Using a Smart Phone to See Who’s Coming Home


Today every one of our clients has a smart phone. And every one of our clients has a front door and/or gate entry. And almost every one of them would like to see who is at the gate or the front door from their smart phone, talk to them, and let them in via their smart phone application. In the past this control was completed by a land based phone system but these phone systems are now being replaced by smart phones that are owned by each family member so the need for a home entry control system from a smart phone becomes increasingly important. What are the pros and cons of the various options that are now available to the custom electronics integrator to meet this growing demand?

The Traditional Total Home Control Solutions:

Control4, Crestron, AMX, and Savant all offer gate and front door stations that include all the feature sets needed by our clients. An attractive hardware choice of front door and gate stations and colors (very important since this is part of the entry look our clients want to impart on guests arriving at their home), an app that lets our client see and talk to the guest and the ability to open and close a door or gate from a smart phone application. The primary downside of this solution is that if the client only wants a smart phone enabled door or gate solution they may not want to pay for the overhead of a Control4, Crestron, AMX, or Savant central processor and the associated custom programming.

The German Made Solutions:

Mobotix and Seidel have been leaders in Germany in the production of high resolution IP cameras and very attractive front door stations. They have brought those skills together with the release of the app controlled Mobotix T25 front door station and the Visiomatic app controlled Seidel front door stations – both high end products that serve the affluent homeowner’s needs for front and gate entry control. Their app based software allows the homeowner to see who is at the front door or gate, talk to them, and open it if necessary. Since their software is supported by cloud-based services the client can see who is at the front door of their home and talk to them via their smart phone anywhere in the world where they have cell or WiFi connection to their phone. This is the complete solution that most of our clients have requested – there is no need for a central total home control processor (this processing is done at the front door station) and very little programming is required. However the challenge for the US integrator is that these companies have a US distribution and technical support infrastructure that is still weaker than the US based total home control competitors.

The Kickstarter Grown Solutions:

The desire to develop an affordable, easy to install, WiFi based front door entry station for the connected home has not eluded the interest of the bright engineers that start companies incubated by crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. These sites are fertile ground for many of the next generation app based connected home products, such as app based sprinkler systems, light switches, and even automatic dog feeding products. Some of these projects never reach their funding goals, some do reach these goals but release products that are bug ridden, and a few get funding and release a product that works very well and meet the expectations the founder’s set for their product launch. One of those companies is a southern California company called DoorBot ( I first met the engineers at DoorBot when they were showing a prototype of their product at last year’s consumer electronics show. I was very intrigued by their solution because we have been looking for an affordable smart phone based home entry system for some of our clients. Over the last year we have followed their product development via their consistent email updates and in late November we were rewarded as an early backer to receive one of their first Doorbot stations. For under $200 this app enabled front door station will replace a client’s existing front door bell – (utilizing the existing low voltage wires that now power the doorbell to power their front door station) – and give the front door station the intelligence to send a live video of who is at the front door to any Apple or Android based smart phone device and support a dialogue between the person at the front door and the smart phone. And when paired with the WiFi based door lock system from Lockitron ( one can even open and close the door via the smart phone application. Wherever one is in the world with a smart phone connected to the internet one can see who is coming to the front door, talk to them, and let them in if desired. This is exactly the feature set that all of our clients want at their front door and gate. The downside of this solution is that the camera quality is a medium resolution 640 x 480, 30fps, the audio is asynchronous (more of a walkie-talkie mode – but according to the engineer I spoke with at Doorbot synchronous voice will be a software feature they will automatically download to the their product early next year) and it only comes in one color and one shape. The aesthetics of their product may not meet the front door station requirements of some of our high end client base.

It is a very exciting time to be in the custom integrator space because all of our customers have high speed wired and wireless home networks and all of them have smart phone products with them everywhere they go inside or outside their homes. With this infrastructure in place we can deliver “best of breed” smart phone controlled products to meet their lighting, security, whole house music, and AV control needs – traditional solutions for the custom home electronics integrator that are now enhanced by these smart phone applications. But the smart phone connected home platform will also allow us to integrate many more easy to use products into our customer’s hands – and companies like DoorBot are opening those doors for all of us!