Unless you live in a doorman building or your house is located in a theft-free neighborhood, the downside of online shopping—especially during the holidays—is the fear that your packages might get swiped. For most of us, the new DoorBot is the doorman-slash-security-camera we've always wanted. Sleek and wireless, it easily attaches to your home and uses low-voltage Wi-Fi to beam live video of whoever rings your doorbell directly to your phone so you can see who’s there and communicate with them intercom-style.
"Usually, when I tell my wife about my invention ideas, she correctly tells me they are bad," says Jamie Siminoff, chief inventor for the company. "Then one night I showed her my idea for the DoorBot, and she told me that I did not just reinvent the doorbell, but I gave her the feeling of having gates on the house for a fraction of the price. Now when I travel, she can answer the door from a comfortable, safe area in the house."
With that vote of confidence, he and his team—including several people who helped him create PhoneTag, a pioneering service in 2005 that transcribes voicemails into emails and text messages—got to work, figuring out how to pack a full-featured product into a small ABS plastic box, and make it simple to install and use. They successfully raised more than $250,000 via crowdfunding site Christie Street last late year, went into production, began shipping units earlier this month, and are on pace to sell $7 million in units this year. Siminoff says that beyond raising capital, the process served to refine his invention, challenging the team to make it everything his customers needed it to be.
"Using crowdfunding for a product definitely impacts the overall process that we went through in bringing DoorBot to market. We received immediate feedback from passionate customers prior to the product ever reaching the shelves. The result is that we were able to design and manufacture a product that is much more appealing to the market right at launch than a typical version one product," he explains.
That's good news for those looking to automate their homes. Installing a DoorBot means you're connected to your door—the portal to your abode—24/7. Beyond just seeing who's knocking, the $199 unit can be paired with Lockitron to provide keyless entry (buy them together for $349). Back to that online shopping conundrum: Expecting a package while you’re at work? Confirm the delivery guy's identify, buzz him in so he can leave it inside, and use the camera to watch him leave—all through the app. The DoorBot even has night vision, so you can always see who's dropping by, even after hours or in a dark entryway. It can be hardwired where your old doorbell lived, or run on an internal lithium polymer battery that only needs to be recharged annually. The free app works with both Apple and Android phones, and the unit is built to stand up to extreme weather. It’s now being sold in more than 60 countries.
It is also going live on the Staples Connect system, which allows you to unite all of your Internet of things in one app and it allows you to piece together the system with only the hardware and services you love, rather than using an out-of-box solution that one company put together.
"Homeowners don't want to spend a fortune on a comprehensive system, and now they don't need to," Siminoff says. "DoorBot provides convenience and safety for when you're at home, and peace of mind for when you're away."