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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Ring in the security changes

Doorbell security cameras have been slow to take off in South Africa, but the new Ring will be compelling, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

What is it?

Amazon’s Ring brand has become a byword in video doorbells and security cameras but has yet to take off in South Africa to the extent where users can join Ring communities, as in other markets.

The products are still not widely available here, cost has been a barrier, and South Africans tend to prefer traditional security measures like gates and guards, not to mention a reluctance to adopt new technologies, even when they offer obvious benefits.

That may not change fast, since there is no mass-marketing behind the devices in this country, but there is now a far more compelling reason than ever before. The latest Ring security camera to arrive in this country, the Ring Spotlight Cam Plus, packs in more features, at a great price.

Described as the “next generation”, it features wide-angle 1080p HD video, built-in LED spotlights, and a security siren. Each of these is a good reason to invest or upgrade, but it also offers Colour Night Vision, and dual power options, allowing an option of plug-in or battery power modes.

These are all enhancements to the basic functionality that has made Ring a household name, literally and figuratively, in the United States. And then it offers real-time notifications via an iPhone or Android app, two-way talking, and a Live View function.

Advanced features include customisable Motion Zones that trigger an event if movement is detected in a specific area, meaning it begins recording and alerts the homeowner or app user. Privacy Zones exclude areas in the camera’s field of view from capturing video – think pet level – and an Audio Toggle turns off audio recording for privacy.

It can also be connected to Ring’s Solar Panel USB-C, which allows the device to be powered by sunlight. An adjustable arm on the panel lets one angle it to maximise solar power.

It runs on long-life batteries, which only have to be charged every 6-12 months (we’ve not yet been able to test how far a single charge takes it). It communicates via Wi-Fi with a home network, and voice, video and alarm functions can be accessed over the Internet from anywhere in the world.

Its biggest benefits are its compact size, measuring only 76mm x 80mm x 126mm, and the fact that it is completely wireless. This means it can be mounted in out-of-the-way places or where it can provide a more effective view, while a swivel mount makes it easier to adjust the viewing angle.

In our case, being able to install it at a higher level than usual made it both more practical and more secure.

The combination of convenience and functionality makes it an excellent addition to the kind of security arrays on which South Africans depend.

What does it cost?

Ring products are officially available in South Africa through Takealot, Builders Warehouse, iStore, Incredible Connection, Vodacom and Leroy Merlin. The Spotlight Cam Plus (Battery) starts from R3 499, and the Solar Panel USB-C at R899.

Why does it matter?

“Since its inception, Ring has constantly been innovating cost-effective, easy-to-use home security solutions that ensure peace of mind for our customers,” says Mohammad Meraj Hoda, vice president for emerging markets at Ring. “The South Africa launch of Spotlight Cam Plus and Solar Panel USB-C represents the next milestone in our exciting regional journey. With cutting-edge technology, including our Colour Night Vision feature, we aim to enhance South Africa homeowners’ perception of smart home security, and keep them safe and connected to their loved ones.”

What are the biggest negatives?

  • The Wi-Fi connection is not sensitive enough for a long-range signal, so an access point needs to be placed in the home as close as possible to the Ring.
  • Needs a subscription to keep video records.

What are the biggest positives?

  • The most compact security video camera we’ve seen for the level of features it offers.
  • Weather-resistant and can be installed on a vertical or horizontal surface.
  • Software security updates available in the Ring Control Center through the mobile app.
  • Manual or automatic spotlights, along with an alarm siren option, adds to a sense of security.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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