The need for video, or perhaps an awareness concerning its many benefits, continues to grow with each passing day. Recently we've seen a new breed of camera come onto the scene equipped with a doorbell button, a WiFi connection, and a Smartphone App. Some of these phones connect to an online Cloud-based storage service where images and video clips collected outside the home are stored for a given period of time.
This new technology offers savvy locksmiths another opportunity to make money by installing another gadget on the door as well as selling a viable monthly subscription for remote video storage. Even if it's by way of DIY (do it yourself) sales -- via a showroom display -- it's additional income that wouldn't have been possible without foresight and a relatively small investment.
Even more interesting is the fact that some of these doorbell cameras have successfully caught criminals in the act of committing a crime. The use of cameras in years past, however, was almost always a commercial thing. Cameras in residential applications were mostly unheard of. The exception to that was extreme cases where multiple crimes were committed and the threat of additional losses was considered high. In this case, the insurance company would require the use of a monitored alarm system. Now, it's common practice to include one or more cameras equipped with motion detection and some type of video retention, such as an off-site Cloud-based storage processing center.
In this Locksmith Ledger article, we're going to provide you with actual cases of where doorbell cameras have resulted in the documentation of a variety of crimes. We'll also give you a basic view of what doorbell cameras do, how they operate, and how to install them.
A Case for Doorbell Cameras
Whether it's someone stealing mail from a mailbox or packages dropped off by one of many common carriers, doorbell cameras have made a big hit with victimized homeowners over the past few years. Police are so impressed with them that some jurisdictions are busy putting together a list of home and business owners who have them.
The idea is that when a crime is committed and the neighbor across the street is known to have a doorbell camera, police investigators will approach them concerning the video they have stored in their doorbell camera system. This is a common practice among police departments even now with respect to businesses and institutions that have a traditional outdoor video surveillance system.
For example, one news article headline in December of last year read, 'Doorbell Camera Helps Nab Suspects.' According to this news story, "Flagler County deputies say they were able to track down a stolen truck quickly thanks to an alert citizen and their Ring security camera" (http://ow.ly/rRuB30mRT5o).
Here's another case where 'A doorbell camera caught a man assaulting his ex-girlfriend,’ (http://ow.ly/DDXQ30pEMsT). Here, an unknown woman under assault by someone she was with, ran up to the door of a nearby house, pressing the button on the homeowner's doorbell camera system. In the process, a full video clip was saved to an SD chip contained inside the camera system as well as in a Cloud-based data storage center that clearly shows the male assailant dragging the woman away by the hair.
In the following video (http://bit.ly/2OKHJGe), the first burglar approaches the front door, knocking on it. He eventually looks in to see if anyone is at home. According to the homeowner, "At approximately 1:35 PM while at work, I received a motion alert on my phone from my Ring Video Doorbell. I activated the Live View feature on the app as it was unusual for someone to stop by my house in the middle of the day." A second man then approaches, and that's when they begin to pry the front door open using a prybar. The homeowner then frightens both of them away by verbally ordering them away from the front door.
"It's good to see stories like this where the culprits of a crime are caught in the act. In some cases, a video like this will actually be instrumental in a conviction," says John Larkin, Senior Partner with ESC of Columbus, Ohio.
And then there are those times when a doorbell camera can catch a laugh or two, as in this case where a UPS driver is caught dancing on a homeowner's door step. "Every now and again, a news item comes along that makes you smile," says Larkin. (http://ow.ly/mugZ30n4DWb)
Doorbell Camera Basics
Doorbell cameras are, for the most part, standalone video surveillance systems with a doorbell connection. In essence, these systems are designed to replace the client's doorbell button. By so doing, they also use the same doorbell as well as existing power transformer. Some makes/models allow the operator to silence the doorbell, activating the mobile App only when someone rings the doorbell.
The fact is, there's a growing number of makes and models of doorbell cameras emerging onto the market today. Besides Ring, there is Skybell (http://bit.ly/2XQ5Bww), the Axis A8105-E (http://bit.ly/2QNDYTl), Napco's IBV-DBell (http://bit.ly/2KTk9WW), and others. Skybell, for example, has partnered with Honeywell, Alarm.com, Monitronics, IFTTT, and a number of consumer brands.
According to David Turner, member of the Low-Voltage Business Forum on Facebook (http://bit.ly/2PP3S5F), Alarm.com uses the Skybell product, marketing it under their own name. Rumor has it that Alarm.com is, or will soon have, their own design.
"We have a couple we work with. We sell the Alula and the Napco iBridge video doorbell," says Mike Steffancin, sales engineering specialist with Security Source of Parma, Ohio. When asked why so many homeowners buy the Ring offering, he replied, "I think the big thing is [consumers] don't want to pay for the service where Ring offers a down-and-dirty no-fee arrangement."
Steffancin's point is well taken. Ring offers a free video Cloud storage option where there is a minimal amount of storage room for video clips. However, Ring also offers the client another option for $10 or so a month that includes more storage space for more video data. Unfortunately this arrangement cuts the Locksmith out of the RMR picture. However, there are other makes and models where the manufacturer will work through the installing dealer. This is the direction in which you should go.
Some of the professional-oriented doorbell camera offerings on the market also provide an option where their doorbell camera can be included in a larger CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) system. This allows video from the door camera to be recorded full time or on demand. This usually is accomplished using a typical IP-based NVR (Network Video Recorder) or a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). There's something to be said for having a live, recorded video from a porch camera.
"Since Dahua is coming out with an inexpensive model next week, I'll be able to sell it and integrated it with any NVR/DVR and it will function the same as Ring -- only without a monthly fee," says Hermin Sanchezk, owner of Skyeye Technologies of Naugatuck, CT. "I just saw it yesterday at the ISC EAST show. It's not 1MP. Instead, they have two models: a 1080p and a 5MP. The bottom screen (see photo) will be able to display the doorbell camera, and also the view from the NVR/DVR, as long as it's a Dahua."
How to Install a Typical Doorbell Camera
As you probably already know, cameras and intercoms at the door is nothing new. Most of the time, however, traditional video intercoms are installed using cable that links them to a video control/amplifier unit somewhere in the structure. From there metallic cable/wire is used to distribute audio and video to one or more suite stations where people can see who's calling, in addition to talking with them. Well, installing this traditional security solution requires the purchase of metallic cable, specialized installation tools, in addition to knowhow and manpower, most of which are not necessary when using today's doorbell cameras.
"The Smartphone connects [independently to the doorbell camera] through the house WiFi. The App is the easiest through the Internet," says ESC’s Larkin. "Anytime the doorbell camera senses motion, it notifies the customer. As long as there's motion it will record."
Installation is usually straightforward and simple because most of the doorbell cameras on the market surface mount to the outside of the home. You must remove the former doorbell button and connect the new doorbell camera unit to it after securing the unit to the structure.
"Most of the time, it gets its power from an existing doorbell, one that has a transformer somewhere in the basement, laundry room, or perhaps the attic," says Larkin. "Most of them generally require 16 to 24 volts and it connects to your WiFi so your customers can view it remotely using their Smartphone, a tablet, however they intend to view it."
In most, if not all instances, you will install a power supply kit, sometimes called a power kit, in parallel with the doorbell wire at the chime (see drawing). And where there is not an existing doorbell, you'll have to install a new two-conductor cable, usually 18 gauge.
System setup is done through the Smartphone App.
"The doorbell cameras that I install are programmed and setup through an App on a mobile device," says Larkin. "There are several kinds of Apps that can be used. The doorbell camera connects to the WiFi separately by itself and you connect your phone to the WiFi for the App."
Without a doubt, doorbell cameras are a valuable addition to a customer's door security. Now, in addition to replacing or rekeying a lock, you can upsell on the spot. Only, be sure to stock several in each service van so you can offer one on every service call you perform.