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Our DoorBot has Been Decommissioned: Part 3

DoorBot-Looking-Left.jpgFor the several weeks we’ve had the new “Extended Range” Doorbot installed in place of the original device. The only apparent difference between the two is the addition of a short external antenna to enhance the Wifi connectivity.

Happily, the new unit does seem to stay better connected to our WLAN. In the past I was not comfortable evaluating the behavior of the Doorbot+client application given the questionable connectivity. At present the network connection seems sufficient to examine the behavior of the system as a whole.

I have the DoorBot client application installed on a variety of devices:

  • Nexus 4 Android mobile phone (Me)
  • Nexus 5 Android mobile phone  (Mrs)
  • Nexus 7 Tablet (2013)
  • 4th generation iPod Touch
  • iPad with Retina display

The fact that I’m using so many devices may be a little unusual, but I would expect that many families will use 2-3 devices, most likely a couple of cell phones (his & hers) and a tablet. Although a family with kids may well have more than this.

Setting up the DoorBot involves creating an account with the companies monitoring service, then getting the device connected to your local wireless network.

First, you give the Doorbot a name and select the correct time zone for your location.

Next, you have the handheld device connect to the DoorBot when it’s in set up mode.  In this mode the DoorBot broadcasts an SSID that includes “DoorBot_” and the last several digits of its MAC address, making it easy to pick from the list of Wifi signals in the area.

Once connected the app prompts you to select your Wifi SSID. When a signal is selected it prompts for the encryption key, then programs the DoorBot to connect to that network. Once the process is complete the DoorBot is connected to your WLAN.

Given our initial troubles, I went through the Wifi setup process a number of times, on various devices. The user experience with the client varies between the iOS and Android versions. I found that the iOS experience was a little more refined overall.

If you make a significant change to your wireless network, for example a change in SSID, RF channel or encryption key, it will be necessary to reset the DoorBot and go through the Wifi setup anew. The reset process is very simple. It requires that a small recessed switch on the back of the unit be pressed with a pointy object. To access the reset button you must remove DoorBot from its mount.

DoorBot includes a plastic mount and a variety of hardware that’s intended to accommodate mounting to different surfaces. As our DoorBot is mounted to a square steel fence post ours not a typical installation. Nonetheless, I was able to drill some holes and get the mounting plate firmly attached to the post. Most installations should be easier than what we experienced.

The DoorBot itself is secured to the plastic mounting plate with a single Torx type screw at the bottom of the device. The kit includes an appropriate Torx screwdriver. The company refers to the bottom screw as a “proprietary security screw” but I expect that a suitably silly thief could easily make off with a DoorBot. The company has stated their confidence in the mounting scheme, offering to replace any DoorBot that is stolen.

The DoorBot client apps supports subscribing to the updates from multiple DoorBots. Additional mobile devices can connect to the company’s service using only the email address and password for the account. Once logged in they see all of the DoorBots registered to the account.

You can select which DoorBot will “ring” each client. For each DoorBot you can access a call history and rename the device if desired. In the iOS version of the app you can also see battery status for each DoorBot.

Your DoorBot account can be accessed via the web, in which case you can also see that battery status of the associated devices.

You can also invite others, giving them access to your DoorBot. The company calls this “sharing” access to the DoorBot. It’s how I gave Stella access from her Nexus 5 using her email address as a login. It’s easy to see how you can give access to family or guests on an as-needed basis. of course, they must install the DoorBot app to their handheld device to take advantage of the invitation.

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. doorbot is junk. the use of the aWS CLOUD HURTS PERFORMANCE, THEY DO NOT RESPOND TO CUSTOMERS, the phone apps work less that 30%, video is not reliable. the cloud model doe not scale

    1. Oh, I don’t know about that. There are many examples of cloud services scaling very well. There are also many ITSPs who operate using cloud infrastructure.

      The Doorbot team don’t seem to have much depth of experience in real-time streaming media. Their solution always forces all the media to their cloud service, which is both unnecessary and likely poorly designed.

      We have SIP phones around here, including some that can do video calling at 720p30. That’s the standard to which Doorbot should be held. That’s the relative prior art in the area.

      As you note their service as a whole is simply unreliable. Their customer service model is no better conceived than the technical underpinnings of the device itself.

      Sadly, I’ve seen complaints about Skybell as well. They are another startup offering a similar device.

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