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Doorbell Camera: What is It and Do You Need One?

Smart security. Made simple.

Doorbell Camera: What is It and Do You Need One?

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Smart home devices are all the rage, and doorbell cameras are shaping up to be a top seller in 2018.  Doorbell cameras (also called “smart doorbells” or “video doorbells”) bring the future to your literal front door, allowing you unprecedented control of your home security, visitor interactions, and even your family’s schedule — from anywhere in the world. Curious about the benefits and drawbacks of using one? Here’s how they work.

Opportunity Knocking

When someone approaches your camera-equipped door, a doorbell camera can offer a variety of services, depending on the brand and model you’ve selected. There is an array of product offerings in the market for homeowners to choose from, ranging from consumer-facing to professionally installed.

Some require the visitor to press a button to announce their arrival, at which time the camera will switch on and send a photo or live video to you. These images or videos are typically transmitted either through a specialized tablet or screen inside the home or, with some premium models, even straight to your smartphone through a device-specific application, or “app.” That means that even if you aren’t physically in the house, you can see who’s knocking at your door — from almost anywhere. Some product models even allow you to converse with the person. This is a great benefit for individuals that frequently travel or work late, enabling them to see when service professionals, babysitters, dog walkers, and more arrive at their home.

For larger homes, or for residents who may have a disability that makes movement difficult, two-way style doorbell cameras allow them to ensure the visitor that they’ll be at the door shortly. This is particularly handy in the case of time-sensitive visits like food delivery or car service pickups that may incorrectly assume there was a mistake in the address and leave.  This feature can also be used in tandem with other Internet of Things (IoT) devices like app-enabled electronic door locks to verify and allow service providers like house cleaners access to your home, even if you aren’t there.

If your wi-fi signal is spotty, however, there may be a delay in receiving the notification or images from the camera, which could potentially defeat the entire purpose of owning one. Issues such as blackouts or internet service downtime can also affect the device’s usefulness, which means that you might have to default to “analog” methods like peeking out a side window if you want to see who’s visiting.

Caught in the Act

It’s hard to overstate the convenience of shopping online. With everything from toiletries to groceries available at the click of a button, getting packages delivered has turned formerly tedious errands into an afterthought.

Unfortunately, some thieves get just as excited as rightful owners when it comes to picking up a package — as deliveries have increased, so have the numbers of bold criminals swiping deliveries right off porches and doorsteps. But doorbell cameras can help catch those package thieves in the act.

Certain models feature motion-triggered operation, turning on only when something comes into view of the camera. While you will need to adjust the sensitivity to avoid “false positives” from things like nearby tree branches in the wind, this feature is priceless when it comes to catching a package thief. Because doorbell cameras typically operate via a wi-fi connection, the styles that stream to an app can capture and store captured video and photos “in the cloud.” This means they can be retrieved from the internet by the homeowner or the appropriate authorities in the event of theft.

Provided a high-definition camera is selected, a doorbell camera can even narrow down specifics like the time of day the theft occurred, or what type of vehicle the thief was driving. That assumes, however, that problems like heavy rain, snow or fog aren’t obscuring the right camera angle, and that the thief or their vehicle is close enough to record with clarity. And with inexpensive models, the detail captured might not be adequate to narrow down facial recognition or license plate numbers.

Night and Day Convenience

Even after the sun goes down, doorbell cameras can still offer convenience and safety features to their owners. Low light imaging and even night vision are available features, ideal for users that live alone or in remote areas. All it takes is a quick peek at an app or tablet to see if an after-hours visitor is a friend or a potential threat, allowing ample time to summon help from the police.

Because a doorbell camera typically sends a notification to a paired tablet or smartphone app if the motion sensor is triggered, you’ll know right away if someone’s trying to get inside without your knowledge.  This also means that motion-triggered videos can be stored and reviewed later, enabling you to spot recurring issues like potential burglars “casing” your home at night for a later intrusion. The downside of motion capture is that if your doorbell camera isn’t correctly calibrated, or doesn’t offer a calibration feature, you could find yourself with long videos of wild animals or leaves on a windy day.

If your young adult child or an elderly relative is home alone at night, these devices also make it easy to check up on their home safety from afar — the camera of the doorbell can be manually activated through an app for a live feed. Granted, this feature will only work looking outward from the door, but if you can’t be there personally, it’s a stopgap solution of sorts.

Be aware that your relative will have to ensure that batteries are kept charged, or the unit remains plugged in for you to benefit from this scenario. And if the target porch isn’t well covered, make sure to pick weatherproof or water resistant models, or else your new investment could end up too damp to reliably operate.

Doorbell cameras have a wide variety of benefits and make keeping an eye on your home’s comings and goings easy, but be sure to do your homework. There is an array of choices, at various price points. Pick the wrong model, and you might end up with blurry images and frustration.

Ask An Expert

Doorbell cameras are one option to consider when creating a comprehensive home security plan. Our company’s focus is home security systems for San Antonio and Austin. If you’d like to learn more about the kinds of security planning, processes, and technology available to protect your home, visit our website or give us a call at (855) MYSMARTHOME.


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