DoorBot Lets You Answer The Door When You're Not Home

The doorbell is getting made over as a digital doorman and surveillance camera.

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."

[Image courtesy of DoorBot]

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  • Glen Hamilton

    I know your job is to report innovative products and this is one of them... IF IT WORKED.

    The problem is that it has a major design flaw that only a junior engineer would make. If you try to use the product during the first 10 minutes after configuring it to your wifi network, then you turn it into a "brick" and it becomes totally useless. This is because it tries to update the firmware and gets into a locked state. This would never happen with a properly designed software product that has a factory backup in ROM. Thus, you have to send it back.

    That gets us to the second problem. They won't reply to your email to request a return label, and you can only get a recording on their phone.

    Then the third most important problem. They charge your credit immediately when you order it and then send the product a month later. A good business will charge your card right before shipping the product, not hold the money for a month.

    The sharks on Shark Tank were smart not to invest.

  • thetruthmaster1

    This should be required of every elected official's office door and livexstreaming video via internet so every citizen can see what criminals are coming and going from their politician's office. Call it the "Ding Bat Door Watcher"

  • Freeland_Dave

    I wonder how easy it to hack? Unless you are within a couple of minutes away from your house, by the time the police arrive, after you have called them, a thief would have five to ten minutes to browse the house and leave before anyone got there.

  • Biggest Steve

    What a great idea except this product had been promised monthly since the first of 2013. Now "shipping in January". They collected money from me last April and I finally cancelled the transaction in September.

  • WJ_texas

    Just be careful where you aim that camera. Drug dealers don't like camera's.

  • gastorgrab

    They should've made the frame metal as well. That would have made it harder for thieves to pry it off your door frame and run off with it.

  • Bubba Bubbas

    The author of this article must have seen the same episode of Shark Tank that I saw a couple of weeks ago. Lazy journalism getting your ideas off of TV.

  • Mark Tipton

    Another entry into every aspect of your life for the hackers and crackers of the world to exploit.

  • thebigdog

    "DoorBot Lets You Answer The Door When You're Not Home"

    The Avon lady will counter with being able to ring your doorbell when she's not in the neighborhood.

  • Just Another Guy

    The privacy conversation about the NSA is priceless. Twitter knows more about you than the NSA and the same is true for FB. Your cookies leave bread crumbs about every site you've visited. They know your friends, what you buy and where you live. Most apps track your location. How do you think all those "free" websites get funded? Hmmm?

    Yes you're being watch but the NSA isn't the only one with the binoculars. Doubt it? Install ghostery (or similar plug-in) and see who's watching you! Grrr!

  • jeremeyreme

    Uh... this is not new. Not sure what this really does as I purchased a package that does exactly this over 5 years ago. I see mine by computer, but that's only because I don't have or want a smartphone. I can talk to the person at the door. I can unlock the door. There are 5 monitors in the house that can do this too. It has remote keyless entry. So what is new?

  • mike L

    I've installed about three systems with zones about three years ago in the Caribbean. I think the reporter did not do her HW.

  • Bexcee

    Are these the same guys who pitched this on SharkTank? Do I remember them getting turned down? Never mind...just saw that SharkTank did fund them. Good move!