Should You Back The New Video Doorbell Hi)?By - 05/26/2016
I’m pretty sure you already know how video doorbells work. Someone rings your door, it notifies your smartphone, a live video stream is ready when you open the app, and you can talk to the person at your door – intercom style. If your doorbell cam supports smart door locks, you can even unlock your door and let the person in.
There are video doorbells capable of doing everything I just described. Products like Ring, Skybell, and August do the job and they do it well. So why invest in a brand new concept? Staying with a tried and tested video doorbell is fine, but if a new one offers features not solved by existing technology, isn’t that worth the risk? The question is, does Hi) offer anything new?
Hardware & Design
Hi), launched by Fenotek (a French technology company), is a “sleek, eye-appealing device that will nicely enhance the décor of your doorway”. At least that’s their opinion. The inverted water drop design is not small or discreet, and this style may or may not appeal to you. It measures 7.5″ long, 2.4″wide, and 2″ deep. Ring, considered by many to be a large doorbell, measures 4.98” long, 2.43” wide, and .87” deep. As Ring doesn’t fit all doorframe types, it’s clear that Hi) will not either.
Hi) works with both DC intercom power supplies (6-30VDC) and traditional AC power supplies (8-30VAC), something that sets it apart from the competition. As the device ships internationally, this flexibility makes it more usable. While Ring and Skybell also ship internationally, restrictions on both products’ usable power source may make it hard for some users. For instance, Ring only works with hardwired 8 to 24VAC doorbells and not with doorbells that use DC transformers or intercom systems. The same goes with Skybell, but you can use it with a 12VDC power supply. However, you’ll need to purchase the 10ohm/10watt resistor. On the other hand, out of the box, Hi) works with both DC and low-voltage AC power supplies.
Hi) also has a built-in solar panel, which charges its backup batteries. At full charge, the batteries can power the device for up to 2 days. It also has an IP64 rating, making it dustproof and resistant to splashing water and it can operate in temperatures between -22⁰F to +120⁰F.
Another interesting feature is Hi)’s built-in GSM sim card slot, which allows it to connect to the cloud without Wi-Fi using 3G or 4G. Not all video doorbells, if any, offer this feature. As pointed out by a commenter below, this feature is particularly useful in homes where the doorbell is placed at the gate. However, it will be up to you to get a sim card from your service provider, so you should know the costs before opting into this option. If you want a less expensive option, you can use a signal repeater/Wi-Fi booster to connect Hi) to your home-Wifi.
Hi) for Security
Hi) can provide home security by making it appear you’re home when you’re not and by helping you monitor your entryway. When someone rings the doorbell, a notification is sent to connected smartphones. This notification is sent to you and your co-users (1 administrator account, three-member accounts). The notification will go away when one user opens the app and checks out the video feed. From there, that person can talk to your guest or let them in, if you have a connected door lock, but the process of connecting a door lock or other smart devices isn’t as easy as it is with other smart doorbells like Ring and August – more on that later.
So what happens if someone doesn’t ring your doorbell? Hi) will send notifications even if your doorbell isn’t rung. It can monitor for activity using a built-in PIR motion sensor. The sensor’s sensitivity can be adjusted to detect activity anywhere between 0 and 5 meters.
And if motion or the doorbell alert you to something fishy, you have options for dealing with the situation. You can use two-way voice to yell at the person or activate Hi)’s built-in siren (whichever is scarier). And if someone tampers with your unit, it will sound an alarm and will continue ringing until the backup battery runs out. While most smart doorbells have two-way audio, a built-in siren is something else that sets Hi) apart.
So far, all of the features discussed are free, but usage isn’t entirely free. If you want to store video, be prepared to pay. Fentek sells cloud storage for their doorbell for $5/month ($50/year). Signing up will allow you to store videos to the cloud for a week. After the week is up? Recorded videos are gone for good, unless you download them to your smartphone. You can set Hi) to record if the doorbell is rung or if motion is detected. You can also manually start recording from your smartphone at any time.
Hi) has one more security feature, you can give guests temporary access. With your authorization, Hi) generates a QR code. Your guest will scan the code using the Hi) app. Once scanned, they will have access to its features. This is similar to what August offers with their video doorbell and smart door lock. Ring and Skybell do not offer a comparable feature directly, but you can use them with smart door locks that can provide temporary access for guests.
Can it Provide Home Automation?
Can Hi) make your life easier? Limitedly, but yes. Hi) automatically connects to smartphones it recognizes (yours and users’). In doing so, it knows when you or your family members arrive or leave and can trigger scenarios. For instance, if you’ve connected your lights to Hi) using the dry contact outputs, you can trigger them to turn off when everyone leaves or on when you come home. You can also use Hi) to trigger user-defined scenarios through iBeacon technology. Basically, Hi) knows which smartphone is used by which user. Each user can customize the scenarios they want to trigger when they arrive.
What are dry contacts? Great question. Dry contacts are volt free. In the case of Hi), it comes with two that connect to appliances using 110-220VAC. In theory, you can connect two devices using the included wires. With that said, I still have questions. Will the wires be visible? Hanging between the doorbell and the connected device? Will this connection integrate connected devices to the Hi) app? Are there limits? How would you wire a smart light to a doorbell? What about smart locks? Sounds complicated if you ask me. I asked Oliver Ros, CTO of Fenotek, to explain further.
A dry contact is just like a mechanical electrical switch, you will be able to put 2 wires into the screw terminal and turn ON/OFF your electrical appliance from the Hi) app. Hi) could drive devices UP to 30w 110vAC or 60w at 230vAC or 3A vDC. This is enough for example to drive a garage door contact or a led lamp. (In regards to connecting to a smart lock), you will be able to connect it with Hi) using third party services such as IFTTT.COM or Work with Nest. I invite you to check if this is the case with your smart lock manufacturer.
Should You Back Hi)?
And now for the million-dollar question, should you back Hi)? What new services does it offer? From where I sit, Hi) is offering four new features:
- It can function as a module connecting “non-smart” appliances. But do you need that feature if most smart doorbells have the ability to integrate with a broad range of automation devices? (e.g. Ring & SkyBell have IFTTT channels).
- It has a built-in siren.
- It recognizes users using iBeacon.
- It can use 3G or 4G to connect to the cloud, even when out of your Wi-Fi’s range.
All-in-all I’m not sure these four features justify the higher price tag. The option to add 3G/4G is interesting, but the monthly cost will be determined by your service provider. Hi) is currently pre-selling for $299 on IndieGoGo. After the campaign, Fenotek expects to raise the retail price to $399. To compare, Ring and August sell for under $200. Is it worth an extra $200? You be the judge, but don’t forget that there is risk in backing a crowdfunded project.