My efforts at blogging began on November of 2007. Since then I’ve covered a variety of topics, mostly relating to issues of home office communications and network infrastructure. In all that time one item has remained on my honey-do list; the intercom or access phone at the front gate. At long last, I’ve ordered the parts to finally deploy some kind of solution, even if it’s not exactly what I was hoping for.
The first question to answer is why do we need a gate intercom in the first place?
Working from a one-man home office one of the biggest inconveniences I face is taking deliveries from courier companies. Like many homes, we have a fenced yard, so the delivery person cannot get up to the font door to knock. Even if they did, my office is in the back of the property, in what was once a garage apartment, so I wouldn’t hear them knocking on the front door.
Further, with our two Labrador Retrievers occasionally in the yard there’s some sense in keeping the delivery people at the gate. It’s safer, both for them and the dogs.
There’s a button for doorbell at the front gate, but it hasn’t worked in years. The doorbell mechanism in the house was long since removed, given my equally longstanding intention to install something better. I’ve been searching for “something better” for quite some time. That something better has proven difficult to find.
When Gigaset first announced that they were launching their product line in the US I had hoped that they might bring their HC450 DECT Door Phone to the country. This is a really elegant solution to the issue of access control. It’s a DECT phone in a form factor that’s appropriate for use at a door.
When the person at the door pushes the button it rings the household phones with a unique ring pattern, indicating that the call is from the door. To the DECT phone system it’s merely another handset.
The very fact that it’s a DECT cordless device would relieve me of the need to sort out the faulty wiring to the gate, a potentially messy and irksome process.
In addition, it has an electric strike release relay so that any handset receiving the call from the door phone can release the door latch by simply pressing the correct key. We don’t have electric strike at the gate, but it would be a nice option to have in the future.
Since we knew that we were going to have Gigaset cordless SIP/DECT phones around the house the HC450 would have been a natural fit around here. Sadly, Gigaset Communications did not bring that device to the US.
While the Gigaset solution was certainly elegant, I felt that there must be some other nice SIP door phones around, so I did a little research.
The 2N Helios range of SIP door phones looked promising. They are SIP based, scaling from one button to 64 buttons for apartment style access control. They also have an optional camera, allowing the tenant to see the person at the gate or door.
Further, they are handled in the US by VUC sponsor E4 Technologies. Domestic support by a knowledgeable reseller is a serious benefit.
However, cost is also a factor. The 2N Helios IP door Phone with one button and video support retails for around $950. Without video support the price drops to a mere $720.
What a bargain. What a deal.
Clearly these devices target multi-tenant dwellings where the base system just gets you started, and scalability to 64 or more buttons is valuable. Given such requirements these prices make perfect sense. For the average single family dwelling…not so much.
Unsatisfied, I set the project aside and let some time pass. Or as my wife would characterize the situation…I procrastinated.
Later I heard that Mike White from E4 had installed ITS Telecom Pancode SIP door phones in the beautiful new home that he was building in Traverse City, Michigan. Mike is a voip-geek of some renown, having installed Polycom Soundstation IP7000 conference phones in his home as baby monitors! There’s just no debating that move. That’s hardcore voip-geek.
However, from various sources I later heard rumblings of discontent with the Pancode door phones. It seems that they were failure prone. At $500 I had hoped for something a little more reliable, especially given the rigors of Houstonian weather it would face at our location. That afternoon sun is brutal, then comes a hurricane to make things interesting.
More recently I discovered another Czech company called Alpha Tech that made a very attractive range of door phones. Since they didn’t seem to have North American distribution I fired off a quick email asking them about resellers and a price for the simple, one-button, voice & video device that I was seeking.
Their response was frightful, but not entirely unexpected. Their IPDP Cityline range of entry phones seem very flexible, supporting SIP-based voice & video over IP with from 1 to 64 push buttons. However, the basic device with sound, video and just one button, starts at 850 Euro…that’s over $1200! Give up the video capability and the price drops to only 750 Euro…or $1080!
Disheartened that none of the four pure-IP solutions I’d found were within my reach I turned my attention to finding an analog equivalent…which is where we’ll pick up the second chapter of this little saga.