Ding, Dong!

‘Who’s there?’ ‘Doorbell Surveillance System.’ ‘Doorbell Surveillance System who?’

By Jeff Falk • Photo Courtesy Of Honeywell

Today’s Doorbell Surveillance Systems are not your grandfather’s doorbell. Like a lot of the other current technological stuff, they’ve come a long way in a short period of time.

It used to be that doorbells were a modern step up from the old-fashioned bare-knuckle knock on the door. But now we’ve evolved to the point where doorbells can almost answer the door themselves.

Almost.

Doorbell surveillance systems are so much more than the latest fad or trend. They’re not going anywhere soon, and in fact, they may just be a predecessor in a world where a vast majority of our movements – public and private – are caught on video.

For now, doorbell surveillance systems represent a measure of security, a modern-day convenience and a technological bargain.

“I think it’s going to continue to grow,” says Wesley Michael, general manager of Knight Security Systems in Linglestown. “I think it’s something people are going to take for granted. With the price point and how easy they are to install, there’s no reason not to have one. You can have it installed or you can do it yourself if you’re Ok with working with electricity. I don’t see it going away. I don’t think it’s a fad. I could see it come to the point where it’s included with new home construction. That’s the way it’s going to be over the next five years.”

“It’s more than just a surveillance system. It’s a convenience,” says Robert Candiello, owner of Wireteks in Lemoyne. “It can open my door when I’m not home. It allows me to monitor what goes on at my house, and I don’t have to be home.”

Want to track the evolving popularity of doorbell surveillance systems? Simply follow the money.

Locally, the front door systems, for both residential and commercial applications, are a value, or a lot of technology for a reasonable amount of money.

Doorbell surveillance systems can be purchased for as low as $100, or up to a couple hundred bucks for installed systems that can be monitored from your mobile device. Of course, those costs could extend into the thousands of dollars, when integrated into larger surveillance and security systems.

“For as little as a hundred dollars, you can get something halfway decent,” says Candiello. “Some of those systems work off a single battery that needs to replaced every six months or a year. Or you can utilize the existing two wires to your doorbell, and you’re in business. For the average home user, it can be as expensive as $500. So, it becomes, why not? You can get a good system at a very reasonable price.”

“The costs depend on the features, and there are a lot of variables involved,” says Michael. “I’m not sure whether or not the systems have become more improved, or they’ve just become more easily done. We can install systems for thousands of dollars. But it has become a part of more integrated systems. People also want more cameras involved. The cost has made people more and more interested. But you get what you pay for.”

The popularity of doorbell surveillance systems is a fairly recent phenomenon, one that has unfolded over the last three to five years. Over that time, we as a society have certainly become more safety conscious, whether that perception is founded in reality or not.

“Looking at sales, video doorbells really started becoming a thing about two years ago,” says Michael.

“It’s pretty much gone on from there. It’s part of a lot of conversations. I think a lot of it is that it has become popular on TV. It’s just one of the things you see. On TV shows, it’s like ‘we caught this on a doorbell camera.’ I think that’s a large part of it. Plus, costs have come down considerably. It used to be a luxury, and now people are saying, ‘I need that.’”

“We’re all scared of each other,” says Candiello. “We’re our own worst enemies. In England, there are cameras everywhere. It’s where we’re headed. We’re fighting it because we have more freedoms. But cameras follow the money. Cameras are cheap and everybody wants them.”

All of which raises an interesting and relevant point. Sure, doorbell surveillance systems are a great way to add an extra layer of security for homes and businesses, but they may not always capture – both visually and vocally – the people they are intended to.

Can they present invasion of privacy concerns?

“In Pennsylvania, we have a two-party consent law for audio,” says Candiello. “But the law is different for video. It’s relevant because some doorbell surveillance units record audio and video. Some systems have gone beyond that to allow police to use them. It’s one of those things where there are positives and negatives to it. It’s a service that can be abused. Someone could hack into a system.”

“I don’t believe it’s really a concern,” says Michael. “But I’m going to leave that to the lawyers. For the average person walking down the street, you see them and then they’re gone. Motion detectors are designed to look at specific zones. You actually have to go up to the door and stand there for three seconds. Most of the systems are set up to detect motion.”

Doorbell surveillance systems are meant to enhance a home or business’ security, but they are not a cure-all. Depending upon their levels of technology and the strength of the camera lenses being employed, things like face recognition and the clarity of a car’s license plate number may or may not be part of the video being captured.

“We always tell folks, ‘Understand what you want this camera to do,’” says Michael. “If you want to watch butterflies, fine. Understand the limitations of the camera. Another thing we see is a false sense of security. We recommend integrating cameras with security systems. If I’m approaching your residence with an illegal intent and I see a doorbell camera in the front of your house, I’m going to go to a different part of the property.”

“From the camera at my front door, I can see 100 feet,” says Candiello. “It’s like my eye. But the farther I go out, the less clear it becomes. It pretty much goes by motion, when someone is not ringing my doorbell. It more than adequately covers the area it needs to cover.”

As the desire for doorbell surveillance systems slowly morphs into a need, their demand will likely remain steady. While it’s better to be safe than sorry, there certainly are some identifiable trade-offs.

“It is absolutely worth the money,” says Michael. “But it is not an alarm system. It’s not going to notify the police. What it’s going to do is see activity at your front door. This is a notification. It’s a means for home owners or business owners to be notified. It’s not a means to secure it.”

“You’re never paranoid enough,” says Candiello. “The problem is that we’ve become too paranoid.

They’re very useful. We need to embrace the thinking that ‘Yeah, they’re security cameras, but I want my privacy too.’ We need to protect both ends of it. We need to be focused on the other end of it, because technology keeps advancing. Your data has value, and you should be aware of it.”

A matter of priorities and perspective.