We live in a world where you can answer your doorbell from 100 miles away.
That parcel you forgot was arriving today? You can still speak to the delivery guy and tell him where to put it. That unexpected visitor who dropped by and didn’t know you were on vacation? You can still chat with them and catch up.
That emergency visit from the plumber you couldn’t wait all afternoon for? You can tell them where the spare key is and explain the problem. Wireless video doorbells are a combination of video conferencing and the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s just the start of what we can expect to see as smart objects and video calling merge over the coming decades.
Current Wireless Video Doorbells Using IoT Tech
The video calling doorbell isn’t nearly as smart as IoT technology we’ve already seen, and will see in the future. IoT is a connection between everyday objects and the internet. It lets your fridge, your car, your printer, or your warehouse send and receive digital information.
So the video doorbell is very much a part of the IoT family, but it just isn’t the smartest of the siblings, as it can’t really think for itself or react on its own. Most units (and there are a few), are more like a smartphone nailed to your front door, complete with camera. The best devices open up a direct video call at the push of a button, and can be used remotely to activate parts of your home. The only drawback is that the leading units don’t allow the person at the door to see the resident.
Indian startup PiOctave’s SureBell, for example (must we merge every multi-word name in the tech world?), sends its residents a notification when the unit is rung. The resident can then place a call to the device to see and hear the person waiting at their empty home. The SureBell also doubles as a security system, linking multiple cameras around the home and sending the footage to a cloud-based storage system. You can also set it to send you an alert if there’s motion in a designated area, so you can see in real-time on your phone, tablet, or desktop if anyone’s snooping around the yard, or if the neighbor’s cat has just jumped your back fence.
That’s a little smarter than the average video doorbell, and it’s this kind of ‘analyze and react’ function that holds the real promise for an IoT revolution.
Looking Ahead to True Wireless Video Calling Doorbells
The first upgrade these video doorbells need is a two-way, smartphone-sized screen to allow both parties to see each other. Of course, the resident will want the option of declining those visuals, but it would be nice to be able to make a remote connection more social.
Ultimately, that’s where the IoT and video calling merger should take us. IoT can connect potentially any electronic device to the internet, and in turn, with the expansion of browser-based video calling, like WebRTC video calling apps, the internet can turn any browser into a two-way video connection.
While the video capability can provide the social connection, IoT can provide the brains of the operation. In the case of the video doorbell, the device could be linked to all the major utilities of the home, tracking gas, water, and electricity usage from a central location. If a pipe in your home bursts, you’ll know. If there’s a gas leak, you’ll probably figure it out pretty quickly. When your power company rep comes around looking for your meter they can instead have a direct conversation with you while their IoT-powered device chats with your doorbell to get an accurate reading.
Actually, your meter reader wouldn’t need to do any on-site inspection at all. Suppose they have access to a smart drone that can make house calls in their place. Equip the drone with a VC function and the two humans could video chat remotely from their offices, while the two machines interface through something like Bluetooth.
It’s a combination that can be repeated around the house, and throughout daily life.
IoT Doorbells Are Just the Beginning
IoT devices are already active in many parts of daily life, making chores and lifestyle options automatic, such as:
- In kitchens, where they can monitor and restock a fridge or trace consumption by scanning garbage as you throw it out
- In gardens, adjusting irrigation based on weather reports
- In living rooms, controlling the lights, air conditioning, and entertainment devices
- On your bike or shed, monitoring and remotely unlocking your padlock
I’m not suggesting you put a video camera in all those devices, but you could reverse the flow and have them listen in to any video calls you make through designated platforms–like the chatbots that cling to our live video calls–and act on any phrases, directed to them or not, that warrant action. For example, as you FaceTime a friend while at work to make plans for the evening, your eavesdropping smart AC unit would know to delay heating the house.
That’s a very domestic example, but the IoT and video partnership will function best by infiltrating the repeated scenarios we undertake each day. Imagine a smart car that can detect a fault and then link both you and your mechanic to a live, remote chat about the problem. Or a smart TV that helps put in a video call to your cable provider when you hit an outage.
Take a look around your home or your office and imagine any device you see as a dual monitoring system and video calling portal. Video doorbells are very much just the beginning.
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Image Source: Flickr CC User Darwin Bell