The necessity of a gate bell in my working life stems from the combination of a fenced yard and a home office located well in the back of the property. The lack of such capability at the front gate makes receiving deliveries chancy, often requiring a lengthy drive to a UPS or Fedex facility to pickup a missed delivery.
In researching our initial attempt to remedy the lack of a gate alert I learned about SIP door phones from several companies. These devices were targeted at very large homes or office and apartment buildings, and tended to be very costly. Most were well over $1,000, which was dramatically beyond my budget.
However, Algo Communications offers a SIP door phone for a single family dwelling with a list price around $500. At the time I had thought that something analog, for around $250, was a better option. While that choice kept me on budget, it was ultimately disappointing, most especially when the device failed outright.
Honestly, my experience with Doorbot and its creators was so bad that I can’t help but harbor some animosity toward their operation. Yet, I want to be fair. Design is an iterative process. Perhaps they just need a few iterations on the theme to get to more generally usable product.
On the other hand, the description of the new product seems to be an incremental improvement from DootBot. Jump from 802.11B type Wifi to the more recent 802.11N type. Jump from VGA resolution video to 720p video, the baseline for HD. Abandon push-to-talk audio, ala Nextel of old, for something more akin to telephony. It’s basically a reversal of some of the bad design decisions embodied in the first generation product.
On the other hand, they still seem completely wed to their own “cloud service.” My experience with that was expect massive latency on call setup. Expect video only on occasion. I rarely even had continuous audio. On this basis alone you probably won’t receive that Fedex Express package you’re expecting on the first delivery attempt.
I’ve come to understand that my mistake with respect to DoorBot was expecting the kind of performance that I could more reasonably expect from any standards compliant IP phone. The DoorBot team clearly doesn’t have that sort of experience or appreciate that kind of performance. Even if that’s what separates the tools from the toys. DoorBot is a toy. Nothing more.
When the DoorBell Fon eventually failed I was forced to reconsider the situation at our front gate. I let that situation remain unaddressed for some time, until I eventually stumbled upon DoorBot. When DoorBot failed to impress I reached out to Pat, who kindly provided one of their 8028 SIP Door Phones for me to evaluate.
It has taken some time for me to get around to installing the Algo door phone. I was delayed because I wanted to have a small metal plate welded to to the fence post to create a proper mounting platform for the device.
The problem with using a less than common Wifi AP is that a manufacturer can say, “we’ve never heard of that make/model” and hope that they are thus absolved of any possible requirement to help troubleshoot the situation. Not that the crew at DoorBot took that stance, but I’ve heard it plenty in prior situations.
It recently occurred to me that there was a way that I could confirm the state of our Wifi at the gate location where we had the DoorBot installed. I could stage a video call over Wifi using tools that I already had on-hand. If I could record a decent quality video call from a Wifi connected mobile device that location then it would prove that our Wi is way-Fi!
Staging this proved to be pretty simple. I pointed my Nexus 7 tablet at the school yard across the street, then established a video call using Talky.io. Talky.io is a free WebRTC-based service from &yet. It runs just fine in Chrome for Android.
You may recall that I was eagerly awaiting the arrival our DoorBot, the Wifi-enabled, video capable doorbell that calls a smart phone app when the button is pushed. Well, our DoorBot arrived early in December. Since then I’ve been pondering if, and exactly how, to share my initial experience with the device.
To be blunt, our early experience with DoorBot has been disappointing. It doesn’t meet our needs for a couple of reasons. The software is still a little rough. To be fair the company is reported to be working on the issues reported by early users. However, they’re not doing the greatest job of reporting their progress.
While I ordered the DoorBell Fone back in August the fact of our extreme Houston summer kept me from completing the installation. The buried wire run out to our gate was broken and there was just no way I was going to bury a new wire in 100+ degree heat. This past weekend I was able to find the time and temperature to complete the installation.
The largest task was to completely replace the wiring from the central closet in our house out to the gate. I replaced the old-skool solid copper pair with a length of Cat-5 cable. Using Cat-5 is a bit of future-proofing. It means that I can change to a POE-powered network device at the gate without replacing the cable again.
For the moment I’m using only one pair from the Cat-5 wiring, connecting the DoorBell Fone remote unit to the controller in the wiring closet. The total cable length is about 80 feet.