It seems like everyone has a Ring doorbell these days — or at least some kind of security doorbell like it. Overnight, it felt like those little rectangles appeared next to front entrances on every other home across America.
We see videos of funny, ridiculous, and shocking things happening on video security doorbells all the time. An animal might knock the doorbell off its mount, a homeowner leaves a snack and a note for a delivery person, or someone unwittingly rips a support beam off of their portico because their car tire got tangled on a hose.
While these videos are often funny and almost always entertaining, they always make us rather nervous. As a security company, we often get requests for security doorbells that offer video feeds. When people say they might want a Ring doorbell, we always caution them against it — and not just because we sell better, more secure versions of this technology.
The Rise of Video Security Doorbells
Of course we want video security doorbells. Who doesn’t want to see who’s at the door without having to actually go to the door? Who doesn’t want to see who is at their front door when they’re not home? This is even more relevant in modern times, when people don’t really go door-to-door anymore. In fact, it can be alarming for someone to knock on your door or ring your doorbell. And if someone does show up at your door, you assume they’re trying to sell you something or have nefarious intentions.Now, even we have to admit that those commercials where homeowners scare off attempted intruders by talking to them through their security doorbells are funny. You can be sitting in your pedicure chair while telling someone to get off your property, setting off your alarm, and keeping your family safe all at the same time. Our clients — affluent people who often live in the public eye — need something more secure. They need something that they can feel confident with, knowing that the manufacturer isn’t going to steal their information and either use it or sell it. And really, no one who is uninvited should be showing up to the front door of a luxury home. Luxury homes are secluded, often gated, or otherwise difficult to approach without being noticed. If someone is showing up on your luxury home’s doorstep unannounced, you’re probably justified in your suspicion. Luxury homeowners need something more suited for their lifestyles, and fortunately, there are excellent solutions. Consumer security doorbells just aren’t it.Here’s why Ring Doorbells aren’t your best security option.
Ring Doorbells and Privacy
To put it bluntly: if you care about your privacy, you probably shouldn’t use a Ring doorbell — or any other mainstream smart home doorbell.The truth is, we wouldn’t recommend mass marketed video security doorbells to anyone, and especially not people who already live in the public eye. When you’re already a topic of social media conversation, having a piece of equipment that could potentially give strangers visual access to your home doesn’t seem like a great idea. It’s not the concept that’s faulty — it’s the execution of it. We don’t like Ring Doorbells for many reasons, but the most important one being that they are a potential privacy nightmare.In order for Ring (or any other consumer security doorbell) to work properly, they have to network every single doorbell back to one of their data centers. This is how you’re able to check your doorbell from your smartphone wherever you are. Your information goes to their servers, which communicates with your smartphone manufacturer’s servers, which transmits the data to your phone.The fact that this information is flowing back and forth between them, you, and your home is very convenient — you don’t have to be at home to check who’s at the door, or if you are home, but don’t feel comfortable opening the door, you can see what the person wants while keeping the door firmly closed and locked. Of course that convenience comes at a cost. The security doorbell company now has access to a lot of information, and you’ve given them explicit permission. Your privacy can be violated at any time. We give up security for convenience all the time. In fact, we do it so often we don’t even think about it. Smartphones have fingerprint scanners and facial recognition software to unlock your phone, or service as a substitute for passwords in any number of apps.Smartphone manufacturers can tout their privacy settings all they want, but at the end of the day, we’re still giving them unprecedented access to extremely private information. We’re literally granting them a portal into our lives — the good, bad, and the ugly. Maybe the security doorbell won’t catch much of anything, but the app is still connected to your phone, which is a different story entirely.The same rules apply for any kind of consumer-grade smart home integration — Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple Home, and anything else that allows you to talk to an artificial intelligence bot. Because the devices work by voice commands (i.e. Hey Siri…), it has to be listening to you at all times. While every company will tell you that they’re not interested in your personal information, the fact remains that the smart devices in your home could be listening to every word you say. Questions have arisen as to whether or not these listening devices are actually recording, and unfortunately the answer is not clear cut. Studies have shown that most devices record for about six seconds. The recording gets triggered when it hears their command word, a la Alexa, play… But if something you say is misconstrued as “Alexa,” your device will start recording. Once it realizes that it’s a mistake and you don’t need help, it will turn off. Of course, that takes about six seconds. However, these studies also found that it was entirely possible for smart home devices to accidentally record in longer increments — as long as 43 seconds. These circumstances were “rare,” but they happened nevertheless, and likely without the permission (or even knowledge) of the consumer.All of this applies to Ring doorbells as well because they record both video and audio (again, another funny thing about the videos). While this may be helpful if you’re trying to turn evidence over to police or private investigators, you’re giving up a significant amount of privacy in doing so. All it takes is one hack for you to be the top story on TMZ.As if all of this weren’t enough, you have to consider that your Ring Doorbell (and Amazon Alexa devices) are all connecting to Amazon Sidewalk. Essentially what Amazon Sidewalk does is use a tiny portion of your internet bandwidth to extend your Alexa devices’ range. Theoretically, it makes your neighborhood part of your network. If this were just Alexa and Amazon, it might (might) be less concerning, but it’s also specifically connecting to your Ring device, which gives Amazon broader access to your personal information. And of course, the default settings of all these devices is to opt-in. You’ll need to specifically go into your Alexa devices and Ring Doorbell in order to opt-out so they don’t utilize Amazon Sidewalk. While Amazon claims that security shouldn’t be an issue (given their three levels of encryption), we’re understandably skeptical.
The FBS Video Security Doorbell Solution
We wouldn’t be worth much as a security company if we couldn’t offer our clients a better solution than a consumer-grade security doorbell. In order to find the most secure solution possible, we did what we always do — we found the experts.In this case, the experts are German, and they’ve developed incredibly accurate and secure technology in a standalone device that features a touchscreen and RFID capabilities. Otherwise, we have security doorbells that feature audio and video, just like a Ring doorbell, but with much less of a privacy risk.The most popular option we offer is the Authenticator™. It’s a 7-inch glass panel that is mounted next to your front door so that you can clearly see and communicate with anyone there. It’s thin and unobtrusive — less so than many security doorbells — so it won’t be an eyesore on your façade. You can choose to have the Authenticator™ on every entrance to your luxury home if you choose. Regardless of whether you’re traveling for work or are staying at a different property, you can always check in with your Authenticator™ to make sure everything is well on the home front.But the Authenticator™ is much more than a video security doorbell. Sure, it has a camera so you can see who’s at the door, but it also has a keypad so you can give PINs out to people who are at your house frequently, as well as an RFID chip reader, so people with keycards can access the home. Additionally, you can require more than one form of authentication. For example, you could choose to require a PIN, as well as an RFID card. Furthermore, if you upgrade to the server option, you can also use the facial recognition feature of the Authenticator™.You can also program times in which specific people are permitted to enter the home. For example, if your housekeeper comes on Mondays and Thursdays, you can set the Authenticator™ to only allow access on Mondays and Thursdays between, say 9:00am and 3:00pm. If you’ve chosen the server option, you can also program your housekeeper into the facial recognition program. By default, the Authenticator™ gets power via ethernet cable (PoE), which is easily incorporated into new builds or renovations. However, for homes that won’t be undergoing large renovations and don’t want to install PoE, we have a 2-wire adapter kit that transforms the Authenticator™ so it can be used anywhere there is a pre-existing doorbell. And of course, it can be fully integrated into your home automation system. When your Authenticator™ unit recognizes your face, the automation system can also turn off your alarm system, change the temperature settings in your luxury home to exactly the way you like it, and open the shades to let the light in.
Keeping Your Private Data Private
What makes FBS solutions so much more secure than consumer-grade video security doorbells is that they utilize an SIP session initiation protocol) server to communicate directly to the devices. It’s encrypted from end to end, and does not require a VPN (virtual private network) in order to do so.When someone rings your security doorbell, the device creates a secure audio and video phone call to a specified device used to interface with it.For the most part, users don’t notice a difference because functionally, it works the same. However, instead of opening up a connection to the entire internet, we’re only opening up a tunnel, and that tunnel only goes to and from one device to the other.When you’re opening your secure tablet to check who’s at your front door, that connection only exists on the intranet set up for your luxury home. It’s not going to FBS headquarters, or the servers of the tablet manufacturer. At no point would we be monitoring or storing your information. We’re not providing a security system with an alarm that triggers a call to an alarm company — we’re installing technology and equipment that keeps people out of your house. In fact, our default is to never record, and if you do want a recording, it will be done on a local server that we cannot access. It would only be accessible by you and you’d get to choose what to do with the recording.
Get Fully Covered with Platinum Level Service
Purchasing doors and windows for your luxury home through FBS isn’t the same as going through a regular door and window manufacturer or dealer. Our clientele is more discerning, and they’re spending a fair amount of money — they’re looking for a higher level of service, and we’re more than happy to fulfill that expectation.Our primary goal is to keep you safe, and in order for us to do that, your security doors and windows need to be regularly maintained. It’s no different than getting an oil change for your car, or having someone check your air conditioning before the summer heat kicks in. Therefore, regular maintenance is something we stress to all our clients. Included in every new order of custom security doors or windows (as of January 2020) is one year of Platinum Level Service for free. We’ll make sure everything is installed correctly and the first year officially begins on the first date of significant use.After that (should you choose to continue after the first complimentary year), we’ll come out annually to make sure everything is functioning properly. We’ll replace batteries where necessary, lubricate moving parts, test motors and technology, and look for any damage that might need to be repaired. Another important thing we look at during regular maintenance is the seals surrounding the door. This is particularly critical in hurricane zones, as the seals are the mostly likely part to fail, therefore letting water enter your home. The other great benefit to Platinum Level Service is the 24/7 phone assistance. If you have any questions or concerns about your FBS doors and windows, you can call anytime, night or day. A qualified technician is guaranteed to return your call within 24 hours. Most of the time, problems can be solved over the phone, but if that’s not the case, we’ll send a technician to your luxury home within 48 hours (weather and travel permitting). If you’re ready to start planning your custom security doors and windows, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. We can go over your plans, talk about your goals and design aesthetic, and discuss what level of security you’re looking for (or if you’re simply looking for a beautiful door). We look forward to hearing from you soon!