back to article The next Nest? We talk to Ring, the doorbell-come-security system

"You've come here at the absolute worst time," Jamie Siminoff tells us as we enter Ring's headquarters in Santa Monica. On the left are three people unpacking boxes of the company's video doorbell, scanning their MAC addresses as fast as possible, and packing them back up individually to send to customers. The boxes stretch …

  1. Mark 85

    Is it just me?

    Or did this article read like it's an infomercial on TV? I hope the forthcoming review will be a real review and not Part II of the infomercial. I wish the company well, but IMO, this article is basically a fluff piece.

    Yeah, I'm cynical. Downvote or deal with it... meh.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Is it just me?

      I don't know when the last time was The Reg actually published a review they did themselves. It seems like the last company doing actual reviews is iFixit.

      1. kierenmccarthy

        Re: Is it just me?

        It was yesterday. Knock yourself out:

  2. Mad Hacker

    Bed, Bath, and Beyond eh?

    So I'm pretty sure I have a 20% off coupon there, however, I bet this product will be excluded.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice puff piece, leaves out some rather obvious questions..

    Ring's connections will go through the cloud - up to Ring's servers, an authenticated hand-off and then back down to other devices. This approach however introduce its own issues - what about WiFi coverage?

    What about WiFi jamming? What about reading the signal and analysing it? Why should I trust a vendor holding my data in a cloud in a country with the best intercept facilities in the world? Do I really want to trust them not to open the door for, er, "friends" when I make the mistake of adding a door lock? Is a video really deleted when I kill it, or will it be kept to see if it cannot be used for something else? How certain is it that someone cannot *add* a video to set up entrapment (etc ad infinitum).

    Until we have IPv6, all devices involved in house security have to go through an external server, because most home setups run NAT to offer internal devices access to the Net. That is the weak point, and in this case I really don't want to add the capability for surveillance of who is at my house so someone *else* can then use it.

    This is just one step removed from those doorlocks that "make life easy" but introduce a single point of failure into your home defence.

    It's a nice device and I enjoy the beautiful engineering, but the issues are not just technology and from this article it appears they have (again) been carefully avoided to prevent them from tripping up the sales pitch.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Nice puff piece, leaves out some rather obvious questions..

      "Until we have IPv6, all devices involved in house security have to go through an external server, because most home setups run NAT to offer internal devices access to the Net."

      I'm not sure I follow this argument.

      Scenario 1. Internal sensors, internal responders. There's no need to even get beyond the internal lan.

      Scenario 2. Internal sensors, external responders, e.g. owner's phone as in this example. No need for an external server. PCs manage to go online with no external resources other then the ISPs. Why should security kit be different?

      Scenario 3. Single internal sensor externally interrogated (e.g. from phone). Would need router to provide access via some specific port. Yes, as soon as you start opening the firewall you have a security risk but if that access is to a security device then you'd hope the security device is secure. Otherwise it isn't fit for purpose.

      Scenario 4. Multiple internal sensors externally interrogated. Either punch multiple holes in the firewall, one for each, or, much better, a single hole to contact an internal server.

      None of these scenarios require an external server. Granted 3 & 4 introduce trade-offs that some of us might not be comfortable with but not more so than an external server provided by a service company. And they're not dependant on the service provider remaining solvent.

      Scenarios where external servers become essential involve one or more of marketing ("because cloud"), continued revenue stream or big data (you're not the user, you're the product). In other words they're there for the interests of the vendor and if the vendor goes out of business then the device becomes more electronic land-fill.

    2. kierenmccarthy

      Re: Nice puff piece, leaves out some rather obvious questions..

      So the Ring doesn't currently work with doorlocks - it's in the works.

      When it does, that would of course be a main focus of an article - how secure is this?

      Anyway, this article was about meeting and talking to someone building a pretty good smart-tech device. The review of the Ring is now live here:

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obvious pitfalls?

    "[...] designed to protect the motion sensor but allow through heat information, [...]"

    It seems like they are using a PIR detector. These usually have several problems.

    1. People usually have to cross the field of view to trigger a response - rather than approaching directly.

    2. With a horizontal view - the detection distance is difficult to control and responds to passing people or vehicles if the door is close to a road. If the approach angle is not severely constrained then anything moving could cause a false alarm.

    I had hoped they were using camera movement technology to mitigate against false triggers. Possibly they are - as long as the PIR switches on the power first? Or is it always powered up and the heat sensing is a guard against cold objects like branches from triggering camera motion sensing.

    Presumably if the bell has a low voltage supply then the unit will use it to charge a battery in case of power failures?

    If they become popular then "two screws" are unlikely to prevent them being quickly stolen. Would that then reveal the house's wifi password? Like all IoT devices - how secure is it?

    1. kierenmccarthy

      Re: Obvious pitfalls?

      So yes there are pitfalls. (See the review here:

      I've been testing it for over a month and get more alerts than I would like. (You can select three different states of alert: high, medium and low). But it works and I get to know when people are coming and going from my house and if someone has walked up to the front door (plus can see who is was that arrived/left).

      There are two sets of two screws - one fasten mounting plate to door. Other "security" screws keep doorbell on mount. It's pretty solid. Not completely secure of course but enough to stop someone from just yanking it off the door.

      Good question re: security. The data is encrypted I believe but not heavily. It is probably feasible to get the WiFi password off the device with some effort and know-how. But it's by no means simple.

  5. Hud Dunlap

    A general problem with IoT devices

    I just upgraded my internet connection, now my WiFi has a new name and password. I only have a Nest controller so it wasn't a big deal but what if I had ten, twenty devices?

    As far as door bell and security I have dogs.

    If they got the price down to $50 I might be interested. If I am in the backyard with the dogs I never hear the doorbell.

    Of course as someone else already said, if they get popular, they are just going to get stolen.

    1. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: A general problem with IoT devices

      A $200 device attached to your front door with 2 small screws will get nicked or maybe vandalised. A $20 one won't and can be easily replaced anyway. Where's the solution that puts $20 worth of sensors on the front door and the rest of the gubbins elsewhere?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A general problem with IoT devices

        "A $200 device attached to your front door with 2 small screws will get nicked or maybe vandalised."

        I know I'm sceptical of this device but at least I'm capable of following the links & scrolling down the page to where it says:

        "The Ring Doorbell attaches to its mounting plate using a proprietary screw for security."

        OK, screws start off proprietary but given time the drivers do tend to end up in cheap sets at B&Q. But it then says:

        "If your doorbell gets stolen, don’t worry - we’ll replace it. For free."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A general problem with IoT devices

          I've got this new device called a window. It's a bit like a translucent part of the door. It means I can see who's at the door if I'm there. Even my Rotti has worked out how to use it, although he has to climb the stairs to be able to look out of it.

          When I'm not there... well I don't need to see who's at the door because I won't be answering it.

          A simple door camera isn't good enough for a security system and I've got one of those anyway. Not really sure I see the point of this........

          Still, nice ad for them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A general problem with IoT devices

          "If your doorbell gets stolen, don’t worry - we’ll replace it. For free."

          If that's a winning business model, I'm sure phone and car makers will copy it. Having said that, I presume the business model is

          Stage 1: Burn VC cash at frightening rate whilst rushing halfway decent solution to market and selling at or below breakeven;

          Stage 2: Before cash runs out, sell company to bigger corporation hooked on IoT startups.

    2. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: A general problem with IoT devices

      > I just upgraded my internet connection, now my WiFi has a new name and password.

      Why ?

      Just set the new router to use the old SSID/password - then you don't have to worry about it. Best still, have a one-off change and set both to something of your choosing and then keep that across any future hardware upgrades.

      If the router doesn't allow that, then send it back as a piece of carp and get something that does. Anything even vaguely claiming to be half decent can handle it.

      Though personally I don't use ISP supplied routers anyway, they tend to be a) built down to a price with performance to match, and b) of limited functionality. You also don't know what sort of backdoors are built in, like the BT Internet routers that not only have remote configurability, but AIUI remote access to BT Internet bods.

      As for physical security, I agree, once people realise what they are, the "tamperproof" screws will be as tamperproof as the Torx and Pentalobe screws used by Apple. The latter had drivers for sale on eBay before the products using the screws were available !

      Besides, no tamperproof screw wil resist the universal screwdriver also known as a jemmy.

      Then consider if they add remote unlocking. With the current model, this means putting the connections for the unlock motor/solenoid outside the secure zone. Jemmy off lock, apply PP3 to bare wires, enter !

      And lastly, is it me or did I miss mention of security in the list of specialists they need to have on-board and in-house ?

  6. Irongut

    Do you want visitors to press your Ring?

  7. martinusher Silver badge

    Two small screws.....

    So let me get this straight -- you're going to take a $200 device and attach it to your front door with "two small screws".

    There's obviously some difference between living in a nice part of Santa Monica and, say, inner-city Manchester.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real solution..

    Rig your doorbell to give would be punters a slight jolt of electricity. No more people ringing your doorbell. They'll be sure to call ahead.

    Of course in this day and age they might sue you for pain and suffering. -_-

    On to plan two - Automated paintball turrets... nothing can go wrong...

  9. TrevorH

    device owner gives 4 out of 10

    So I bought one of these and by the time you factor in VAT and customs fees it works out at pretty nearly £200. Not cheap. And for that you get a nice looking bit of hardware that attaches to a 20p plastic backplate that's screwed onto the wall with 4 screws. The screws are a decent length and won't come out in a hurry but the backplate looks like it'll just tear off round them. The bell then fits onto the backplate with 4 tiny little plastic lugs that a child could rip off. In addition their special 'security' screws are standard size 5 torx fittings so really would only deter a passing thief who couldn't be bothered to go home and get his torx set out. Oh, and every time you screw those torx screws in, they eat a bit more of the bottom two plastic lugs on the flimsy backplate.

    As for the device itself: it can't handle being set up on one wireless network while being configured from a device on another! It just bombs out and leaves the device half setup. And to reset it and set it up again, you have to remove it from the wall so that you can press the setup button on the back. Same goes for recharging the battery, device has to be removed from the flakey looking backplate which looks like it'll only stand a few removal/install cycles before it gives up the ghost entirely. Then there's the device functionality itself...

    The videos it takes are full of blocking and static, the audio in both directions is appalling and barely recognisable, motion detection eats 12% of the battery per day so the claimed one year battery lifetime is really a week unless you disable the motion detection. Which is probably a good thing anyway since it goes off about every 30 seconds even with the range setting set to 5 feet.

    Then when someone does come to call and rings the bell, it takes a few seconds to come through to my phone but uses the standard android notification sound, there's no ability to choose a different one nor to set its volume individually. So it bongs quietly and half the time I don't hear it and the rest of the time, by the time I've swiped my phone screen to get the unlock screen and entered my pass code then pulled down the notification area from the top and selected the ring app and hit 'accept' 5 times because it doesn't detect when you click on it, the caller has given up and gone away.

    The latest android app update has now added a big advert at the bottom of the screen for their cloud storage solution. This takes up about 20% of my phone screen and cannot be removed except by signing up for cloud storage. Thanks but no thanks. No bug fixes in this upgrade, just 20% less useful information.

    Can you tell how impressed I am with this? Great idea ruined.

  10. Fatbadcat

    Missed the market target

    Most people have a door bell and only want to enhance there existing door bell systems. It should optionally connect to the existing existing door bell wires and be powered from it, and if configured to do so, ring the existing door bell chime by shorting the wires with an internal relay. This would give people more options than replacing there existing door bells. The wireless door chimes are still a good idea for remote parts of the house.

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