“Where we’re going with it is once we know this, we can then do things in our network which include, you know if someone’s walking around your house at 3 AM in the morning and your house is on stay mode, then we can do a different type of alert or sort of raise the alert level on that camera,” explained Siminoff. “And then we do things like deliver presence saying ‘How can I help you, what are you doing?’ and so really taking that presence and that interactivity, and that pre-crime thing that Ring is so good at and take it to the next level by knowing the status.”
But let’s go over what it can do today, first. The very affordable ($199) starter kit includes a wireless base station, a keypad for arming and disarming the system, one door/window sensor, one passive infrared motion sensor, and a Z-Wave range extender. You can monitor the system yourself, but at the price Ring is charging for professional monitoring—just $10 per month ($100 per year if paid annually) with no long-term contract—it would be foolish not to sign up for it. That goes double for people who already have other Ring devices, because it includes video storage in the cloud for an unlimited number of Ring cameras.
Ring provides 24 / 7 professional monitoring of the Alarm system through its Protect Plus service, which will automatically notify authorities and emergency services if there’s an intrusion or crisis detected. The service will alert you and other emergency contacts you set via phone and then dispatch emergency personnel as needed. Though the Ring Alarm will provide push notifications to your mobile device without the additional monitoring service, having the service ensures that emergency services are deployed automatically whether you see the push notifications or not.
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Ring's $199 Z-Wave-enabled Alarm Security Kit is so simple you might overlook it at first. The system includes a base station, a keypad, a door/window sensor, a motion sensor and a Z-Wave range extender. It's all basic hardware with basic functionality -- you won't find any fancy features here -- but the Security Kit is super simple to set up and monitor in the Ring mobile app.
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Ring’s sensors operate on battery power, the keypad and base station come with AC adapters, and the Z-Wave range extender plugs directly into an AC outlet. All three of those components have battery backup, so the system will continue to operate in the event of a power outage. The base station connects to your home network via hardwired ethernet or Wi-Fi. A Ring Protect subscription activates an LTE module in the base station that will keep the system connected to the internet if your broadband connection goes down. You can even run the keypad on battery power full time if you choose, since most homes don’t have AC outlets right next to doors. An LED will tell you when the battery needs to be charged.
The Ring Alarm system does not include fire or carbon monoxide monitoring – for those features, you’ll need to add a First Alert Z-Wave Smoke/CO alarm ($40) or Ring’s Alarm Smoke and CO listener ($35) that gets installed next to your existing smoke alarms and “hears” when they go off to trigger the system. I was not able to test these products for this review.
The base station is also wall-mountable and can be installed on a Wi-Fi network or connected directly to your internet router over Ethernet. It has a 24-hour battery backup plus the ability to connect to an LTE network in the event of a power outage. (The LTE connectivity is available when you subscribe to Ring’s Protect Plus monitoring service and uses AT&T’s network.) Both the keypad and the base station feature colored LED rings to signify if the system is armed or disarmed and have built-in speakers to sound the alarm in the event of an emergency or intrusion.
The abode Gateway is responsible for communicating with and controlling all connected devices. Compared to Nest Secure, abode offers a wider array of equipment. Unfortunately, their equipment isn’t as modern looking as Nest’s nor do they offer any multi-purpose devices. However, they do sell everything you need to secure your home. Each Gateway can support up to 150 connected devices and up to six IP Streaming Cameras.
But those were only best-case scenarios. Throughout real-world testing with visiting strangers as well as staged testing with friends, I oftentimes experienced very long latencies between the button press and a phone notification. Sometimes the lag would last up to three or four seconds. And sometimes I wouldn’t receive any smartphone notification at all. Case in point: the hapless pizza delivery guy who pressed the Ring button two times before giving up, and calling my phone.
For doors especially, I much prefer sensors that can be embedded into the door and doorframe, so they’re completely hidden. As I mentioned earlier, Nest really innovated on this front, embedding pathway lights and secondary motion sensors into its Nest Detect sensors. Ring sensors have an LED that lights up when activated, and the base station (but not the keypad) will chirp when a sensor is activated, but that’s about it. But it’s worth noting that a basic Nest Secure system costs $499 to the Ring Alarm’s $199, and Nest Detect sensors cost $59 each where Ring’s cost just $20 (extra Ring motion sensors are priced at $30 each).
So what happens if an Alarm is triggered? If an event is detected, you will get an email and an instant push notification to your phone which you can swipe to open the Nest App. From the Nest App, you can see which sensor triggered the alarm, and you will be presented with two options: call the police or turn the alarm off. If you have a Nest Cam, you will be able to view footage from the event simultaneously. If you have multiple Nest Cams, you can swipe through to a view a live feed from all of your cameras. If you’re subscribed to Nest Aware, the Sightline feature will bookmark the event so next time you access your camera’s timeline, you’ll see a red bar. Tap on the red bar to review the footage of the event. Of course, while all of this is happening, your siren will sound.
The motion and door/window sensors can be mounted with screws or with Velcro strips (provided). I’m happy the sensors didn’t come from the factory with the strips already attached. I’ve never seen an adhesive strip that didn’t eventually fail, so I prefer to use screws—and peeling those strips off so you can use screws is a major pain. The sensor batteries come preinstalled, so you just pull out a plastic tab when the app tells you to. This enables the battery to touch the electrical contact inside the sensor, powering it up.
The base station connects to Ring Alarm devices using Z-Wave Plus. In theory, it could also connect to third-party devices using the same as well as Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth; however, it cannot currently connect to other devices besides the First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm. Like abode and Nest, Ring’s Base Station includes battery backup, an integrated siren (104db), and a cellular chip which you can activate by paying just $10 per month. Finally, while you can connect to the Base Station via Ethernet, it’s not required.