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Ring’s latest gadget makes your apartment intercom smart

Ring’s latest gadget makes your apartment intercom smart

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Want a smart doorbell but live in an apartment? Ring’s new smart intercom is aimed at you

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Ring Intercom adds smart doorbell capabilities to audio intercoms.
Ring Intercom adds smart doorbell capabilities to audio intercoms.
Image: Ring

Smart door locks and video doorbells are great conveniences for those who live in single-family homes, but what about the millions of people who live in flats, apartments, and condos? They might also like to answer their front door from their phone — whether they’re home or not — and perhaps buzz their visitor in without getting off the couch or rushing home from the office. Ring, maker of the original video doorbell, thinks it has a solution.

Ring Intercom is a DIY, retrofit device that attaches to the intercom inside your home and connects via Wi-Fi to the Ring app on your smartphone. It’s specifically designed for European apartment buildings where multiple flats (or apartments) have one entry point and only an audio intercom system installed. With Ring Intercom installed, when someone rings your flat, you can talk to your visitor and buzz them in through the app. There’s no video component — it’s all audio — and there’s no recording feature. Ring Intercom simply replicates the existing function of your intercom on your phone, letting you talk to your front door from anywhere. 

“If I were born or grew up in Europe, maybe I would have built this first”

The main benefit of Ring Intercom is the ability to talk to visitors and buzz them in remotely, using your phone from anywhere or an Echo device if you’re at home. But having packages or food deliveries make it inside the building and potentially to your front door, rather than sitting on the doorstep exposed to the elements and potential thieves, also adds another level of security and convenience.

The battery-powered Ring Intercom is launching this week at IFA in Berlin. It will be available first in the UK for £119.99, and in Germany, with preorders starting on September 28th and shipping scheduled for October 26th. A bundle with a Ring battery charging station and a spare battery will be £149.99. Ring, which is owned by Amazon, is also offering the product at an introductory price of £89.99, including the extra battery devices, which total a value of about £48. Ring Intercom will be available in France, Spain, and Italy in early 2023 and is scheduled to arrive in the US next year

“It’s as obvious a solution as the video doorbell,” Jamie Siminoff, founder and chief inventor of Ring, said in an interview with The Verge. “If I were born or grew up in Europe, maybe I would have built this first.” 

Three times as many people live in multi-unit buildings worldwide as in single-family homes, he says, so this solution was one the company had been trying to develop for a long time. Siminoff said that while its doorbell product line “has done well in Europe,” there was a large percentage of the population that simply couldn’t use one. 

There is no recording capability, as there is with Ring Video Doorbells; there’s just live, two-way talk

Ring did introduce the Peephole Cam a couple of years back, which worked for apartment doors (the doorbell camera was in the peephole). But that didn’t solve how to talk to someone calling at your building door (and Ring discontinued the Peephole last year).

“There are tens of thousands of variations [on intercom systems],” said Siminoff. “This is designed to work with over 90 percent of them. It took a lot of work to develop, and it has a ton of intelligence packed in it that decides what it’s been connected to, similar to how some smart thermostats work.” 

The Ring Intercom connects to your internal intercom handset and is powered by a rechargeable, reusable battery. It’s compatible with most audio intercom handsets (but not video systems), and there’s a compatibility checker at Ring.com. There are no structural changes to your apartment required, and the installation process is completely DIY.  

When someone presses your apartment button at the main entrance, it triggers two-way talk through the Ring app. You can only answer calls when someone buzzes your apartment, so you can’t use it to listen in on people hanging out in the doorway whenever you fancy.

There is no recording capability, as there is with Ring Video Doorbells; there’s just live, two-way talk. “I don’t know if people would want [recording],” says Siminoff. “And there are local laws around recording audio.” The activity log in the Ring app will tell you if you missed a visitor. The activity log also shows every time the remote unlock feature is activated by you or any shared user in your household to whom you’ve granted access.

Ring Intercom also has an optional feature that allows Amazon delivery drivers secure, time-based access to your building to drop off packages, similar to Amazon’s Key program, so you don’t even have to answer the buzzer. Ring says it will be adding an Auto-Verified Guests feature that lets you share revokable virtual keys with, say, your dog walker or cleaning person. This is something most smart door locks allow you to do.

Ring Intercom can also connect to Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, allowing you to use any Echo smart speaker or display as a hands-free intercom and talk to your visitor through it. You can also unlock the door with voice, but you need to set up and use a voice pin code.

Ring Intercom installs next to your apartment's intercom handset and is battery-powered.
Ring Intercom installs next to your apartment's intercom handset and is battery-powered.
Image: Ring

While Ring Intercom will work in the US, Siminoff said Ring chose to focus on Europe for launch, where there’s a larger potentially untapped market. “I think everyone always figures that once you get to Amazon, you just have magic wands full of engineers and unlimited resources,” he says. “But we do have to focus, so we wanted to focus on Europe, get it launched there, get it going, then we’ll bring it to the US.”

While Ring says you can link Ring Intercom to other Ring devices like the Ring Indoor Cam, there’s no combined functionality; it’s just that both devices can be accessed from the same app. Intercom is a purely audio device. “There are ways you could add video to these types of devices,” says Siminoff. “But it’s a much tougher thing to do and involves more parties, such as the building owner. “ With Ring Intercom, you can stay connected to your front door with a device you can buy and install on your own “with just a couple of screws and half an hour on a Sunday,” says Siminoff.

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