The SkyBell started as an IndieGoGo project under the unfortunately named iDoorCam. In fact it is technically the FIRST crowdfunded project that I actually received from either IndieGoGo or Kickstarter.
What is it?
The SkyBell is a WiFi-enabled doorbell that has a microphone, speakers and video camera built in. It allows you to see and interact with someone when they ring the doorbell. It pops up a notification on your smartphone when someone rings the bell and gives you the option of talking to your visitor.
Update: They will be enabling night vision and motion detection in upcoming firmware releases. Supposedly the night vision is already enabled on my unit, but if it is I can’t tell. The motion detection is supposed to alert you even if they don’t press the bell. That might be an annoying feature however.
Who needs it?
For myself, I got it for security reasons although there are some other uses. We don’t get a lot of unexpected visitors at our house and I like to screen them before going to the door. The problem with peep holes is that when you go to look, it’s kind of obvious from the outside that someone is looking. For security-conscious families, it’s especially prudent when you or your children might be home alone.
With the SkyBell, you can see who’s there and either let them in or ignore them. In the case of a delivery person, you could, for example, tell them it was OK to leave the package at the door if you weren’t at home. Also, if someone has limited mobility, this may be a useful tool.
Hardware, Installation & Setup
First of all, I am not a super handy guy. I’ve learned to do a few things around the house over the last year but…let’s just say I have a long way to go. That being said, installing the SkyBell is not much more complicated than replacing it with a standard doorbell button, which is to say, pretty easy.
They SkyBell unit itself is about the size of a thick hockey puck. It’s not unattractive, but not really going to win any design awards either. Basically, you unmount your existing doorbell, disconnect the two wires going to that and then reverse the process to mount the SkyBell.
Once you have the two wires connected to the SkyBell, it will start to charge the device, which it will indicate by the button flashing red. Once it’s charged, it will stop flashing and just be a solid red. Once that happens, you’re ready to sync the device to your wifi network and to the IOS or Android app.
That’s where the process hit a little hitch…apparently it took a while to charge up the device. After I initially installed it, it would flash red, go to solid, then start flashing again. At this point, I was unable to add the device to my account. However, I gave up for the night, but tried again in the morning, at which time I was able to add the device and everything just worked.
I imagine their support team is both small and a little overwhelmed at this point since it’s only been a week or so since the product launched. However, it’s been frustrating trying to get support which is only by email or web forum, and the response time has been about 24 hours.
Oh yeah, they added a piece towards the end of the campaign to lock the unit to the mounting hardware. What they came up with was a teeny tiny hex bolt. Man that thing is a pain in the butt to manipulate when the device is mounted.
How well does it work?
(UPDATED after a week of use) Well, it’s not really ready for prime time. As with most crowd funded projects I think manufacturing takes more time than expected which means they’re late to deliver and what happens is that the device and software get less time for testing. It works sometimes on WiFi, not super great when I’m on cellular data. I did a test while away from home and I was able to get a picture of the person that pressed the button, but no audio or video. I always get the notifications when someone rings the bell, but at most I get a single frame of video and no audio. I think eventually the product will get there, but I couldn’t recommend it at this point.
Also, setting up additional user accounts for other household members is kind of a pain. Apparently everyone has to use the same username and password when they set up the app and then you can set up individual accounts. What this means to me is that you have a bunch of admins instead of one admin and multiple users. Supposedly they’re working on this but I refuse to set up this way and I’ll just wait until they get this “feature” added.
One last thing, the SkyBell is NOT currently set up to interact with other home automation systems. It is currently a closed system although according to them they are open to the idea but there are no current plans.
Amazon is selling the SkyBell for $199