The new, smart doorbell you never knew you needed

I might just need to start a new category for this blog for reviews of smart, app-driven devices. I’ve written about smart fire alarms, a smart umbrella, a front door lock, and now, a doorbell, the SkyBell. My favorite features are:

Doorbell button, camera, motion detector, microphone speaker, an an app!  Source: SkyBell

Doorbell button, camera, motion detector, microphone speaker, an an app!
Source: SkyBell

The connected camera. This is the obvious advantage over both a regular doorbell and the peephole, which required the viewer to really get close to the door in order to hopefully see the person on the other side. The SkyBell also has a motion detector and can detect a person at the front door without them even ringing the bell. The camera can also rotate, tilt, and “see” in the dark, removing the need to turn on a light. All this happens without the person at the front door aware that they are being observed or knowing if anyone at home, and that is a huge benefit. The camera can also be turned on independently of any trigger.

Multiple users can connect to one SkyBell. Authorized users can see who is at the front door at the same time via an app. The first person to answer is able to talk with the person at the front door. Again, this is another feature that leaves the person at the front door unaware of who is inside the house and, more importantly, who isn’t.

Installation is easy. The SkyBell seems quite rugged, difficult to remove without tools, and it works with existing low-voltage wiring. Definitely a plus.

I would like to see a few more features:

Recording and logging visitors. Either video recording or, coupled with face detection, a photo of every visitor. At some point everyone looks at the doorbell, right?

Connectivity with other smart devices. Nest fire alarms can communicate with sprinklers (albeit outdoor ones.) Can the SkyBell communicate with door locks?

When I wrote about a new front door lock a few weeks ago I discussed the potential trade-off smart, app-enhanced devices are asking users to make. The door look asked users to take a risk (a big risk in my opinion) that the front door lock might accidentally open in return for a relatively minor benefit: touch-less door opening. The Nest smart thermostat, on the other hand, offers a great advantage in energy savings in return for no risk at all. The SkyBell is more on the Nest side of the trade-off spectrum, requiring almost no compromise in return for a greater sense of security.

One final note: all of the smart devices are more expensive than their “dumb” counterparts. The SkyBell is $199, a simple doorbell costs $11 but an intercom with a camera, indoor screen, speaker and microphone costs significantly more. In addition to the higher cost, there is a privacy price to pay. After all, smart devices compromise privacy by sharing details and information that were never even tracked before. For SkyBell,I’d be willing to pay that price for the security it offers.



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