A Dead Ringer For DoorBot

DoorBot-Looking-Left.jpgThis week has seen the team behind the DoorBot pseudo-smart doorbell announce their second generation product. In so doing they’ve renamed themselves Ring.

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.

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Algo Solutions 8028: A Door Phone Solution For Our Front Gate

A few years back when I installed the analog DoorBell Fone I considered the Algo Solutions 8028 SIP Door Phone. It was the most appropriate option that I had found, but at $500 it was well outside my budget for the project. That was the principle reason that I opted for the analog DoorBell Fon. Not long after I installed the DoorBell Fon I met Pat Byrne of Algo Solutions at ITExpo West.

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.

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i-Bell: A Wifi-Enabled Video Doorbell From The UK

What a novel idea! A video capable doorbell that leverages your Wifi! It calls an app on your smart phone (iOS & Android.)  It’s like FaceTime for Fedex!

Seriously, this is the third such device that’s come to my attention. The ill-fated DoorBot, which was such a disaster for us,  was the first, followed shortly thereafter by SkyBell.  I’ve heard that some folks have had trouble with SkyBell as well.

While I have taken down our DoorBot, I would like it known that I am an optimist! I read the information offered by i-Bell on their web site and it gives me hope. They stipulate an HD camera with 180 degree field of view! This where DoorBot had an awesome VGA resolution camera!

Could it be that i-Bell will deliver a real, working solution to the home office worker who needs to reliably receive courier deliveries? While also safeguarding against random visitors pitching perilous products or belief systems. Given my recent experience, I’ve emailed the company a short list of questions that go beyond the details they offer online.

I remain hopeful that someone will consider something more than just a smartphone app as a client side solution. There’s no reason that someone ringing the hyper-smart doorbell can’t cause a call to arrive at my lovely, standards-compliant Polycom VVX-600….or one of Grandstream’s new GXV-3275s…video and all!

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.

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Our DoorBot Has Been Decommissioned: Part 2 – How Fi is Our Wi?

PowerAP-N & DoorBotThe 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.

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Our DoorBot Has Been Decommissioned: Part 1

One of the realities of my life as a home office worker is that deliveries can be important. Moreover missing deliveries can be extremely inconvenient. On January 1st I installed  a DoorBot at our front gate, intent upon giving it a try as the way that we are notified about visitors and more significantly, deliveries.

Our is a fenced yard with a gate at the front. The fenced yard is important for our two Labradors. They have the run of the place when I’m working. A dog door gives them access into my office in the garage apartment. Located in the back of the property it’s not always possible to know when someone is at the gate.

Until January 1st we had been without a doorbell at the gate for over a year. On the mail box there a label advising people to call my cell phone number to reach me.

With respect to deliveries, our usual Fedex and UPS drivers know that if they dogs come to “greet” them that I’m definitely home. The delivery drivers often call me to tell me that they’re waiting, especially if they need a signature. All of this sets up the logic of why something like DoorBot had such appeal. There’s a very real need.

In mid-February I came to realize that I had developed the ability to differentiate the sound of the various delivery vehicles from the school and city buses that can be heard hereabouts. Further, I had camped out on our front port more than once awaiting a late delivery that I could not afford to miss. These facts pointed to the unavoidable reality that DoorBot had failed in its mission at our house. Shortly thereafter I removed it from it’s perch at the front gate.

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