Adios Ring Door Bell

Ring’s prominence in the news prompted me to look for an alternative to replace the Ring doorbell with its security issues, limited battery life, and less than satisfactory image quality. While I was at it, I also wanted a couple of cameras to look in on the area where the dogs hang out. Because of the added porch roof, it is difficult to run Ethernet cable to this area for wired cameras. Camera things are in flux with many entrants into the market place. After a market search, I settled on an Anker EuFy doorbell and cameras. Find out more after the jump.

References

  1. https://www.eufylife.com/products/variant/video-doorbell-batterypowered/E82101W3
  2. https://www.eufylife.com/products/variant/eufycam-e-2cam-kit/T88021D4
  3. https://youtu.be/c5gOQj5JhKQ Explaining Computers explains SD card speed classes and capacity classes.

Requirements

For this project, I had a few requirements

  • All products designed and tested for outdoor mounting on a wall under roof eves.
  • The doorbell should be wireless
  • The doorbell camera should provide a clear view of the porch and mailbox
  • The cameras should be wireless
  • All data storage should be on-site. Basic operation would not require off-site data storage.
  • Cameras and doorbell should have at least a 6 month battery life.
  • All cameras should be 1080p or better.
  • Low frame rates were permissible.
  • Cameras and related sensors should integrate with Apple HomeKit for video viewing and use of sensors in automation.

Who has Home Kit Support?

Only a few vendors have publicly committed to Apple Home Kit support as of spring 2020. These include Arlo, EuFy, EveHome, Logitech Circle 2, and NetAtmo. Several did not have product or did not have wireless product. It came down to two vendors, Arlo and EuFy that placed the Home Kit interface in a bridge or relay device rather than directly on the sensors.

Logitech Circle 2 has full home kit support. They offer the camera with regular Circle 2 firmware but Home Kit firmware may be installed in its place. When the firmware is replaced, the camera functions only as a full Home Kit Secure Video device. It works quite well but was tied to house power.

Arlo offers Home Kit support using the Arlo hub as a relay. This product works reasonably well but one review video showed excessive lens flare that obscured the frame around lights visible in the frame.

EuFy offers Home Kit support using the EuFy Home Base as a relay. EuFy video in reviews looked good under all lighting conditions.

Both offer battery powered cameras with freeze frames and video on demand in Home Kit and the native app but neither uses Home Kit Secure video in Spring 2020.

The Logitech Circle 2 was only available as a wired device. The wireless Circle 2 could not run the Home Kit firmware. Home Kit’s architecture required periodically pushing freeze frames to Home Kit over WiFi or Bluetooth Lower Energy. Nobody has done this directly from the camera while achieving satisfactory battery life. This is why Logitech offers Home Kit Secure Video only on the wired Circle 2.

The Arlo and EuFy cameras rely on a base station and proprietary low power link that allows them to deliver freeze frames to Home Kit via their base station (what Apple calls a relay) at a reasonable energy cost. The Arlo and EuFy can both be configured for local image storage in the base station but the Arlo had a strong bias toward having a Arlo account and off-site storage. The EuFy did not. It was designed for off-site storage with optional motion clip backup at EuFy.

EuFy offers offsite backup of video clips as a paid service. Use of the offsite archive is entirely optional and the product functions properly without it. The 16 GB of local storage is sufficient for a couple of garden cameras and the doorbell.

Taking things in balance and considering the strong product reputations of both Anker and Arlo, I elected to use the EuFy Cam2 and Doorbell 2. In one The presence of lens flare in the Arlo was the deciding factor. The EuFy video, though lower resolution, had better contrast and no image areas obscured by flare.

Was one of the Arlo cameras dropped? The reviewer did not say. Could it have bounced before being packaged for shipment? Maybe? The EuFy Cam2 was free of flare.

Starting with the doorbell

EuFy makes two doorbells cameras, one designed to be used with an existing wired chime and a second designed to be used where an existing doorbell and bell transformer are not available. The two are a good bit different in architecture. The completely wireless doorbell has a 6 month battery inside and uses a low power radio link (don’t know which IEEE standard) to communicate video, motion, and chime events to home plate. The bell contains both a motion sensor and a camera. The motion sensor wakes the camera. The base station, EuFy’s HomeBase 2, receives the events and video and plays the chime sound for you.

The wireless doorbell can receive power from a bell transformer and includes a relay to operate a chime. It steals power from the chime supply across the open relay contact. Unlike the original Ring, the snubbing diode is built into the doorbell. All electronics is in the doorbell rather than being split between a base plate and the button-camera housing.

If not externally powered, the bell assembly is easily removed for over night charging using a micro USB phone charger. A pin releases the camera from the base plate. A Torx screwdriver is not required.

My camera choice, EuFy Cam2

I selected the EuFy Cam2, EuFy’s newest wireless camera. Like the doorbell, it uses HomeBase 2 to record video events and communicate with the larger world. What was not clear was if HomeBase 2 contained firmware for both devices. It does. I could have added my doorbell and cameras to a single HomeBase 2. Since I had two, I added the doorbell to the HomeBase 2 that came with it and added the cameras to the HomeBase 2 that came with them. Homebase 2 has a 16 GB flash video storage storage internal to the HomeBase2. Homebase 2 has fixed storage. This is plenty of storage for most uses.

EuFy Cam2 requires HomeBase2!

The original HomeBase had an external user replaceable micro-SD card. There are a number of images out there, apparently stock photos, showing EuFy Cam2 with the original HomeBase. EuFy Cam2 requires the new compact HomeBase 2.

Purchase Choices

The doorbell is available only with a HomeBase 2. The cameras are available as a kit of 2 with a HomeBase or as individual cameras to be added to an existing system. I could have saved some money and an Ethernet port by buying a doorbell plus 2 add on cameras. I wish EuFy were clearer about this.

The cameras are easily recharged using a micro USB phone charger or iPad charger. The batteries are not user replaceable.

Setup

There’s an app for that. The EuFy security app supports configuration and monitoring of door sensors, doorbell, and cameras. Configuration is simple following the app workflow. The app guides you to bring up HomeBase and add each sensor to HomeBase. At your option, you can configure motion detection zones and configure motion detection to report all motion or just people motion. The just people option appears to work well.

EuFy Security app lets you enable HomeKit on a camera by camera basis but not for the doorbell’s camera. EuFy currently supports video on demand transfer to HomeKit but not Home Kit Secure Video Storage.

EuFy works within the lifelines

EuFy’s system architecture relies upon HomeBase 2 to store video clips and events. HomeBase 2 stores all video and event logs on a micro-SD card internal to HomeBase. HomeBase ships with a 16 GB of video storage internal to the device. With good people detection, I’ve found EuFy doorbell and cameras to be efficient users of storage.

Although the EuFy security app has you create a web site login, it is used primarily for user authentication with the app. There is no web app to look in on home. Video is stored and transmitted in encrypted form and is decrypted only for playback by EuFy Security or HomeKit. As always, the password should be unique. Two factor authentication is not currently available.

The login is not needed once the App is up and in communication with the app and cameras are talking. On Apple devices supporting Face Login, the EuFy Security app may be switched to Face Login. There is no web app to adjust the camera configuration. Only the EuFy Securitiy app and Home app can alter the system configuration. This closes the Ring/Nest hole.

EuFy Security Apple HomeKit Integration in Spring 2020

EuFy was an early Home Kit licensee promoted at recent Apple WWDC conferences. Their Home Kit architecture uses the HomeBase as a bridge between the cameras and the Home Kit base station in a HomePod or Apple TV. The Home App on Mac, iPhone, and iPad provides a user interface for the cameras and event logs.

EuFy is working on HomeKit integration. The doorbell is not currently integrated. The cameras are partially integrated. The cameras can send user-initiated video to HomeKit and can send sensor events to HomeKit. They cannot currently send motion sense video clips to Home Kit Secure Video. Events may be passed to Home Kit automation for further processing.

In spring of 2020, each EuFy Cam 2 periodically sends a freeze frame to Home Kit. The Home app shows these in a window in the Home Kit Room to which the camera is assigned. Selecting and opening the window causes HomeKit to pull full motion video from the camera. I find it useful to open the MacOS Home app, split the screen, and put the Garden room on view in Home app. When I hear barking, I can find the dogs and observe their behavior. Are they trolling the neighbor’s cat or menacing children on the school bus trot. Fortunately, children are of decreasing interest but cats … they’re evil.