Everything about CES is big. Both logistically and geographically, there aren't a lot of conferences that can come anywhere near the scale. And for everyone involved, CES is more than just another tradeshow. It's "the" tradeshow. The event that sets the tone for the coming year. And few brands set out as ambitious a vision for 2018 as Ring.
The company announced a pair of new indoor and outdoor security cameras, a line of connected outdoor lights and further bolstered its appeal to home-owners by announcing that their new professionally monitored home security system will begin shipping to customers in late 2018.
We spoke to founder and chief inventor Jamie Siminoff to discuss the state of things.
2017 was a big year for Ring. Of all the burgeoning smart home / security brands out there, it feels like yours is one of the more high-profile ones. Does it pay to be brand-agnostic?
Jamie: "2017 was a big year for Ring. We launched a number of new products, including the Ring Video Doorbell 2 and Floodlight Cam, and they have been really well received globally. We now have a large range of Ring security doorbells and cameras, so we’ve started to integrate with other smart home platforms."
"We are already integrated with Amazon Alexa via the Echo and Echo Show as well as a number of other loved smart home devices, but we are now working to integrate Ring into more smart home devices for greater control."
While the huge boom in popularity of smart speaker setups like Alexa and Google Home has likely helped Ring, there are a lot of security concerns attached to these platforms.
What are you doing as a company to alleviate those concerns?
"Security is paramount to us. Not just neighbourhood and home security, but individual user security and overall system security. We have a tightly controlled integration program and API for third parties to work with us. Part of that program is looking at platform risk before we integrate, which includes security."
"We work hard at making sure our select list of partners are secure integrations and that the customer has control over what they want to integrate with."
Does Ring have any plans to deviate or diversify their product offering outside of home
"Ring’s mission is to reduce crime in neighbourhoods, so everything we do whether it's through hardware or software will be focused on supporting that misson. We’ve just launched a line of smart, connected outdoor lights, called Ring Beams, which offers additional outdoor security and integrates with all of our Ring security cams and doorbells. It diversifies our offering, and extends the ring of security around homes, reducing crime in neighbourhoods."
The smart doorbell is an idea that's floated around in science-fiction for years. Looking back, what made your approach to the concept a successful one?
"I’ve always been an inventor, working on different things and breaking things apart just to put them back together. I took some time off after exiting a previous company and decided to hole up in my garage and work on different ideas I had. While I was in my garage, I could never hear my doorbell and kept missing important deliveries, so I built a Wi-Fi doorbell that I could answer with my phone because nothing else was available that would solve my problem. I pitched the original Doorbot design on Shark Tank USA and although I didn’t accept any offers, if it wasn’t for the exposure that I received through the show, I might not have gotten Ring off the ground. The cash injection that came in after our appearance allowed us to build out our team of engineers and develop our next product."
"From there we were fortunate enough to secure investors like Sir Richard Branson, who believed in our mission to reduce crime in neighbourhoods, and rebranded to Ring and launched the Ring Video Doorbell in September 2014. Our success has basically boiled down to a little bit of luck, a solid product and a lot of hard work from a great team."
How do we stop technology like Ring from enabling the kind of cold, calculated scenarios you see in popular TV shows like Black Mirror?
"I think it’s likely that some people will always doubt how technology can improve our lives. But Ring is focused on reducing crime in your neighbourhood and I think that’s a mission our society can generally support. We’re about interacting with the people at your home, not shutting them out completely and that’s why we’ve developed Ring Neighbourhoods, a new feature in the Ring app that encourages neighbours to talk and share with each other what’s happening around their homes."
"We’ve found that the more informed neighbours are of crime in their area, the safer the neighbourhood can be. The best thing about Ring Neighbourhoods is that you can personalise the app to get relevant alerts from your neighbourhood in real-time, and you don’t even need to own a Ring device to access Ring Neighbourhoods - it’s basically a neighbourhood watch for the digital age that puts an emphasis on community building."
Both LG and Samsung are investing heavily in their own smart home tech. Will Ring products play nice with the ecosystems of these other brands?
"Ring has integrated with Samsung’s SmartThings and is now integrated with the SmartFridge, which allows you to view your Ring camera feed on your fridge, a feature that Samsung showcased at CES this year. Being integrated with SmartThings is important for our Neighbours who are increasingly investing in smart home solutions. We’re always looking at how Ring can be compatible with other smart home tech and building out our partners, which already include Alexa, Wink, Kevo, Lockstate, Kisi, ADT and Wemo."
"We also hope to one day offer a Google Home integration. 2018 will be a big year for Ring in terms of integrations."
Like-wise, any plans to offer further voice assistant compatibility for Bixby or Cortana?
"While we’re currently focusing on Google and Alexa, our goal is to be voice agnostic, so integrating with more voice assistant compatibilities is definitely on the radar."
In your mind, what’s the biggest thing on Ring’s radar in 2018?
"A huge focus this year is the Ring Alarm, which will be available in Australia in late 2018, and then bringing Ring Beams to other markets. The Ring Alarm Security Kit is fully customisable and sends you instant mobile alerts whenever doors or windows open in your home, so you can monitor your property from anywhere. Starter kits will include a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector and range sensor. You can then add extra sensors as required so the system can work in any size house or apartment. You can also connect all your existing Ring cameras and other smart home devices to it so you have complete control."
"We’ve also just launched Ring Beams, a range of outdoor smart security lights that seamlessly integrate with Ring Alarm and Ring cameras, so you can now have connected security across your entire property."
For the full run-down on everything that happened at this year's CES in Las Vegas, click here.
Disclosure - Our coverage of CES 2018 was sponsored by Intel, Belkin and Alcatel - who collectively covered the cost of our flights and accommodation.