Our DoorBot has Been Decommissioned: Part 3

DoorBot-Looking-Left.jpgI will say that we have decided that even the extended range DoorBot is not a satisfactory solution for us. Further, I can explain that decision and why it’s logic may or may not be applicable to your situation.

A decade or more of dealing with SIP and H.323 devices both personally and professionally has given rise to expectations of device performance. With IP phones call setup and tear-down can be frighteningly fast. Further, the media quality of calls passed over a well-managed, pure-IP pathway can be outstanding. With respect to signaling and media handling DoorBot completely fails to keep pace with my desk phone, even my oldest, cheapest desk phone.

There’s considerable latency in response to a button push at the DoorBot. There can also be many seconds of latency in the passing of the call media, which I can only presume always goes via their media proxy. If Stella or I are racing to reach our phones, or fumbling with unlocking the iPad or what-not, that can add more time before the person at the gate has any indication that someone is responding to the button press.

The push-to-talk functionality that’s supposed to allow us to address the person at the gate also suffers substantial latency. When the button is pressed it can be 15-20 seconds before the person at the gate gets any form of a response from us.

I accept that my expectations, arising from experience in telephony and video conferencing, may not be valid in this context. So I polled our regular Fedex and UPS drivers about their experience of the DoorBot at our house. I was careful not to taint their opinion with my own. I expressed my enthusiasm for this fancy new doorbell and asked what they thought.

Each of them felt that a much more immediate response to the button press was required in order to convince them to wait at the gate. Given a delay of more that 5-6 seconds they would assume no-one was home and depart. In some cases that would be fine, since they would toss the packages over the fence. In other cases, most especially when a signature is required, their departure would be a considerable inconvenience.

DoorBot-Tool-or-toy

The feedback from the delivery drivers helped me to solidify in my mind the difference between DoorBot as a tool or toy. It brought into focus the question of novelty or necessity. If you work from a home office and routinely deal with couriers then you need a reliable tool that provide them quick feedback that you’re there. If the traffic to your door is if better described as “friends and family” then DoorBot and it’s ilk are cool and kind of fun.

The experience of using DoorBot has also highlighted the value of voice over video. Seeing who is at the gate is not nearly as important as being able to quickly confirm that we’re home. Immediacy of contact is critical. Voice alone is adequate. In fact, interaction with the person at the gate is likely more effectively accomplished in a pure voice mode of operation.The fact that the device only interacts with a smart phone app is as much a limitation as a feature.

We certainly gave DoorBot a solid try. We made a real effort. We had it installed for over 90 days and tried two different hardware devices. We took sensible steps to extend our Wifi in support of its use. We engaged the manufacturer to deliver feedback even when they were not prepared to be so engaged.

We suffered through a number of software quirks and shortcomings. Too many to describe here in fact. It’s possible that the company will eventually resolve all of the issues users bring forward, but they don’t seem to be moving very quickly or communicating well with customers. They have not, to my knowledge, laid out any kind of road map describing how or when they are to address the issues that have arisen. In fact, in private correspondence the company has stated that their development plans are “private and confidential” which is a stance that I find most unfortunate, even unwise.

In the end, DoorBot simply does not meet our needs. We hope that by sharing our experience we can help others to decide if it might meet their needs, without going to the effort of evaluating it themselves.

4 thoughts on “Our DoorBot has Been Decommissioned: Part 3”

  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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