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Ring showed us how it's making the humble intercom smarter
With its new Intercom, Ring is aiming to do for apartment owners and renters what it’s already done for those who live in houses: provide an easy way to communicate with whoever rings the door. The company announced the product at IFA 2022 and we were able to check it out in action and see what it’s all about.
First, picture this. You’re not home and you get a call from a person delivering something to you ahead of time. Or from the handyman who was supposed to check the faulty solar panel installed on your building’s roof and who kept ignoring appointments, then showed up the one day you decided to step out (this one is a true, personal story). What do you do? You ask them to randomly try other apartments in the building, you scramble to figure out a way to let them in, or you stall them until you’ve rushed back home.
With a connected intercom, this isn’t an issue. You remotely buzz them in, and they get access to the lobby and shared building spaces, but not your own home. The delivery driver can drop the package in your mailbox or leave it in a safe designated spot, and the handyperson can fix anything they can access from the common areas.
That’s what Ring aims to do with its Intercom and, having used a similar but less powerful product for a couple of years (the Nuki Opener), I can appreciate all the extras that Ring has added here.
The product looks like an unassuming white square box that you physically connect to the internal structure of your existing intercom at home. Ring is providing a compatibility checker for different brands and models, but keep in mind this is for audio-only units. It won’t work if your building is equipped with a video intercom.
You need to be a little handy to set this up (installing the Nuki Opener took me about 30 minutes, and this seems like it’s pretty much the same), but you shouldn’t require more than a simple screwdriver and a bit of logic to follow the instructions and connect it properly. There’s no need to change anything on the building’s main outdoor intercom. My personal pro tip: Just take photos of your old wiring before you change anything, so you can revert them if needed.
The square box sticks to the wall with double-sided tape and can sit anywhere near your intercom unit (left, right, top, or bottom). It comes with a rechargeable battery — the same one Ring uses for its video doorbells and security cameras — allowing you to buy extra batteries and a charging dock for fast swapping. And it obviously connects over Wi-Fi.
With the logistics and specs out of the way, let’s talk about what the Ring Intercom can do. In its most basic form, it lets you remotely unlock your building’s gate and allow yourself or someone else in. You can also share access with other household members and see a log of all intercom actions (ring, buzz, talk). This worked pretty well in our demo. To avoid accidental unlocks, you need to tap and hold for a bit in the app before the door opens.
This is very similar to what the Nuki Opener does. Where Ring goes the extra mile is by supporting encrypted two-way audio, letting you talk with whoever rang your apartment and buzz them in, all from your phone. Or your Amazon Alexa speaker of course.
Even on the noisy and Wi-Fi-saturated IFA show floor, the audio was clear and the delay almost non-existent. I could talk to the outdoor intercom unit and hear my voice come out of the mobile Ring app a second later. I won’t deny I felt a bit of envy because this is the one feature I’ve wanted Nuki to support for years, but the company had claimed it was too power-hungry and too complicated to implement across multiple intercom systems. Seeing it work so seamlessly on the Ring Intercom left me in awe. Because let’s be honest, it’s cool to be able to remotely open your building’s door for someone, but it’d be better if you first spoke to that someone and knew who they were and what they needed, right?
Another perk of Ring’s Amazon affiliation is direct integration with Amazon deliveries. If you opt in, a verified driver will have temporary access to your building only when they’re near it on their route, so they can drop a package in your mailbox or by your doorstep when you’re not home. Their access gets revoked when they drive away. That’s much better than sharing the building’s code with a driver or asking them to come back another day.
Ring also plans on enabling a similar feature for guests, so you could give them scheduled access and revoke it at any point, without having to share physical keys or buzz them in every time they need to enter the building.
Would you buy a smart intercom?
Since the Intercom is aimed at people living in apartments, it’s launching in the European market first, starting with pre-orders in Germany and the UK on September 28, 2022, on Ring’s website, Amazon UK, and Amazon Germany. (Other markets will follow later.) A single unit will cost £119.99 or €129.99, but a bundle with an extra battery and a charging station will also be available for £149.99 or €169.99 (£89.99 or €99.99 introductory price). No extra subscription will be necessary for any of the features.