Video Doorbell Project

(Saleem Mukhtar) #1


I am developing a video doorbell and plan to have it on kick starter soon. The door bell is ready only the integration with the lock is left. I need your suggestion –

  1. Should I integrate it with smart things?

  2. Integrate with zwave

  3. Integrate with zig bee

  4. Have it with Bluetooth

  5. Have it work over RF

My initial idea was that I would have my own doorbell and lock. The doorbell would communicate with the lock via RF.

But then I thought it should worth with zwave. But I wanted to integrate it so that a smart things hub is not needed. The idea was people buy my doorbell and it works with all zwave locks on the market. But I hear this is tough to do…

So I would like to know what is the optimal solution.


(John S) #3

[quote=“Saleem_Mukhtar, post:1, topic:16375”]
I would like to know what is the optimal solution
[/quote]For me, the more open the better. If you choose to control a lock, then you’ll need to support zwave, zigbee, bluetooth, etc. Sounds like a support nightmare.

How is yours different than say skybell or ring?

(Saleem Mukhtar) #4

Currently I just have a digital output at the back do you think that is adequate

(Tim Slagle) #5

If you want it to be consumer friendly include either a ZigBee or zwave radio. I’d recommend ZigBee.


Why zigbee? Zigbee locks work great with the proprietary systems like Control 4, but then they have to be designed to their specifications. Barring that, the Zigbee Home Automation protocol is very limited for locks, pretty much just lock/unlock. Main reason zigbee locks don’t work better with SmartThings. I like zigbee for a lot of things, but “consumer friendly” isn’t one of them.

Or are you thinking ahead to zigbee 3.0? I suppose any project just hitting kickstarter now is likely to be zigbee 3.0 by the time it’s certified.


To back up a minute, there seems to be some confusion about what RF means and what it’s used for…


Zwave, Zigbee, and Bluetooth are all RF protocols. (RF just means “radio frequency.”) This is why devices using them in the US have to have FCC certification before they can be sold. They broadcast on a radio frequency.

There are many other radio frequency protocols used in home automation, including Insteon, X10, the Honeywell/Ademco frequency, Lutron Clear Connect, etc.

For that matter, WiFi is also an RF protocol.


All the video doorbells I’ve seen, including Skybell, Ring, and Canary, are using WiFi for the simple reason that’s it’s one of the best for video. Zigbee and Zwave are intended for very small message packets on fairly low traffic networks where it’s OK if the messages sometimes arrive out of sequence. So perfect for “turn light on,” really lousy for streaming a movie.


Doorlocks, on the other hand, don’t do well with WiFi because WiFi takes too much battery power. Lockitron found this out when some of their customers were having to change batteries every 2 weeks. So their second generation lock, the Bolt, uses Bluetooth instead.


There also seems to be some confusion about what SmartThings is. SmartThings is NOT a proprietary system. It is certified for both Zwave and Zigbee. So it can talk to any certified zwave lock or zigbee lock (although maybe just to lock/unlock).

If you design a certified zwave lock, it will likely work with SmartThings, you don’t have to do anything special to make that happen.


OK, your doorbell optimally needs WiFi to run its video. And your doorlock optimally needs not-WiFi. (We’ll leave it open for now as to whether it should be zigbee, zwave, Bluetooth, or something else.)

How and why would they talk to each other?

Most commonly, I’d guess, would be for the human viewing the video to decide to unlock the door.

Lots of systems offer that option already, by the way. Iris, Staples Connect, and GoControl all have WiFi cameras in their systems. It’s no big deal. The person sees the video, then tells the zwave doorlock to unlock via the hub. This is exactly what hubs are good for–providing access to multiple network protocols from a single UI.

And when it comes to unlocking doors, well, it’s hard to think of a higher security need than that! Going through the hub allows for encryption and a network key, so nobody else can bring their device to your house and unlock your door that way.

You could bundle a doorbell and a doorlock together and just have them talk to each other and no one else. But as soon as you do potential customers are going to be asking why they can’t tie into their automated lights and alarms and motion sensors. So why limit yourself?


If there is something about your video doorbell which is unique and interesting enough to succeed on kickstarter, I wouldn’t worry about the doorlock. Or zwave, zigbee, or Bluetooth. Just make a great video doorbell with a published WiFi interface for other home automation systems and leave it up to them to decide how to integrate with you.

Engineering a good door lock is really, really hard. Seriously, hard. I wouldn’t get anywhere near that unless you absolutely have to. It will make zero difference to you what protocol is running the door lock security as long as there is some way to interface with your device through a WiFi bridge.

Just my own opinion…

(Saleem Mukhtar) #8

Ok I appreciate the feedback and welcome more…

The video is being streamed over wifi already. Can I talk to the smart things over wifi – in that case I won’t even need a radio.

I was not planning on making the lock myself but team up with someone who does and embed the remote in the bell which should be easy to do.

Do these other door bells actually unlock the door or just stream video?

One feature for the future was to put Bluetooth module and have it detect the phone and lock unlock automatically like the August lock.

From a price standpoint I am targeting 149.99 – it will have video streaming over wifi plus lock unlock. Which is way cheaper than the locks that are being marketed.

Plus my door bell looks gorgeous!! I am traveling but I will post pics soon.


(John S) #9

You should do a competitive market analysis…

I have a Skybell. The use case for me is, bell rings (or motion detected) and I get a push notification on my phone. I can see and talk to the person out front. If I decide I want to unlock the door, I press a button on a remote or in the SmartThings app and that will unlock my door (zwave/Kwikset) - I can’t think of a scenario where I would want the doorbell itself to be able to unlock my door.

(Saleem Mukhtar) #10

FWIW my door bell already has two way audio. If some one rings the door bell or motion is detected you get a video phone call. The app itself already has an unlock button which sends a message to the door bell.

You do raise a valid point though – perhaps the iPhone android app can itself be modified to send a message to the smart things hub…should be possible…could you point me to some sample code to get started…

Video door bell taking directly to lock has the advantage that you don’t need a smart things hub. So it opens up a larger market.


In order for a door lock to accept a command from the door bell as a valid unlock then the doorbell is going to have to be authorized to issue those kinds of commands.

That lets out zwave as an option for the doorlock. Certified zwave locks will only accept the unlock from their controller, which is not going to be your doorbell.

Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to do it that way anyway. You could send an unlock request from your app, but that’s a whole different thing than sending it directly from your doorbell device. Do you understand the difference?

Study the way the Lockitron Bolt works. That has a wifi to Bluetooth bridge that is a reasonable way to handle doorlocks. You can unlock it via Bluetooth directly from your phone when you are physically within range, or from someplace miles away via the WiFi bridge.

But I would never authorize a device that lived on the outside of my house (your doorbell) to unlock the door. Any tech savvy burglar could hack it pretty fast. The reviewers would eat you alive if you proposed that.


The newest generation is already below that price point. Lark Blueguard will be the one to beat if their battery life claims hold up, but who knows–it’s still in preproduction: