It is a very special challenge to make decades-old devices smart with new technology. Amazon's smart home subsidiary Ring has succeeded with its intercom. The small box is connected to a door intercom system. Users can then use their smartphone not only to operate the door opener remotely, but also to speak to the person at the front door on their cell phone. This can be extremely useful – or it can lead to confusion.
But before that happens, Ring Intercom needs to be installed first. Even if Amazon claims that this is very easy, we have to say in the test: it depends. Most importantly, it comes down to the intercom system to be upgraded with Ring Intercom. According to Amazon, most intercoms are compatible.
On the product page on the Internet, a link leads to a compatibility check, which should definitely be carried out before purchasing. Unfortunately, our Seko LT is not listed there. The system dates back to the 1970s – and Ring Intercom clearly wants nothing to do with technology that is half a century old. However, the successor model is compatible. That's why we took the risk.
To set up the device, start by installing the Ring app on your smartphone. Because the user is accompanied step by step. The entire process starts as soon as you scan the QR code on the device with your smartphone. The app then prompts you to charge the battery first. This takes a few hours.
But then it really starts. Now it is necessary to enter the brand of the intercom. Sometimes the model designation is on the outside of the layout, sometimes on the inside. In any case, it must be opened carefully with a screwdriver. Once the brand is entered into the app, it provides instructions on which of the three different intercom wire harnesses should be used.
At least now you feel like a do-it-yourselfer. The intercom needs to be loosened a little from the wall to allow the small harness to be inserted from behind. The app then explains in detail which cable needs to be screwed to which contact. In our case, the string has six cables, but only five of them need to be connected.
The previous wiring of the intercom is not changed, so the additional cables, which can be easily identified with colors and numbers, must also be inserted into the contacts. That sounds more complicated than it is. If you don't dare to do this, you can of course hire an electrician. A little tip: Take a picture of the wiring of the system with your smartphone beforehand. Then everything can be reversed if necessary.
Once the cables are connected, the other end of the strand is connected to the Ring Intercom, which is mounted on the wall right next to the intercom. Screws are included for this, but it's easier with the two adhesive strips that are already on the back. Now the intercom should be closed again. At the end, the smartphone app runs a small test routine to determine whether all the cables are properly connected. In our test, contrary to our expectations, we were successful at the first attempt.
From now on, everything ran very reliably in our five-story apartment building in Berlin. If someone rings the doorbell, the Ring app reports this with a push message on the smartphone - anywhere in the world. We can then talk to the visitor through the smartphone and, if necessary, open the front door remotely.
Incidentally, all other family members who have installed the app can do the same. All you have to do is add them to the app. A log also records when the doorbell rang, opened and when the intercom system was used. In the test, we were also able to reliably determine that a courier service was not honest in claiming that it rang the bell and didn't find anyone.
We also used Amazon's Alexa app to set up the Ring Intercom so that when the front doorbell rang, it would also ring through all the Echo speakers in the apartment. A ringing can thus practically no longer be overheard. It would even be possible to open the front door using voice commands. But that is – for security reasons – so cumbersome that it is pointless again. Because the voice command to open the door has to be confirmed with a pin code, which you also have to say. Once that's done, the visitor should be gone by now.
Conclusion: First of all, it's fun to upgrade technology that is half a century old. Especially if the result then works reliably, as in our test. It can also be helpful to be able to open the front door at any time. For example, when visitors arrive before you get home. They are then already standing in the dry stairwell, even if they have not yet come into the apartment. Or to let in a parcel carrier, who can then deposit the shipment in the stairwell or in front of the apartment door.
In our case, however, this tended to lead to confusion. In one case we asked the courier to put the package in front of the door because we weren't at home. He gave it to the neighbor anyway. If you don't know the technology, you might assume it's a joke. Because usually you are at home when you use the intercom.
But exactly such a scenario has been considered by Amazon with its Ring Intercom. Because in the app, users can – exclusively – grant automatic approval for Amazon deliveries. Then the Amazon courier himself can open the front door for himself when he has a delivery to drop it off at a preferred location that the recipient can set in their Amazon account settings. If you grant such an automatic release in the app, this also applies to all other residents of the house, who may then be notified by Amazon about this option.
Legally, this is a delicate matter, as Amazon also informs in the app. Because leases or other agreements with co-owners can limit the use of devices like Ring Intercom. Users must therefore check such agreements themselves for admissibility. Ring Intercom costs 130 euros.
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