Saturday, January 21, 2017

RemoBell is a video doorbell that doesn't need wires

1/21/2017

Video doorbells have been around for a while now and people appear to appreciate the security measure that they provide. It’s nice to see who is at your door when you are in the basement or 100 miles away.

One issue with make of the devices is they often require hard-wired voltage. The RemoBell is a recent arrival that gets its power from six rechargeable AA batteries. That seemed to be a good option for my house where the doorbell wiring is old and not especially trustworthy.

I met the people who sell the RemoBell at the CES trade show this year and they gave me a sample to try out and write about.

The installation process was straightforward but not without some simmer issues. I loaded the batteries into the doorbell’s case and downloaded the free app for my iPhone from Apple’s app store. Then I set out to connect the bell to my WiFi network by following a procedure that I had seen with other WiFi cameras - you first select the RemoBell WiFi network, then log into your own network.

The first step in that process went just fine, but I got continual notices that the device was not connected to my home WiFi. I eventually closed the app and restated and - surprise! - the RemoBell camera was now on my network. I have no idea why.

Next, I attached a mounting bracket to my door frame using four screws that came with the RemoBell hardware. The bracket has L-shaped pegs in each corner and a hole at the bottom where anchor the camera housing with a tiny screw. Seemed simple enough, except the housing didn’t snap into place until after repeated wrestling and grumbling.

Now that the bell was in place, it was time to test it. I pushed the button below the camera and heard a pleasant “ding-dong” chime. After about 10 seconds, my Apple Watch told me someone was at my door - that seemed like a nice feature - but there was no alert showing on my phone.

When I swiped across the phone screen, I saw a similar notification and pressing it took me to the login screen for the RemoBell app. By the time I logged in and had a nice clear view of my front porch, I would have expected my visitor to have given up and gone away.

The people who answer RemoBell’s customer service line helped me correct the problems. First, I learned that I needed to check a pair of tine boxes in the email and password windows to avoid having to log in every time I get an alert. That was news to me. There’s nothing on the login screen or in the installation booklet that identifies the boxes or tells you why you should click on them.

Second, I learned that ring notifications will come to my watch or pop up on my darkened phone screen but not both. I opted for the phone alerts and turned off RemoBell notifications in my Apple Watch app. Now when I get a ding dong, I’m informed fairly promptly and can go directly to the video screen. And now a 10-second delay doesn’t seem like a big deal.

When I launched the camera, I got a wide-angle view that was clear and bright in the daylight and surprisingly good after dark, even when our porch light was off. A pair of option buttons let me accept or decline the visit. If accepted, an audio link is activated and I could have a conversation with my visitor.

Choosing the decline option closes the video connection but also snaps a still image that can be stored on the phone or forwarded through the usual channels. If I do nothing, RemoBell captures a video clip of my visitor. That's a handy feature for security purposes.

Overall, the RemoBell performed just as I expected, once I got all the right options selected and boxes checked. I was a little disappointed that I could not activate the camera by remote just to take a peek at the street in front of the house. That’s a feature RemoBell might want to consider for a future version.

With a price tag of $195 on Amazon, the RemoBell is competitive with other video doorbells and it offers the advantage of not needing a live wire power connection. That makes it attractive for mounting in unwired locations such as a back door or entry gate. RemoBell says the device will withstand temperature extremes (0 to 122 degrees) and that batteries will last up to six months. It also offers and option to save videos in the cloud for a monthly fee.

To get a closer look at RemoBell, visit the RemoBell website and check out the video below.




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Follow me on Twitter @ricmanning and read my technology columns at My Well Being.

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