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Arlo has a touchless doorbell, too — can’t we just update existing ones to do this?

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With ‘Proximity Sensing Technology’

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No, not like this. (This is Arlo’s previous doorbell.)
Image: Arlo

“Finally, a doorbell for the pandemic era,” we remarked, as Alarm.com introduced its sub-$200 Touchless Video Doorbell yesterday. But what was once a curiosity has now become a trend: Netgear spinoff Arlo now has its own Touchless Video Doorbell too, right down to the same product name.

Arlo doesn’t have a price, release date, or even a picture of the new doorbell, which got me to thinking: why does it need to be any different than the doorbells that Arlo (and Google’s Nest and Amazon’s Ring, etc.) already offer today?

Here’s how Arlo describes the idea:

Leveraging precise Proximity Sensing Technology to gauge a visitor’s distance, the Arlo Touchless Video Doorbell zeros in on a visitor’s approach. Once detected, the guest hears an audible chime and sees a visible light, signaling the doorbell has been “pressed” and the homeowner has been alerted – all before they come into physical contact with the device.

Most smart doorbells already have cameras with some form of motion detection. Some even let you fine-tune motion detection zones, and many already have lights and sounds that let a visitor know when they’ve pressed the button.

Why not just fire off a software update to existing doorbells, ones that automatically ring the doorbell when the camera detects a visitor? It could play an audio message like “We’re ringing the doorbell for you, please wait a moment,” too. Arlo’s video doorbells already support sending pre-recorded audio messages.

The humble webcam became 2020’s most important gadget when the pandemic hit, and most DSLR and mirrorless camera makers responded to the webcam shortage by releasing software to let you turn them into webcams, too. Do doorbell makers think they can entice enough people to buy a brand-new doorbell just for this, at a time when people aren’t supposed to be visiting each other’s houses? If I’m right and existing cams can do this, it might be more effective to try to sell more of those existing models by building some goodwill.

Arlo introduced its first battery-powered doorbell late last year.