If you’re researching video doorbells, it’s only natural to wonder how they work. In this post, I’m going to answer the question “how does a video doorbell work?”
Warning, this post will be a bit technical.
In short, a video doorbell works in 4 steps: step 1, your doorbell detects motion or has the bell rung. Step 2, a push notification is received by your mobile device or desktop application. Step 3, you connect to the doorbell to see, hear, and speak to your guest. Step 4, the event is stored on local of cloud storage.
This is a very general explanation of what happens. Continue reading to see a more in-depth description of how a video doorbell works. I will break each step down. Also, I will discuss the 5th step.
Step 1: The Event
Step 1 is where everything begins, I will briefly discuss three types of events: motion, ring, and live viewing. An event is defined as 1 of the three activities that occur above.
A motion event is when your video doorbell detects something in its field of view. Motion events are a result of infrared LEDs that are installed around the video doorbell. There is a direct correlation between the number of LEDs and the distance a video doorbell can see.
On many video doorbells, the motion detection range can be adjusted. For example, the Ring Video Doorbell has a maximum motion detection distance of 30 feet. Also, I can deactivate the setting completely.
This event will trigger a push notification.
A Ring event is when a guest pushes the doorbell. This event may occur during or shortly after a motion event. In addition, this event will trigger another push notification and a “ring” sound at the video doorbell.
Live Viewing Events
A live view event occurs when the homeowner opens the app and attempts to make a connection to the video doorbell. This event does not trigger a push notification, but it does initiate a recording.
When a motion or ring event occurs, a connection is made, via your homes WIFI connection, to the manufacturer’s server. This connection is required to store recorded events to cloud storage.
Once the connection with the server is made, step 2 begins. We will discuss push notifications in the next section.
Note: each of these
Step 2: Push Notification
A push notification is defined “as the delivery of information from a software application to a computing device with a specific request from the client.” Basically, this means that your video doorbell sends a message to the server, then the server sends a message to the app you have on your phone or desktop.
In this example, one motion is detected, my Ring Video Doorbell sends a notification to Ring (Amazon) to send a short message to any devices that use my account information. The short information may say “motion is detected,” “Someone rang your doorbell,” or something similar.
Push notifications can occur on both locked and unlocked mobile devices and while you’re in a different app. The only time a push notification will not be transmitted is if you’re currently in the app.
Once you receive a push notification, you can elect to view the event, or swipe to ignore. I will discuss in the next section if you decide to view the event.
If you ignore the event, your video doorbell will record for the preconfigured period, then close the connection with the server.
Also, this is another secure action taken by the server. You could be at risk of a security breach if you view or accept connections over a public WIFI connection. Also, make sure your mobile device is locked with a challenging password when not in use.
In the next section, I will discuss what happens when you elect to view your camera, called a live event.
Step 3: Mobile Device Connection
Now that you’ve decided to watch an event live, a few different things happen let’s break them down.
Creating The Connection
The first step is for your mobile device to create a connection with your doorbell. You can think of the connection like a handshake. Your mobile device will reach out (via the internet), and your server will attempt to reach out and shake hands.
Once the connection is made you can see and hear what is happening at your doorbell. At the same time, your video stops the previous event (if the event was initiated by motion or ring) and begins a new live event.
In this live event, your storage type changes and you receive additional options. In addition to seeing and hearing the field of view, you now can talk to the guest (called two-way audio), zoom with your camera, press the panic button (if configured).
The connection will stay open for the entire time you are in live view mode. This connection is constantly sending and receiving data from the video doorbell and mobile device. You should be aware of the amount of data you are consuming with this open connection. Especially if you’re on a tiered data play with your internet service or mobile provider.
In the next section, I will discuss how storage works for video doorbells.
Step 4: Storage
There are two types of storage, local and cloud. Local storage is storage that you maintain. This storage can be an SD card, your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, or a Digital/ Network Video Recorder (DVR/ NVR). With this storage type, you manage all aspects of the files including deleting, saving, and backups.
The second type of storage, cloud storage, means that recorded events are stored on a server. The recorded events can be accessed from anywhere in the world if you have an internet connection. Also, the files are managed by your video doorbells’ company. Finally, you may pay an additional monthly fee to keep your files stored in the cloud. All aspects of managing your files
File Length and Size
The file length and size will vary based on a few factors including:
- Event type
- Features initiated
- Video doorbell brand
Let’s spend a few minutes talking about each of these points.
As I mentioned, there are three event types (motion, ring, live), of these three, two have a fixed length. With this length will vary based on the manufacturer, the file size should remain consistent. For example, the standard recording length for the Ring Doorbell is 30 seconds. After that, the event ends and the data is sent to the server for ‘processing.’
If the event is a live event, the video doorbell will record until you close the application. The longer the device is in live viewing mode, the bigger the file size. In addition, you will consume more data the longer your connection remains open.
Another contributing factor is the features you initiate during the live event. If you elect to begin the two-way talk feature, you will consume more data and your file size will be larger. The more features you enable during live viewing the larger the file size you will create.
Video Doorbell Brand
The last aspect that has an impact on your file size and length is the type of video doorbell. Some video doorbells only record in 10-second clips, while others record for a minute or longer. As I mentioned before, the longer the recording, the larger the file size.
In the next section, I will discuss how to retrieve recorded events.
Step 5: Retrieving Data
How you retrieve your saved files depends on where the files are saved. In this section, I will discuss how to retrieve your files from local and cloud storage.
As previously mentioned, local storage is storage saved in/ at your home. Retrieving data from local storage depends on the type of storage you are using. If you are using an SD card, you may need to remove the SD card from the doorbell and then put the card in an SD card reader. Once you have it connected to your computer, you can make changes to the files as you see fit.
The other storage types are a little easier to manage. If your files stream to a hard drive or DVR/ NVR, you simply need to connect to the device and transfer the files as needed.
Cloud storage is a slightly different process. To retrieve your stored files from the cloud, you must initiate a connection with the server. Once the connection is made, you can search for the file(s) you want to download.
Once you’ve found your files you can elect to download them to your computers hard drive, or any mobile device.
To conclude, this is a brief overview of how a video doorbell works. This outline is based on the Ring Video Doorbell system, and maybe slightly different than your video doorbell. While the process described seems long and drawn out, the connection between the video doorbell and the mobile devices takes milliseconds.
Also, the process is relatively secure, unless you have lax security at your passwords.