Video doorbells – how do they work?

Video doorbells are everywhere at the moment. The adverts are on TV all the time, showing us the benefit of being able to see who is outside your home and how you can talk to them, and several of the houses in my street have invested in a video doorbell. They’re a great idea on paper, but how do they actually work, and what should we be wary of?

Video doorbells work by connecting to your home wi-fi connection which can transmit a live video and audio feed to your smartphone. They also have two-way audio functionality so you can have a conversation with whoever is at your door without ever having to open it, or even be in the country. They have motion detection which triggers a recording or a live feed to your phone to show you what is going on, so potential intruders can be caught on camera before they even touch your home. You don’t have to press the doorbell for a video doorbell to start recording and to alert the homeowner.

People have various different reasons why a video doorbell is useful. If you do a lot of online shopping then a video doorbell is a handy way of knowing your items have been delivered, and if they go missing you’ll have proof of whoever made off with them. Some people use their video doorbell so that children don’t have to answer the door if a parent has popped out to the shop, and they’re also great for introverts as you can see who is at the door without the caller knowing whether you’re at home or not. This also means you can tell the caller you’re out while you hide under the kitchen table, and you’ll know when the coast is clear to come out – very useful for dealing with unwanted visitors or relatives! Video doorbells also put paid to “knock down ginger”, still a popular prank today.

There are a lot of versions out there, and they don’t all have the same features so if you’re thinking of buying one check it has the capabilities you need. If you want high quality night time vision and recording you’ll need to look for a video doorbell with this feature. Some offer a limited angle of view; others can show 180° wide angle footage. They can be battery powered or hardwired into your existing doorbell circuit – if you don’t already have a doorbell consider whether you want the cost of an electrician to run extra wires to it, or whether you prefer to have a battery operated model which will still work in a power cut (remember you’ll have to check the battery levels periodically).

You need to be aware of the variety of features a video doorbell has or lacks, but you should also stay abreast of any news regarding cyber security for video doorbells. They are not easy to hack, but if a hacker can gain access to your home wi-fi network they can theoretically hijack your video feed, watching what is happening outside your home. If you have in-home cameras these are also vulnerable. The worrying thing hackers could do with your video doorbell is record footage of a known person at your door, then send it to your phone to trick you into opening the door when there’s actually a burglar (or worse) out there. It’s important not to get complacent with this connected technology and make sure you exchange a few words before opening the door – a hacker can’t fake a conversation with pre-recorded footage unless they’re Derren Brown.

Video doorbells can be a really useful addition to your home security; there are just a couple of security concerns which are easily overcome by being vigilant.