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English Teenager Invents a Better Doorbell 363

Posted by timothy
from the it's-coming-from-inside-the-house dept.
Several readers have written with word of a new doorbell, invented by 13-year-old Laurence Rook. What's so special about a doorbell? This one lets you answer the door from wherever you can receive a call from its embedded 3G chip; to your in-person caller (facing the doorbell), that means it sounds like you're answering the door over an intercom system, even if you're really across town. Pretty clever way to make it harder for a thief to know if a home is actually occupied, though Rook says that he initially just wanted a system to avoid missed packages.
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English Teenager Invents a Better Doorbell

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:34PM (#36346960)

    When it comes to the working world, it seems that Lawrence Rook... *sunglasses* ...has got his foot in the door.

    YEAAAAAAAAAAH!

    • I just had a vision of a John Hughes movie.

      The lameness of the joke makes it so much funnier, if I had mod points I would have handed them over.

  • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:34PM (#36346962) Homepage Journal

    I have had extremely good luck with UPS, but most peoples complaints are that the delivery driver doesn't even attempt to ring the doorbell, and drives off.

    • by guybrush3pwood (1579937) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:38PM (#36346968) Homepage
      What does he do, instead? Just parks and gives you 60 seconds to notice him and storm out of the house?
      • by Pennycook (1296497) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:42PM (#36346986)
        We've actually caught delivery guys posting us "You weren't in" cards in the past. Some of them are just really lazy and don't want to get your package out of the van if they can avoid it.
        • On two occasions I have had courier drivers post a "you weren't here" card on the front door exactly two inches away from the "For Deliveries Ring Bell at the Back Door" sign.

        • by sribe (304414)

          We've actually caught delivery guys posting us "You weren't in" cards in the past. Some of them are just really lazy and don't want to get your package out of the van if they can avoid it.

          Yes. Through my window I watched a FedEx driver walk up without the package, slap the notice on the door, and walk away. I called the local office and raised hell.

      • by isopropanol (1936936) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:42PM (#36346994) Journal

        In our neighbourhood, they stop looking about a block away because there is not a house with the right address where the GPS coordinates say it is (but all the houses on the street are clearly marked).

        • by Machtyn (759119)
          In a lot of places I go, the GPS coords are horribly off. I've stopped bothering to inform mapquest, google maps, etc. because when I look for a condo I lived in 6 years ago, that had been there for 3 years before that, still doesn't show up on google maps and is unroutable.
      • by DriedClexler (814907) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:05AM (#36347106)

        I've caught a UPS deliverer just dumping it and running off even though the sender had requested a signature, and the only reasoning I caught him was because I was eagerly expecting the package, happened to be home, knew it would arrive soon, and knew a signature would be required. "Huh, oh yeah ... it does say signature required... oops, yeah, sign there"

        Another time a UPS deliverer just put a "you weren't there" notice while I was at home late one evening, never heard a knock and I would have.

        • by Tim C (15259)

          I often have stuff I've ordered that is too big to fit through my letter box left on my doorstep. It's a very quiet road and there is partial cover so it's nearly safe, but still.

          The worst one so far was my latest (contract) mobile phone. You couldn't tell it was a phone from the package, but there was an impossible to miss "MUST BE SIGNED FOR" sticker on it. Needless to say, it wasn't.

          (Oh, and this isn't UPS, this is Royal Mail in the UK)

        • Re:UPS Rings Doorbells?

          First time I've ever heard of that. Here they only deliver weekdays 8 - 6p.m. Maybe on a saturday morning if you pay two or three times the standard charge and maybe on the day they say they will (but even that's not guaranteed) -- and that's all.

          So far as getting domestic deliveries for households where people work for a living, forget it. There's no possibility that ANY of the couriers will work outside business hours. All I can suppose is that they make far too much profit from their current practices

          • by anglico (1232406)
            When I worked for UPS (In USA) back in 2001 we worked up to 13 hours, 12 with lunch was all the law would allow, and we weren't allowed to return to the building until we attempted delivery on all packages. There were many days I clocked out at 8pm, it's expected at Christmas time, but if your loader screws up then it could be anytime throughout the year. I'm not gonna say all drivers are perfect but I would try to get rid of every package, just so I didn't have to see it the next day.
      • by greentshirt (1308037) on Monday June 06, 2011 @01:01AM (#36347330)
        I caught one once too. I still have him.
      • by Calydor (739835)

        Where I used to live the mailman was afraid of one of my dogs because she has blue eyes.

        No, seriously, that was his explanation!

        So whenever he was supposed to deliver a package he'd just drop off a "You weren't home" slip and drive off, leaving me to pick up my package at the post office. Considering how ridiculously expensive packages are to send in Denmark that really pissed me off on numerous occasions, especially when I'd ordered something from a company and paid the postage myself.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:58PM (#36347072)

      Our local driver(s) have on several occasions not come to the door, but mark in their system that I wasn't home. I've even been sitting out on my front porch before and gotten a notification in my email that UPS missed me. However upon calling it they said "we're sorry but if you missed the driver he'll try and redeliver tomorrow". Basically they treat residential customers like shit because they can and most people simply put up with it. Once or twice they've left a package for me at the front office of my apartment complex without bothering to leave a note on my door meaning they just drove as far as the office and then left. Being that the front office is nearly a mile from my door, I made the driver go pick the package up and bring it to me the next day. It was about 75lbs of bulky box, and since I have no car there was no sane way of me going to pick it up. Seriously fuck UPS right up their fucking asshole.

      • by Seumas (6865) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:59AM (#36348764)

        This used to happen to me all the time.

        One amusing incident, I had ordered about $10,000 worth of equipment from the Apple online store. I was eagerly awaiting it, for fucking obvious reasons. I was waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Hours were ticking by. The end of the day was coming. I was getting worried. Eventually, I checked online again. It claimed it had been delivered. It had not. It wasn't outside and nobody had knocked or rung a door bell or called my phone or anything.

        I called the leasing office to see if it had been left there (often UPS or FedEX will claim I wasn't at my apartment, so that they could just dump the package in the leasing office and skip delivering it to me). Nope, nothing there.

        So, I called FedEX. They looked into their information. Confirmed - yep, we delivered it!

        Um . . . . no, you didn't. You definitely did not deliver a bunch of shiny expensive stuff to my door.

        They said they would have to look into it and call me back, later.

        In the meantime, I took a wild fucking hung and called up the physical Apple Store at the local mall. I asked if they had received a delivery today. They confirmed that it was delivery day and they'd received pallets of stuff. I explained my situation and asked if they could look for any out of place deliveries with my name on them.

        Yep, they found them.

        I went to the store with my ID and receipt to prove that it was my stuff and they gave it to me.

        Two days later, I got a call from FedEX to let me know that they believed they might have delivered the items I bought from the Apple Store to the Apple Store.

        I told them that I knew that and that I'd already driven there and picked it up earlier in the week.

    • by dbcad7 (771464)
      I think more people knock than ring doorbells, even when they are available.. UPS has over the years gotten bad about just dumping the package on the porch.. I think most do attempt a knock (or ring), but they are trying to get on to the next address so they are not going to wait too long before they just leave it.. If you are really concerned and unable to be there to make sure you get you package, Fed Ex has a hold for pickup and you can get your package at the nearest office.
      • by geoskd (321194) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:58AM (#36347316)

        I think more people knock than ring doorbells, even when they are available.. UPS has over the years gotten bad about just dumping the package on the porch.. I think most do attempt a knock (or ring), but they are trying to get on to the next address so they are not going to wait too long before they just leave it.. If you are really concerned and unable to be there to make sure you get you package, Fed Ex has a hold for pickup and you can get your package at the nearest office.

        Many people don't realize that UPS and FedEx now offer a shipping option called "shipper release". It is a discounted shipping option that guarantees that the driver will leave the package, no matter the neighborhood, weather conditions, etc. The building could be on fire and they will leave the package. The catch is that the carrier is not responsible for lost or stolen packages. Many shippers use this option because it is cheaper to replace any packages lost, than it is to pay full shipping price (The shipper release discount is pretty big). Many, many shippers now use it. This in large part why packages are left. Often a driver wont even knock when the package is shipper release, they just drop and run.

        • by nateand (1487549) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:13AM (#36348822)
          This. I worked for them over a holiday season as a "driver helper" once, and the whole experience was pretty eye opening. Pretty much every package is "shipper release" if it's residential. A lot of good drivers would tell me that if it looked expensive (laptop sized box from Best Buy, for example) that I should try to get a signature even though the package didn't require one. But basically, drivers don't need to get your signature anymore. They should still try to deliver something, but if it's 3pm in the afternoon (the routes are designed to have them doing residential in the evening, but if they have an easy day...) they are going to assume no one is home, and might make the bad choice there. UPS makes all their money from commercial stuff anyway, residential is just a side thought that is a total pain in the ass to deal with.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by toygeek (473120)

      I know someone who lives in a rural area and has about 7 dogs and other animals. The UPS guy is a wuss and is afraid of dogs. He throws their packages in the desert next to their house, leaves them in the road in front of the house, and in general does everything he can to avoid going on their property. One package sat in the desert for 2 weeks before it was found. Another nearly got run over.

      Whats funny is that the guy complained that one of the dogs "tried to bite him" and so he kicked it. I know the dogs

      • by mikkelm (1000451) on Monday June 06, 2011 @01:42AM (#36347452)

        You might know the dogs, but the delivery guy does not. Why should he take the chance, or brave phobias to deliver a package into the property, rather than just to the property? Think before you compose.

        • If you're seriously afraid of dogs, why would you take a job that requires you to travel to and on stranger's property where there's a pretty good chance you're gonna come across dogs pretty often?
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            If you're seriously afraid of dogs, why would you take a job that requires you to travel to and on stranger's property where there's a pretty good chance you're gonna come across dogs pretty often?

            I dunno; hunger, rent, car payments ... lots of things I suppose.

            I never get why every single person's dog is "harmless" if you ask them.

        • by toygeek (473120)

          I suppose I didn't tell the story well enough. The UPS driver got pissed off and started doing this *intentionally* to piss off the home owner.

          As for the dogs, I can tell you that the first time I went to that persons house, the dogs did NOT know me, and they came tails-a-waggin' ready to lick me to death!

      • by TheABomb (180342)

        That's very easy to say when you met the dogs with their owner around. When he's not, even the calmest dog will become territorially protective and aggressive towards strangers coming near a home (or car, as anyone who's ever worked as a parking valet and had to deal with asshole customers who complain to your boss because you didn't want to get in the car that their rottweiler was growling in the back of and then leave unattended in the July noonday sun for five hours can attest to).

    • by dnorf87 (1082671)
      Back in 2005 when I finally decided to upgrade to a 250gb SATA drive, I first saw it being flung over my fence into the front yard in what looked like a trash bag (possibly because it was raining?). I only knew to look outside because my dog went crazy. He goes nuts when he hears Fedex and UPS trucks--or anything that sounds like one. They did the whole black plastic bag with a box inside of it again sometime later that year, leaving it next to our mailbox, which happened to be right next to our trash pile
    • by ace123 (758107)

      Of course, UPS doesn't ring the doorbell. They knock. Three times. [collegehumor.com]

    • I used to have this issue too. If you are expecting a delivery, the only solution I have found to this is to post a large note on the door telling the UPS driver that you are home.

      I suspect that most UPS drivers don't expect people to be home so they do a light knock & run before you have a chance to get to the door. They are damn fast too. Before I started posting note it was always race to the front door and out the front yard to try and catch the driver before they left.

    • I've got one worse than that.

      A housemate of mine once handed me an unexpected package on the 25th...which contained crumpled business documents that had been overnighted to me for delivery on the 18th. The week-long delay had cost me half of my permitted time to research and fill out the rather extensive, and necessary, paperwork in the package. Incensed, I figured that FedEx was to blame since they had delivered it, so I checked the tracking info for the package, only to discover that it had been delivered

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      I had one company (UKMail) deliver a "We called but you were out" card without even attempting to deliver the parcel. The guy stopped his van in the middle of the road, got out, put the card through the letterbox, got back in and went to drive off.

      I was outside the house working on my car. He walked right past me. You'd have thought that the extension cable running through the slightly-open front door would have been a dead giveaway...

  • Overkill (Score:4, Insightful)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:40PM (#36346976)

    OK, I'll acknowledge that some people are abandoning their land line and going only wireless, but putting a doorbell on a 3G system strikes me as somewhat absurd. Maybe it will be useful in places where the cell carriers don't rape their customers, but using it in the USA, with the extra account it would require, would be crazy for most people. At the very least it should also have the option to tie into the home's land line rather than use the cell network.

    I could "invent" a lot of things, if practical costs of using a wireless network were not a consideration.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sarten-X (1102295)

      Let's all stop innovating because of cost, then! This silly progress thing is just plain too expensive!

    • Re:Overkill (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DMoylan (65079) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:55PM (#36347052)

      well here in ireland a prepay sim can be picked up with no paperwork and i think 5 euros every six months will keep it active and in credit. so 10 euros a year to run it?

      it would be nice with a wifi model running voip to your mobile though.

    • Re:Overkill (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:56PM (#36347064)

      Except this isn't anything 'new'. One of the newer apartment buildings built on campus (finished in ~2005) lets you buzz in anyone from anywhere using your phone. I believe the place also had washer/driers that would text you when they finished their cycle.

      It may be cool, but definitely not a new 'invention'.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Most apartment building I've lived in, including my current 20 year old one, have the main entrance intercom system just dial a pre-programmed phone number. In the past you would give it your land line and buzz people in from that, but since you can have it call any number most people I know now have it call their cell, since they don't have land lines. I've been answering my buzzer/intercom with my cell phone for 8 years.
      • by makubesu (1910402)
        Did you get sent back in time? My apartment still has us use quarters for the wash.
    • The trend toward "every gadget with its own bloody cell contract" is rather annoying, especially when the house in which this item would be installed probably has a perfectly good internet connection already or, even if unwired, a number of devices that could be sharing the single comparatively expensive cellular modem and contract.

      Unfortunately, home automation still seems to be in a rather ghastly state. You can get something polished if you pay reasonably serious money or sink considerable time and ef
    • Re:Overkill (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 06, 2011 @01:41AM (#36347450)

      Think further. Think company doorbell.

      Imagine you have a small one-man shop and you just step out for groceries or something, wouldn't you want to be able to tell your delivery guy that he should wait for 5 minutes (and receive a nice tip if he did) instead of having to wait all day in your office for him?

      Imagine you're a big company and you try to avoid having a phone system. It's not as absurd as it may initially look, considering that the setup cost of phone systems (even aside of the system itself, cables, phones, etc) is easily overcome by handing cells to all your employees, which has pretty much become the standard in some companies anyway. How about every secretary (or a few of your personnel) receiving a call when someone rings the doorbell and they can even open the door for them? Even if they're not in the company (granted, opening the door should be reserved to certain special occasions in such a case).

      I could even see an added security feature, akin to a four-eyes principle, where the security head receives a call when a certain security door is to be opened and only his code, sent via cell, can unlock the door in addition to the guard's button.

      I could see a lot of interesting ways this could be used in business.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iamhassi (659463)
        Everything you just described could be done over wifi VoIP without the expensive monthly 3G bill.

        Why not just tape a prepaid cellphone to the door with your number in the speed dial and a note that says "hold 1 to call someone to the door"? Wow... did I just invent something?! Now I just need a 13... no, make that an 11 yr old kid to peddle it....
        • I know it's hard to grasp for a geek, but most people are not tech savvy. They also do not want to "tinker" with it, they want a solution that "just works". For reference, see Apple and its recent success.

          Also, 3G's price is not a killer everywhere either. Especially big companies can easily get a very affordable company rate from cell telcos, where adding another phone to the plan runs in the cents. Plus, you shift the burden of security on the telco. A VoIP solution would again require cables, something y

    • by PJ6 (1151747)

      OK, I'll acknowledge that some people are abandoning their land line and going only wireless

      What planet do you live on? Everyone except the elderly has cell phones now, and most got rid of their land lines years ago.

      • We have VOIP, and we'd rather use that.
      • by iamhassi (659463)
        I've never had a landline. No, seriously. Cellphones have been affordable for 10+ years now, many people under 35 have never needed a landline, they left home at 18 and got a cellphone and that's all they've ever used. My parents and grandparents have landlines but that's because they're old.
        • by xaxa (988988)

          In some places (here in the UK) landlines can be so cheap when purchased with DSL/TV/etc that its worth having, e.g. to receive international calls, call premium numbers, etc.

          I don't have one any more though.

      • Sounds like this was in England. Here in Canada it would literally be cheaper to pay for a land line DEDICATED to the doorbell than to got cell connection for 2 minutes of talking per day.
    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Agreed: this is not practical or needed, and that's why no one has "invented" it in the past. Who wants to pay $50 a month for a doorbell? For that matter, who uses doorbells anymore? Friends and family call before they arrive and I'm already home when the pizza guy rings. I can't think of any reason I would need a doorbell that calls my cellphone. The "stops burglars" argument is very weak, I could get a alarm system for the house that would cost half as much monthly than a 3G doorbell would cost. I
      • For that matter, who pays $50 a month for an entry-level contract any more? Mobile contracts in the UK (and this is a UK story so I'll quote prices in GBP) start at around the £10 a month mark. For an application like this, you'd probably be far better off on a pre-pay tariff. The postman only comes once a day, and you're not going to be having long conversations with him over the intercom.

        Remember that this system most likely just places voice calls, so won't need any data allowance.

    • by Tasha26 (1613349)
      So in the future mobile phone companies will employ pranksters to ring door bells of people whose bills aren't quite high enough...
    • > Maybe it will be useful in places where the cell
      > carriers don't rape their customers, but using
      > it in the USA

      Er... the title clearly says "English". He's from England. We give 3G SIM cards away for free, no monthly cost and they remain active so long as you put a few quid credit on every other month or so.

      I've got an emergency Nokia 2100 in my missus' car, has had about a ten quid in credit spent on it in the last year and the number is still active and the credit still valid.

      England is only 50

  • it sounds like you're answering the door over an intercom system, even if you're really across town

    oh, there went my how-could-that-possibly-be-abused alarm.

    • If you're capable of physically ringing the doorbell to cause abuse then you already have a million and one ways at your disposal to do it. You already know they're not home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:42PM (#36346992)

    He invented this? How come I had one before he was born?

    I think I still have it saved somewhere in my old "Cool"
    alarm equip. I used to do installs in the pre-computer
    (pre 386 days). This was a box, with triggers and a phone
    module. Event triggers, allowed for voice out, mic in.

    Exact same thing. So... innovation?

    Kudos to him for a great innovation.

    -@|

    AC til I find it...

    • He invented this? How come I had one before he was born?

      I think I still have it saved somewhere in my old "Cool" alarm equip. I used to do installs in the pre-computer (pre 386 days). This was a box, with triggers and a phone module. Event triggers, allowed for voice out, mic in.

      Exact same thing. So... innovation?

      Kudos to him for a great innovation.

      -@|

      AC til I find it...

      You were using 3G in the pre-386 days?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:53AM (#36347288)

        Yes, the spectrum was nice and clear back then.

      • by geoskd (321194)

        He invented this? How come I had one before he was born?

        I think I still have it saved somewhere in my old "Cool" alarm equip. I used to do installs in the pre-computer (pre 386 days). This was a box, with triggers and a phone module. Event triggers, allowed for voice out, mic in.

        Exact same thing. So... innovation?

        Kudos to him for a great innovation.

        -@|

        AC til I find it...

        You were using 3G in the pre-386 days?

        the 3G part is not that part that people think is the cool part. In fact, the 3G part is entirely irrelevant to the operation of the invention. You could rig one of these things to work over a ham radio, or better, as was suggested earlier, VOIP through a pre-existing connection and save a fortune. The 3G part was because the kid is 13, and all the components of this setup are fairly easy to wire together (probably doesn't even require a breadboard). All of the parts are standard off the shelf modules. Hel

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Likewise, I've seen this sort of thing before. The gate to the development I used to live in had something like this. To get in, a visitor had to punch the house number into the gate keypad. It would then phone whatever number had been programmed into it for that house.

      You could then talk back and forth and decide whether to let them in or not by pressing the button combo for gate opening.

      It's not a bad idea, but it's not a new one either. At 13 I'm still impressed, but if the kid was older I wouldn't be.

  • Couldn't you just hook the door bell up to your LAN and make it call through Skype or whatever instead of this 3g chip nonsense?
    • Couldn't you just hook the door bell up to your LAN and make it call through Skype or whatever instead of this 3g chip nonsense?

      That's what I was wondering, too.

    • by Tim C (15259)

      Yes, yes I could.

      My elderly parents and semi-technically-literate friends, probably not. Hell my brother doesn't even have an Internet connection, but could still use this.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Couldn't you just hook the door bell up to your LAN and make it call through Skype or whatever instead of this 3g chip nonsense?

      No! Microsoft clowns would eat you!

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:19AM (#36347162) Homepage Journal

    Nothing new here, aside from maybe the 3G chip. When I rented out a loft in SF 10 years back, the landlady gave me the manual to the door intercom and I was able to program it via it's dial in touch-tone API to dial my cell so I could answer the door from wherever -- which was very handy.

  • Meh ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by lennier1 (264730) on Monday June 06, 2011 @12:33AM (#36347210)

    Call me once it's possible to remotely zap Jehova's Witnesses and other annoyances.

  • Now knock and run can cost you a small fortune.
  • This reminds me of the hack used in the Ferris Bueller movie when the door bell was pressed and a recording would playback over the intercom. If Ferris had this then, he could do his improvise the "sick and can't come to the door" routine from anywhere using a cell phone and not get busted by the recording repeating.

  • I thought teenagers the world over left voice communication in the dust for the much more trendy sms/mms. With a home networking setup, cheap webcam and some programming sense it wouldnt take much to set up an interactive door bell.

    1. Visitor rings doorbell.
    2. Webcam takes a snapshot and sends mms to cell phone
    3. ???
    4. profit!

    disclaimer: the above example involves publishers clearinghouse ringing the doorbell
  • So the single category which best sums up this story and so is used for the icon is... ... that the kid is British?

    And the very next /. story has 'cellphone' as its category/icon.

    While we're at it - why do red antique phone booths represent the UK?

    • by Thnurg (457568)

      While we're at it - why do red antique phone booths represent the UK?

      For the same reason that Malt Shops represent the US.

      Ignorant foreigners picking up on something that used to be a part of the nation but have long since passed into obscurity.

      The whole world knows that here in Scotland EVERYONE plays the bagpipes.

  • BUZZZZZ

    "Hello?"

    "Hi, I'm a pizza delivery, not a burglar. Could you open the door?"

    "Um.. sorry, no not just now"

    "Why not?"

    "Um, ... I... don't want to."

    "You're not even in, are you? You're miles away!"

    "No I'm not. I just don't want to open the door."

    "Look out the window then. Can you see me?"

    "No, I can't go to the window just now. I'm, er, in the shower."

    "Yeah, right. Thanks for confirming the house is empty. I'd wouldn't have been sure if I'd just got no answer."

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