Ring is bringing package alerts to its Ring video doorbells, and it’s about time, too. This is a much-requested feature that’s already found on most of its competitors’ camera doorbell offerings. When the main selling point for a product is that it will deter porch pirates, it’s kind of important to be able to keep a virtual eye on those packages.
The pings that will tell you when a package is on your porch will start rolling out to the Ring Pro 2 and Ring Video Doorbell (2020) in the US and internationally today and should arrive on other buzzers next year. But this still doesn’t address a big issue with most of Ring’s doorbells; the cameras’ wide viewing angles often don’t pick up the spot where the package is left. Only the Pro 2 has a head-to-toe view for seeing the whole porch.
Along with playing catch-up in the industry it invented, Ring has a new trick up its sleeve: Custom Event Alerts. This feature lets you create your own alert based on the information you want to know. For example, is the garage door open? Is the car in the driveway? Is the front door shut?
Custom Event Alerts will only be available on the Spotlight Cam Battery and are scheduled to arrive later this year. Both Package Alerts and Custom Event Alerts require a subscription to a Ring Protect plan (starting at $3 a month or $30 a year).
Ring says the custom alerts work by having you train your camera on the two states you want it to recognize, such as when a garage door is left open or closed or when a car is in the driveway or not. The computer vision algorithm processes images of the scene in the cloud or locally on the Ring Alarm Pro (Ring’s new smart security hub) and sends an alert when it sees a change.
“You can literally build your own detector — there’s so many neat things to do with it,” said Ring founder Jamie Siminoff in an interview. He taught a camera to tell him when his HVAC compressor was on or off. “I was having problems with the outdoor compressor and was able to train it to tell me if the fan was spinning or if it wasn’t.”
The camera uses computer vision and machine learning to figure out the difference between the two states and should then recognize when that state changes and alert you to it. This type of AI-powered motion detection is the next arms race in the smart home. Companies are competing to find the best way to send their users fewer annoying alerts in favor of more relevant, useful ones from their smart home cameras. And what’s more relevant than an alert you create yourself and custom design for your home?
To date, Ring has been behind here, partly hampered by a reliance on battery-powered tech, which energy-intensive smart alerts can swamp. Category leaders such as Arlo and Google Nest already offer package, people, animal, and vehicle alerts, but Ring could well be the first to let you create your own. This is a bold claim, however, and we won’t know if it holds up until we’ve been able to test it ourselves.
Updated, 2:20 PM, September 28th, 2021: Added details about Ring’s new Ring Alarm Pro that can process event alerts locally.