I have been constantly postponing most of the construction finalizations in front and around the house, in order to complete the interior and garden in the back first. That took longer than I expected and as a result some of my initial plans were a bit re-shaped and diverted from the original intent. This was also the case of my intercom installation which I will be describing now.
My original plan was to use Loxone Intercom (its first generation, with just one doorbell button). I have prepared all the wiring, I purchased the stainless steel in-wall flush box, installed it and finalized the brick tiles on the facade. Unfortunately, for the Intercom itself was never the right time to order as there were other important things taking priority, not mentioning that the device itself was (and still is) expensive as heck.
Time passed and the original metal plate covering my rectangular in-wall box opening for intercom irritated me more and more. In the meantime, a lot of other brands were launching interesting intercom products and I started to realize that my dream product no longer keeps up with its competitors, still holding the high pricing level. Several researches and specs comparisons discovered that I would get better value elsewhere for less or similar money. Key attributes that made this mindset change happen were:
- Camera image quality / image resolution
- Remote access from public networks
- Additional features (motion sensor, RFID)
Let’s expand these a bit more to explain the reasons.
The decision I had to made
One of the Loxone’s intercom weakest point here is the camera resolution. In 2019 having just a VGA 640 x 480 as the full res is damn low. I understand that when accessing video stream from remote network some bandwidth limitations came into play. However, most of the IP cameras on the market are offering two streams where each can be set for different resolution and quality, if nothing else. Anyway, the camera chip in this device is obsolete and as a result the image quality of the Loxone intercom is very basic.
Maybe it is not that widely known, but Intercom branded as Loxone is actually being produced by German company called Baudish. You can find close similarity with their Compact Classic 1T intercom. And then you’ll find out that they are also offering upgraded version with improved camera as Compact Classic AHD that comes with HDTV 720p picture quality, H.264 and MJPEG streams available parallel and Onvif support. For some reason, Loxone is not offering this improved version.
Now for people like me, who have already invested into (and mounted) the flush box for Loxone’s intercom, the logical step would be checking if the device dimensions are compatible and go with the Intercom from Baudisch. And that could work. But these devices are not identical. Even though it might fit (no guarantee from my side though), the version made for Loxone is a bit downgraded (no Relais, no EasyLAN), and the price for intercom from Baudisch is even higher (and please note they advertise prices without VAT). That was a moment when I started looking elsewhere, hoping that there is at least tiny chance to have something that fits the already situated box with reasonable effort.
No luck, the sizes of the front panels and mainly the device’s depth is way different across all the products seen on the market. My worst dreams have become reality. So I said to myself, If I am about to destroy the wall again and replace the already fitted box with different one, there must be good justification for it to happen.
Looking backwards I think I have done the right thing when I decided for DoorBird D2101V, and here are the key features why:
- First of all, the camera quality is a step ahead from VGA, it provides HDTV 720p camera resolution which I would say is the minimum to be used these days.
- The lens allows 180° wide image horizontally, 90° vertically, it has infrared illumination (12 IR LEDs) automatically triggered in low light conditions.
- To make bidirectional calls it obviously has built-in speaker and microphone with noise and echo cancelling function.
- On a top of that, there is motion sensor integrated (advertised as 4D – it is not standard PIR), where you can define the detection distance from 1 to 10 meters (in 1m steps), configure the movement detection (coming, leaving, both), and set delay between consecutive detections.
- And lastly, it has also RFID reader for access cards or tags identification. I recommend reading the datasheet for full details.
Cloud or non-cloud solution
DoorBird intercom can be used as a standalone product. It requires internet connection to be able to store pictures in the cloud and notify you about any actions. There are few optional product purchases you can make to enhance the functionality (like IP doorbell), but it is nicely compatible with usual wired things. So how does it work with Loxone?
Now the important thing. Loxone as a smart home system has always been advertised as non-cloud system. Even though they are offering some cloud services (like cloud DNS, cloud mail service) which is not what we are going to dig into right now, there are good reasons why smart home systems should be cloud independent, or at least its core features.
For that reason, Loxone intercom solution fully relies on your home infrastructure. This is great until you decide to access your home from outside networks. And here is the thing. The network security of your house is the key, especially when it comes to smart homes where you can control almost everything over the network. Even DDoS attack can represent a problem, not talking about other hacking risks.
Why remote connection is a problem
To be able to launch Loxone user interface to interact with a potential caller (somebody in front of your door), you need to be able to access your home network from outside. There are currently two common ways how to do that, both described in the official Loxone KB. One simple that works but it is potentially unsafe, and the other that can be safe (or much safer) but is not very user friendly.
- The simpler method is port forwarding. Typically there is a network router at home, separating your local network (LAN) from the outside Internet (WAN). There is a free DNS service they offer to register to, and that will give you external address to use when connecting remotely. The risk here is the port forwarding you’ll need to set up, telling your router to route external traffic from an external port to an internal port and address.
- For better security a VPN tunnel is the preferred solution. That works pretty well when you want to connect to your home network. Your router needs to support that feature and the connection from laptop or smartphone is not that complicated to set-up. However, you’ll probably not keep the connection up throughout the whole day when you are not at home. So to answer any doorbell ringing you would need to quickly initiate the VPN connection (you can place an icon on your mobile home-screen), wait couple of seconds to authorize and set-up the tunnel, launch the Loxone App, wait for authorization and only then the window with a camera image and buttons to respond the call will appear. If not anything else, this is very user unfriendly, not talking about the fact that the person in front of your house will be probably leaving before you finally connect.
So to wrap-up this chapter, to access remotely your Loxone Intercom is either simple but potentially unsafe, or more secure but not user-friendly and slow. On the other hand yes, you have everything in one interface (well not really, the interface is not initiating the VPN session in this case), and you are not dependent on any third party solution.
How DoorBird solves this remote access
And here is why cloud solution helps to address the remote connection hassle. If there is a trusted cloud solution (and the bold text is a key!), the connection can be set-up from your home network to the cloud. The app you use then connects not to your home network but to the cloud instead. It is the “man in the middle” approach, and as far as I know, some home security systems are using similar way for remote access (like Jablotron for example). The risk of such approach is that if they shut-down the systems one day, the app will not work and no remote call will be possible to make.
DoorBird has done a great job here. Their cloud base service is free, the app is available for iOS and Android, and it simply works. You can select if you want to allow the connection through cloud, or if the device will be permanently in your home network. It also shows an icon about how the connection is currently made and it switches the call automatically to local if you’re in your home network. The notification about the doorbell press is pretty quick and reliable, on both home and the outside net. It is a matter of one button press to activate the video stream and then one more to respond to the call if you want to. Last 20 pictures that are taken by each doorbell press are stored in the cloud and can be viewed in the history with a day and time stamp, so you’ll know and see who has been there recently. The core functionality is similar to what Loxone has in their app, just without the cloud and with the remote connection difficulties described above.
Easy setup with DoorBird
Another thing to mention is the intercom setup and configuration. DoorBird made this as smooth as possible, they rely on your DHCP server to provide the IP address for the device (you can reserve one for that device if you need a fixed one) and you just plug in the network cable (power over ethernet) and in about a minute you’ll hear audible notification that your device configuration has successfully completed. Once you install the app from store on your devices, connect with the credentials provided in the digital passport and you’re done. The other configuration then (like adding additional users, what should happen when, …) is done over the installed app on your mobile or tablet.
Simple, quick and easy. To compare here, Loxone’s Intercom configuration is a bumpy ride with multi-page document to follow.
Integration of DoorBird into Loxone
The integration of DoorBird D2101V into Loxone can be done seamlessly. The question here is if this is really necessary. In my experience the usage of DoorBird app is quicker, notifications are more reliable, and especially for mobile phone I do not see a need to use the Loxone app for intercom. The fact that DoorBird app works from home same as from the outside world out beats the Loxone integration completely in this case. The only reason where it makes sense to integrate the intercom from DoorBird into Loxone UI is in my opinion on home devices (wall mounted tablets), that are on the LAN all the time.
Here is a detailed documentation about how to set-up this DoorBird Intercom with Loxone.
Basically, you setup and register to the two events (motion and ring) in the DoorBird intercom and these will then send your defined http request to the Loxone miniserver.
The registration is done in a browser, all you need is the access to the intercom (username, password and IP address).
Ring notifications URL
Motion sensor notifications URL
Note: For both events it is highly recommended to use special user accounts, not the admin credentials of course. The XX needs to be replaced with the number of the virtual input you create in Loxone config.
From these two I am using only the motion sensor event to Loxone, the doorbell button from DoorBird can be also wired conventionally as a push-button hooked to digital input, which is what I use to trigger the relay for mechanical doorbell. But both ways are possible. Also triggering the IR light
manually can be done similar way with few other things, all described in the documentation.
To be able to call from Loxone user interface directly, you need to enable SIP calls in the DoorBird menu [Administration/SIP Settings] SIP activated = Yes, Allow incoming calls = Yes, and also go to Allowed SIP users sub-menu and add a username of your choice. The same username needs to be put in the Loxone config for “Audio username (internal)” and external.
On a user level there are quite good ways how to limit access or restrict some functions. On a device level there are though some question marks.
Primarily, as a user you have no control over the connection the device makes. It most probably opens a tunnel to the DoorBird cloud, which will ensure the essential functions like storing the image captures, but most importantly this facilitates initiating connections from your mobile devices while you’re away from your home network. And here comes the question mark. All the traffic that happens between the cloud and DoorBird devices bypasses all security precautions of your home network. In worst case scenario, if someone compromises their infrastructure, the access to your network is open through the established connection, and the intercom device is a back door to your home network. I raised this security question to the DoorBird team and will update this post once I get any response.
There are ways how to mitigate this risk (different VLAN, separate subnet), so it is up to each customer to asses the pros and cons and do what’s necessary to avoid the threat. I fully understand that without the cloud connection made from the inside of the home network almost all remote functionality behind NAT would be gone. As the end user, I have to trust the manufacturer here, I can do some network adjustments to my network, but I have to rely on the third party cloud security.
Additional user scenarios
Here are some corner scenarios that I have tested as well.
In a family environment it is probably expected that there will be multiple devices and Apps installed for one intercom. In the user administration menu you can create multiple users and manage the permissions. For each user you can define to what functions has access to. For instance, you can disallow watching the live stream, so only if a doorbell is pressed the video gets on. Similarly you allow/deny viewing history, and so on. The geofencing function can be used to suppress notification while you’re far away from home. More details are in the user manual.
I was curious to see how it handles situations where more than user tries to respond the doorbell call. When using the DoorBird app, multiple people can watch the live stream simultaneously. As soon as you want to initiate the call (two way audio), the first who presses the button will make the call and can speak and hears the other party, the rest can still see, but if they press the call button, a “Busy” message will appear.
A bit different is the situation when you make the call using the SIP functionality (for instance through the Loxone UI). For some reason, if a SIP call is initiated, and during that someone with the DoorBird App tries to make the call as well, it kicks off the SIP user and the DoorBird App takes priority. This does not work the opposite way, SIP user cannot drop DoorBird App caller, and will get “Busy” message instead.
The audio takes priority, so in case your bandwidth is not great from the distant location, the refresh rate and image quality will be reduced.
Adding DoorBird camera to Synology Surveillance station
For those who have already some IP cameras at home and use Surveillance station, it might be interesting to consider adding the stream from DoorBird as an additional camera source.
The fact that the DoorBird camera stream will be continuously (or triggered by some event) recorded does not limit any other functionality. You can still respond to doorbell and see the person there while Surveillance station keeps recording. The image resolution is a bit worse than the rest of my dedicated cameras I use, but it is a great to have the intercom view in the system as well.
Also, you can use the method I described in the forum earlier to get a snapshot from the camera at certain events and the image then sent as an attachment of an email.
The final word
DoorBird D2101V is a robust and well made device. The box includes everything you’ll need for successful installation. And here I don’t mean only the flush box, but also AC adapter (which I have not used), and all tools needed to fix the device. One RFID TAG is also included. Based on my PoE switch management info, this intercom is consuming 3W in idle, and 4W when in a call.
This blog post, same as all others on smarthome.exposed site, are not sponsored. I am very happy user of this intercom device and my reason to choose and purchase this particular DoorBird product was based on my own web research and parameters comparison. I also like the minimalist design with hidden screws and form factor that matches the style of my other components. The App for Android works as expected providing all functionality I was looking for. On a top of that, the ability to talk with other systems is amazing, same as the configuration it offers.
You have to be prepared that some of your unplanned visitors will be a bit confused by the explanation that you’re not at home while talking to them over the intercom in front of the house. 🙂 So to summarize it, this is a great product!
For those who do have DoorBird intercom already, or at least consider one to purchase, there is an interesting addition to its functionality by DoorBird IP Door Chime. Basically it is a doorbell over IP (wireless or wired). See more in my other post.