network. The chime will sound when the door bell id pressed. this happens over wifi, so if either of these disconnects to wifi, no ding dong sound for you.

WIBNIF 1. Chime and bell should have had their own direct RF signal for communication.

Also when the door bell is pressed you receive a notification on your phone (same with motion detected by the way...) You can then answer the doorbell by tapping on the notification and voila,... you are talking to your PPI sales guys, or The Watch Tower brethren or even your Royal mail delivery guy (one-way video and 2-way audio)

The major flaw in this design is the LAG that exists between button pressing and receiving of notification. This means if your home broadband is not fibre and has high latency, and you are away from home, chances are that you will answer the doorbell when the delivery guy (who happens to be in a hurry to meet his quotas) is gone, or you may be luck to see his back as he leaves.
I must say however, Ring has been working very happy to reduce this delay to acceptable levels. I think they are making sure that the device does not go into deep sleep, which however sucks the juice outta the battery, I want to see the mods that ring are making to address this issue....
My setup so far, after a lot of tweaking, has a delay of around 7 seconds, which is acceptable and in most cases I have been able to catch the delivery guy just as he dragged his first step off and in other cases I simply had to say a loud hello on answering.

So what other WIBNIFs does this system have?, well, if you install this as your first ring product, it becomes apparent very quickly.

WIBNIF 2. extra bell push button, to sound the chime?

Imagine if you have multiple access ways to your property, or just a simple back garden or kitchen door. Wouldn't it be nice to have a simple bush button to install at these extra access ways, so that it sounds the chime? Most of the time you would not really need another video doorbell at these points, so a simple push button would have been enough.

Ok, from my comparison with the newer version, you probably have picked up that these doorbells are battery powered. This original one has no way of charging the battery without dismounting the doorbell from the wall. I will not comment about the removable battery in 2nd version.

The Ring Video door bell and other Ring cameras, are compatible with IFTTT, meaning you can do clever triggers and actions based on motion detection. This is a very welcome features for these devices. You can turn on lights when someone rings the bell,or when motion is detected. You can even use Alexa recipes.
They are also compatible with Smartthings, so one can use security smart-apps in Smartthings, to trigger the alarm when motion is detected outside normal hours.

It should be noted that Ring devices record videos to the cloud, and you have o pay something like £25 a year per each device, to be able to use this feature. There is no local storage, leading to my next wibnif

WIBNIF 3. sdcard slot for local recording?

It would have been nice if these devices were able to record locally to an sd card and offer an option for user to not use their cloud platform.

Overall Ring video bell is a well made product which is being letdown by technology employed, which inherently introduces delays. If the door bell could talk directly to chimes, at least the system would be very usable EVEN only as an expensive wireless intercom, without the bells and whistles of being an internet enables device.

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