Ringing the Changes

In recent years, my home has become increasingly smart, with connected technology dotted around my flat in London. There are two smart speakers (one on my desk and one in the kitchen), a robot vacuum cleaner, and nearly every other device connects to Wi-Fi in some shape or form. But one device that I’ve looked on enviously is the smart doorbell.

I live in a block of flats, as do many people in London, and sadly this has so far been incompatible with connected doorbell solutions. It’s frustrating, as there have been plenty of times where I’d have benefited from speaking to a delivery driver. Sometimes it’s been a case of missing a delivery that could have been popped on the doorstep while I was out, but the worst scenarios are where I’ve had perishable packages left outside the front door while I’ve been away for a weekend.

My ears perked up when I heard the latest development in smart doorbells from Ring (an Amazon company). The Ring Intercom promises to let people answer their intercom from anywhere, speak to those at the door and allow them to buzz deliveries into the building where needed. It works by upgrading the functionality of the existing intercom, meaning that a caller at the front door can be connected over Wi-Fi to a smartphone app.

Ring claims that Intercom supports most audio intercom handsets available in Europe, and it has targeted this market before the US, because of the region’s larger number of apartment dwellers; for example, Ring estimates that about half of Germans live in multitenant accommodation.

Importantly, the company says that the installation requires no drilling or permanent changes and is straightforward no matter the intercom in question. I decided I’d be an excellent guinea pig for this. I’m not exactly the most DIY-capable person, so I felt that if the instructions were good enough to guide me through the process, they should be pretty fool-proof.

Installation of the Ring Intercom uses the same Ring app as any of its other doorbells, and this presents a very simple step-by-step guide to get people going. The first steps require charging the battery and connecting the device to Wi-Fi (something that’s within even my wheelhouse), and checking the make and model of the intercom system in use so that the installation instructions can be tailored accordingly.

The next step is where the fun really starts. Users are instructed to remove the housing from their intercom, and then to slightly loosen the screws that fix the unit to the wall. Once loosened, a cable must be installed through the back of the system — there are three in the box and users will be guided to the right one depending on the make and model of their intercom. Then, the cabling needs to be wired up to the ports inside the intercom system.

I found the process straightforward, and I’ll reiterate that although I’m pretty comfortable with technology, DIY isn’t one of my strengths. I’ve never fiddled with the intercom system before but found it easy enough to follow the instructions. It should be noted that all the guidance in the Ring app comes with helpful animations, as well as the option to call a support team.

It’s then just a case of adding the housing back onto the intercom, and there you go — installation done. I was guided through some quick checks to make sure that the Ring Intercom system was working correctly (which it was) and that was it. There are also useful optional features like automatic verification for Amazon deliveries, and the ability to add shared users.

Remarkably, in the days since installing the Intercom, no one has yet buzzed my doorbell when I’ve not been in, but I’m looking forward to getting to stress-test the system properly next time I get a package while I’m away from home.

It should be noted that the solution is audio only, meaning that even if a user’s building has a camera on the outside, the Ring Intercom can’t access that video feed. It’s a shame, as I’m sure many people would find that useful, although it would undoubtedly add a layer of complexity that Ring wouldn’t be able to control, so I can see why it’s not supported, at least not yet. Other compatible Ring cameras can be added to the set-up, but in blocks of flats I’ve never really seen these take off.

Overall, I was really impressed by how easy it was to get the Ring Intercom set up, and more than anything, it just highlights how antiquated a traditional intercom system is in today’s world. Given the millions of people around the world who live in flats and apartments in major cities, the potential market for this is huge. I could see this becoming a standard feature in new-build properties in the coming years, and at the current price (£70 online), it’s a relatively affordable upgrade for the smart-home curious.