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Suitable for use in a number of commercial and residential configurations, video intercom door release systems are an advanced form of entry point management allowing for visitors, building occupants and authorized employees to safely and effectively monitor access to their properties.

Door intercom systems with video monitoring capabilities present security teams, property owners and building tenants with the ability to view live and recorded images, which can be used to better manage a wider security network and to provide a higher degree of versatility than a standard audio-only intercom. 

Modern video door entry systems support several advanced features including remote access, cloud-based management, AI integration and two-way video intercom communication, helping to measurably improve convenience for visitors and occupants alike. This guide will cover all that potential adopters of this technology need to know about the application, installation and benefits of front door video intercoms.

What is a video intercom system?

A video intercom system is a building access management tool featuring a camera, a method of audio communication, a connected door locking mechanism and an access management platform. When a visitor interacts with the system to request building access, the camera intercom system will send video and audio footage to the administrator, which could include a security team, resident or property owner. 

Admins can then visually verify the visitor before unlocking the doors to the building, helping to prevent unauthorized individuals from trespassing on private property, and providing building management teams with video evidence of potential intrusion events to help deter crime. 

Depending on the type of door video intercom system installed, admins are able to view and access live camera feeds either through an on-site monitor or remotely via a connected smart device. Further integrations can facilitate automated alerts, lockdown functions and time-based locks. 

Video intercom system with door release mechanisms

One of the main benefits to the use of a video doorbell intercom system is the inclusion of a door release mechanism, as this configuration allows residents to remotely manage building access. Without this feature, the video intercom system must be wired to an additional door access controller. 

Generally speaking, a video intercom system with door release functionality will feature either electronic or magnetic door locks. Depending on the video intercom installation, your door will either temporarily interrupt or activate power to the locking mechanism in order to unlock. 

How do video door intercom systems work? 

In simple terms, a video intercom doorbell system works by creating a video call between the hardware installed at a building entry point and a monitoring device controlled by a tenant or property owner. Once this connection is established, the tenant or property owner is able to visually verify the credentials of the visitor and choose whether or not to unlock the door from their monitoring position. 

Video entry systems often feature I/O relays to connect with door release mechanisms, allowing users to remotely control the lock from their substation. A wired video intercom system relies on cabling to each video doorbell device and unit, while IP and wireless options leverage the Internet, desktop software and smartphone apps to connect individual users to their visitors.

With multi-tenant building intercom systems commonly used for apartments or large offices, a video intercom systems need to be able to route visitor calls to specific units or offices. Here, a visitor will request access using the main video intercom doorbell device installed at the entry point. In many cases, they will then be presented with a directory that can be used to locate the tenant that they wish to speak to. 

Some wired video door release systems connect visitors automatically to specific users by entering a code or pressing a specific button that calls that unit, depending on the video intercom system installed. 

Different types of video intercom entry systems

The basic premise of any commercial or business intercom system with video functionality is to allow building residents to control who accesses their property with visual verification. In traditional door video intercom systems, each substation must be hard-wired to the intercom doorbell in order for the door release mechanism to work. 

However, advances in technology have started to replace wired intercoms with video systems with more flexible options. Though there are several different styles of video intercom system available, some varieties are better-suited to certain budgets, needs and use cases. 

IP video intercom systems 

An IP intercom with camera functionality describes any intercom network that operates over the internet, with IP standing for Internet Protocol. These systems are often able to connect to existing IP data networks or via Power over Ethernet (PoE) cabling, meaning no additional wiring work will be required during installation. 

IP door access control systems like IP video intercoms are commonly utilized in offices and multi-tenant complexes. When connected to a high-speed corporate data network, the video signals sent between visitors and residents are often protected by advanced security features and reliably maintained by IT staff.

These configurations can also be protected using end-to-end encryption and other additional security features, helping company IT and security teams to develop comprehensive cyber and physical security strategies to help better protect a business’ internal systems and important data networks. 

Wireless video intercom doorbell

Wireless video intercom systems are becoming a popular alternative to traditional wired video intercoms. An ideal entry point management solution for situations in which extensive wiring work may be too time-consuming or expensive to carry out, wireless video intercom systems are particularly suited for use in areas where no permanent structural work will be required. 

A wireless video intercom system with door release uses Wi-Fi to establish a connection between the internal and external components of the network, meaning residents must have a strong and reliable Wi-Fi connection and a respective mobile app in order to effectively transmit video signals. 

Cloud-based video intercoms 

Cloud-based video entry systems can be configured as part of a wired or a wireless intercom, with the main benefit of these networks being the ability for administrators to effectively manage the system remotely regardless of whether they’re currently on-site. 

By connecting with a cloud-based video intercom door release management portal, security teams and property owners are able to access live camera feeds, edit permissions and engage with any additional security features that may be installed in the property via a secure Internet connection, allowing for 24/7 monitoring of commercial and residential buildings. 

Cloud-based intercoms enable security teams to manage entry permissions without being physically present, which is especially helpful in routing after-hours requests for late meetings, maintenance staff, deliveries and contractors. 

Video intercom that works with iPhone and smart-device apps

Like cloud-based video intercom networks and IP intercom systems, many modern configurations come equipped with their own dedicated smart-device applications. Once connected to the internet, these can be used to manage, adjust and operate the hardware components of a video intercom installation. 

These configurations provide all the same features as a hardware-based video doorphone system, like making and receiving video calls, accessing live camera feeds and editing settings, with the added convenience of this functionality always being accessible via the user’s own personal device. 

Cellphone network video intercom systems are commonly marketed towards residential use, with the convenience of tenants being able to grant property access for visitors, delivery couriers and outside vendors without being home. These intercoms can also be effective when deployed in retail and office environments as they require very little technical knowledge to effectively operate, and relieve the burden on security staff for constant visitor management.

The components of a door video intercom system

The components of a door video intercom system

Whether your property uses a wireless or wired video camera intercom system, it’s likely that the network will consist of the same fundamental components. These include a door entry reader, a camera, some form of monitoring screen and a door locking mechanism. 

Readers for video intercoms

The main focal point of a front door video intercom system with camera is usually the reader unit: a device that features an integrated camera (a video intercom reader), a touchscreen or keypad, a monitor plus a microphone, speaker and buzzer or doorbell. This device is often referred to as the base station and will be installed at the entry point. 

Some basic models may only feature a video intercom doorbell, or a wireless video intercom doorbell and monitor, with an additional commercial keypad reader or other reader needing to be installed to manage access control systems and connect to the door locks. 

To eliminate additional devices for a video intercom installation, an all-in-one reader and video intercom doorbell is a smart investment. These devices support authorized user credentials to unlock the door, with the added benefit of a built-in camera and doorbell activation for visitors without credentials.

Advanced video intercom entry systems often feature touchscreen directories used to navigate between multiple occupants and contact points within the building, helping visitors to search for specific contacts. These systems are commonly found installed in corporate buildings, offices and modern apartment blocks. 

Regardless of how complex the door entry reader is, its main purpose is to allow visitors to send a request to the building occupant which can then be used to initiate a 1 or 2‑way video intercom call. 

Camera system 

Connected to the door entry reader will be an integrated video camera. This device will be capable of sending live video footage to the building occupant either via internal wiring or a Wi-Fi connection. 

It’s important to choose the best video intercom systems capable of recording high-definition footage to ensure that the occupant always has a clear image of the visitor. Further considerations such as night vision and low-light recording settings are worth looking into if the system is intended to be used at all hours. 

Additional features to look for include motion detection for triggering camera intercom system recording, plus weather and impact resistance for door entry video intercom devices that are installed outside. 

Recording device 

To get the most out of a door intercom with camera functionality, the system should be capable of recording and storing video footage and audio within its own dedicated video management software, or with on-device storage. This feature allows property owners to analyze past footage and images, which can then be used to review potential intrusion events and develop more effective security protocols. 

Video management solutions can be designed to either store footage locally on a computer server or be integrated alongside a cloud-based platform. The latter option presents several unique benefits such as the ability to view footage remotely and automatic file sync to prevent data loss. 

Monitoring system for intercoms with video 

Any front video door intercom system with camera functionality needs to be equipped with a real-time monitoring system that can be accessed by tenants. For a single receptionist or security desk, this can consist of a single hardware monitor or smart device. However, video doorbell systems for multi-occupant configurations will require either several wired substations to be installed in each office or unit, or an interconnected web app that’s accessible to all tenants. 

Though video intercom monitor stations are still commonly used in commercial settings, Android and iPhone video intercom systems are becoming increasingly popular, as this configuration can help to decrease overall installation costs by removing the necessity for physical monitors to be wired into the building. 

Smart-device monitoring also allows occupants to view and access the intercom system remotely, providing a higher degree of flexibility. Plus, as most people are familiar with app-based interfaces, less training is required to ensure that residents are able to properly make use of the intercom system. 

Call routing 

One of the most challenging aspects of a video intercom system is making sure visitors can reach the correct person. Many IP video intercoms feature a directory that visitors can scroll through to find the person they want to see. While convenient and easy to use, this can pose security risks for anyone who may not want their name or business publicly listed. 

Voice-activated video door entry systems utilize audio to route visitor calls instead. This type of system leverages artificial intelligence to determine who visitors are there to see, and route the calls accordingly. These types of smart front door video intercoms can actively respond to visitor requests to speak to the front desk, call a specific tenant, or leave a voicemail if no one is available.

Enhance security with the Avigilon Video Intercom Reader Pro

  • All-in-one intercom, access reader and video doorbell 

  • Enterprise-grade AI call routing with voice recognition

  • Built-in HD live video calling with two-way audio 

  • Cloud management with remote unlock capabilities

  • Remote monitoring and on-demand mobile playback

Power supply

Each component of the video intercom system must be connected to a reliable power source. The intercom can be powered by a main power supply, or a PoE system if the video intercom is connected to a data network.

In either configuration it’s advised that the system also has access to a backup generator, as this will prevent a loss of service in the event of a power outage or an internet service interruption.

1‑way vs. 2‑way intercom camera systems

When deciding on which kind of video intercom system will be best suited to any particular use case, property owners should consider the pros and cons of both 1‑way and 2‑way intercom configurations.

In a 1‑way security camera with intercom system, the occupant of the building is provided with a live image of the visitor, though the visitor will be unable to see the occupant. These systems are usually less expensive as the entry reader is only required to have a camera, which saves space.

2‑way video intercoms allow for both the occupant and the visitor to see each other, with the door entry reader being fitted with a screen for this purpose. A 2‑way outdoor intercom system with a camera is often larger and more expensive than 1‑way intercoms, especially for wired substations that also need to have video cameras installed.

However, with most smartphones and computers now equipped with built-in camera and video hardware, 2‑way video intercoms are becoming more cost-effective if desired.

A 1‑way intercom system is often preferred as these configurations provide a little more privacy to the tenant, and the smaller video doorbell devices are less of a target for vandalism. 2‑way systems, are sometimes utilized when building staff may prefer a more open style of communication, or it’s necessary to establish visual verification for both the visitor and tenant.

The benefits of door video intercom systems 

When tasked with installing or replacing a building intercom system, video intercoms can provide a number of unique benefits not matched by older audio-only intercoms and telephone entry systems. 

Increased security  

With 88% of US business owners observing a recent increase in physical threats to their properties, many security teams are currently looking to improve their on-site security systems. 

The installation of a wired or wireless video intercom can help to achieve this by allowing residents and security staff the ability to visually confirm visitor identities before granting building access, with cloud-based systems offering even more functionality by providing 24/7 entry point monitoring. 

Furthermore, the presence of cameras such as those found in a video intercom system can help deter criminals from attempting break-ins, vandalism and theft, helping tenants and property owners to reduce security incidences. 

Remote access and management

Advanced cloud-based and hybrid video intercom systems featuring internet connectivity and remote-access functionality can also provide property owners with several notable convenience benefits. 

  • Delivery drivers and service providers can be verified and granted access when occupants are away 
  • Operators can edit schedules and permissions for the IP video intercom remotely to accommodate staffing changes or special events
  • On-demand playback of recorded footage allows operators to triage security incidents without being on-site
  • Automated alerts can be sent to security teams using integrated alarms and sensors 

Visual record keeping

Intercom systems can be configured to provide time-stamped records of building access, with these networks integrated alongside a visitor management system to create a reviewable database. By implementing such a system, building staff are presented with a reliable record of comings and goings which can be used to review potential incidents and collect necessary evidence.

Video intercom with door release installation considerations

Video intercom with door release installation considerations

The overall cost and time needed to install a video intercom system with door release will depend on a number of factors, including the style of panel chosen, the degree of structural work required, the number of tenants to which the system will be linked and other considerations such as scalability. 

Video door entry system panel design

Some video intercoms will make use of installable panels designed to fit flush with the walls of the building, these models generally provide a more visually appealing and sleek design, though they will take much longer to install than comparable surface mounted and wireless door entry panels. Ensure your camera intercom system features an adjustable mount to get the best angle for viewing and recording any entry activity.

Power source specifications

Wired systems will require dedicated cabling to be installed to provide power to each component, while a wireless video intercom can often be installed without the need for additional structural work. 

Additionally, a PoE system may be compatible with existing data network infrastructure, meaning each base station can be connected without extra wiring, reducing the overall installation cost. 

Wired vs. wireless video intercom systems

Hard-wired video intercoms can be quite expensive to install as the additional cabling work required is often extensive, especially when utilized in a multi-tenant building. A direct wired connection may produce a more reliable signal, as the system will not be dependent on a potentially weak Wi-Fi network. 

Intended uses for a camera intercom system

If a video intercom system is used by a high number of building occupants, additional access control hardware may need to be installed to prevent congestion of the network at peak times. Also, the number of units or users listed in the call directory may affect ongoing costs of the system, depending on the size of your organization. To determine your budget, ask these questions: 

  • How many visitors are expected at each location? 
  • Does every employee or tenant need their own directory listing? 
  • Do I need a way for visitors to reach somebody after-hours? 

You may be able to limit your directory to basic functions such as reception, maintenance and security. Additionally, the ability to group tenants for video intercom directory listings by department, office or function can help minimize associated costs. 

Choosing an outdoor or indoor camera intercom system

An outdoor intercom system with camera functionality will need to be installed using weather-proof mounts and be protected against rain, dust and other particulates. These systems may also be more prone to vandalism in publicly accessible areas, meaning anti-vandal measures may need to be considered. 

Video door entry system integration and scalability

During the planning of a video intercom installation, potential integrations with existing and proposed security measures should be considered, including alarms, sensors, cameras and access control.

These factors can be used to decide which type of video intercom system will be most appropriate for the installation. For example, utilizing a cloud-based network will allow for multiple building security features to be managed through a centralized platform and adjusted remotely using a smart-device application. 

Property owners should also think about the scalability of the system, as if the number of occupants in the building is likely to grow, additional hardware will need to be installed and configured. When using a wired video intercom system, this will usually mean adding further cabling and undergoing costly structural work, while a wireless intercom with camera system installation can be expanded by simply purchasing more base stations.

Unified video and intercom technology

The high-performance Avigilon H4 Video Intercom strengthens security with clear two-way audio and a 3 MP camera with adaptive IR technology. Seamlessly integrate with Avigilon Unity Video to support Appearance Search™ and advanced visual verification.

Final word on video door entry systems

In most cases, the installation of a wired or a wireless video intercom system can provide a number of notable benefits over the use of traditional audio-only devices. These networks allow commercial and residential property occupants the ability to visually verify guests, manage access control, better utilize visitor management solutions and can even be integrated alongside existing security features. 

When deciding on the best video intercom for any particular use case, building owners and security teams should consider how each style of system operates. This includes whether remote access and cloud-based management is appropriate, the costs associated with installing different kinds of video intercoms as well as the potential for further integration and scalability. By taking the time to plan around these factors, the implementation of a video intercom system can be beneficial to almost any installation.

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