Video Doorbells: Big Business in a Small “Cat’s Eye”
Home security has always been one of the primary focuses in a smart home. It is no surprise that home security cameras have become one of the hottest market trends over the past few years. But what will be the next up and coming product? From the look of things, the video doorbell is very likely a strong candidate.
As its name suggests, a video doorbell visualizes a visitor at the door in the form of electronic image by collecting the visitor's image with the camera set up outside of the door and displaying it on the LCD screen inside the house. It can even connect to a mobile phone for remote view and enable conversation with the visitor. Since it supersedes the function of traditional “cat’s eye,” it’s otherwise known as the “electronic cat’s eye.”
The video doorbell is a new type of product derived from the video intercom. In comparison to traditional intercoms, it has a number of significant advantages:
- It is cost-effective, easier to install, and good for single home deployment;
- It enables wireless connection via Wi-Fi and the cloud to mobile phones and other smart home appliances;
- It offers additional security functions such as anomaly detection;
- It enables smart management via mobile phone applications.
To put it simply, the video doorbell works like an interior security camera set up on the outside of the door, thereby completing the task of “external” safety control.
The rise of the video doorbell market has attracted much attention. According to Strategy Analytics, the total global expenditure in smart home security cameras will exceed US$9.7 billion by 2023, while video doorbells will be the fastest growing segment, with a market size of US$1.4 billion.
In the meantime, several technology giants have made preemptory moves. For instance, Amazon acquired smart doorbell manufacturer Ring in February 2018. This acquisition is no coincidence, as Amazon had just released the Amazon Key in November 2017, a service that allows Amazon Prime customers to authorize delivery personnel to enter the customer's house while the customer is away from home. The delivery personnel will drop the item, lock the door and leave, while the video doorbell at the door will record the entire process and send a delivery confirmation to the customer.
Figure 1. Amazon Key, an integrated video doorbell and smart lock service (Image source: Internet)
What we see in this example is an application integrating video doorbells and smart door locks. Obviously, Amazon hopes to elevate its technological competitiveness and diversify its production lines by acquiring Ring so that, in the future, its products will be more compatible with products from other manufacturers.
The rise of a market inevitably leads to fiercer competition, which will require cost-effective products and scalable solutions to acquire a greater market share. Take, for example, the following video doorbell solution from Avnet.
Figure 2. Avnet video doorbell solution (Image source: Avnet)
This solution utilizes Anyka AK3760C/AK3780C chips for master control and video processing while simultaneously integrating related components from major manufacturers such as Winbond, Microchip, Nuvoton, and Epson. Wireless connection can even be added using optional accessories such as Murata Wi-Fi modules.
The solution can be equipped with TP and VGA cameras via WVGA LCD screens. It supports VGA resolutions, features Class D audio amplifiers, built-in audio transcoders, and embedded Linux operating system, and supports echo cancellation, AV recorder applications, and AV-over-IP intercom testing applications, all in all providing a cost-effective solution for a price-sensitive market. Furthermore, this solution is scalable for a wide range of target markets, including building video intercom, baby monitor, VoIP phone, and wired/wireless intercom systems.
Figure 3. Diagram of the Avnet video doorbell solution system (Image source: Avnet)
Besides tailoring products to market preferences, we also need to focus our attention on the future technological trends of the video doorbell. Currently, we can identify two preeminent developmental trends of video doorbells in terms of product model and functionality.
The first is the integration of the video doorbell and the smart lock. Although combining the two into one single product is an option, this will increase costs and result in poorer flexibility for customers in terms of product choice. For these reasons, integrating the functionalities and applications of the two separate products via the cloud will be the strategy for future development. This is precisely the approach adopted by the aforementioned Amazon Key to help increase its compatibility with other products.
The other trend is the introduction of Artificial Intelligence. Currently, the “intelligence” of mainstream video doorbells is still restricted to remote monitoring, detection and recording. Future biometric identification technologies based on AI (e.g. face and voice identification) will gradually become a standard feature of the video doorbell and will diversify the applications of the “cat’s eye”.
In conclusion, as we have shown in our analysis, today’s smart home industry is steadily evolving into complete home automation starting with single, stand-alone products, and the “cat’s eye” is a stepping stone to achieving this.