Extending the Reach of Ring

I recently attended the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, and took the opportunity to review the latest developments in the smart home space. Of all the products announced, the one that impressed me most was the Ring Intercom.

It’s a great example of a company taking an existing product and widening its utility, helping users get more value from it. In this case, it’s about delivering Ring’s doorbell capabilities to people living in multitenant accommodation. This is a particularly strong opportunity in Europe, where a large chunk of the population live in apartments; Ring estimates that half of people in Germany alone live in this type of building.

In most cases, these people already have audio intercom systems to talk to visitors and activate door entry. Ring’s challenge was to design a product that residents could retrofit to the existing handset. This was a huge task, given the array of different systems in use, so it’s impressive that Ring has managed to provide support for “most” of them.

Having thought long and hard about this solution, I see it as a bold move. But the secret to success is going to be giving potential buyers the confidence to install the device themselves.

Ring Intercom is made up of a battery-powered, Wi-Fi-enabled module that the apartment owner places next to their existing intercom handset. To install, they need to take the cover off the handset and connect the wires between the module and the handset. This is arguably the biggest barrier to adoption; although Ring has done an exceptional job by offering an online compatibility tool, step-by-step instructions and online training videos, it’ll take time to convince people to buy the product.

But if Ring gets the set-up experience right, I firmly believe that the Ring Intercom could quickly become hugely popular, with one resident in an apartment block installing the product and others quickly following.

At a time when many companies are struggling to deliver a coherent smart home strategy, it’s encouraging to see Ring innovating to address a real bugbear for a group who probably assumed they’d never see the benefits of smart home technology. If it chimes well with buyers, Ring Intercom will extend Amazon’s reach in the smart home even further — and toward its vision of a connected neighbourhood where multiple products are tailored to people’s individual needs.

That’s a positive step forward beyond the multitude of “point solutions” serving a single purpose, which have largely characterized smart home products until now.

CCS Insight’s IFA event report covering all the key announcements from the show can be found here.