Looking to learn more about the various building intercom systems in the market? There are hundreds of products depending on the type of the building (apartment, commercial, office, condos), wired vs wireless systems, telephone line vs internet (cloud based) systems. We put together a comprehensive guide to help you understand the types of intercom systems, best products based on the need and how to evaluate them.
Related resources that should check out:
Also take a look at the modern Swiftlane building intercom here
Technology for building intercom systems has evolved massively over the last decade. This video shows how modern video intercoms for buildings operate:
Types of Building intercom systems
Wireless Video Intercom Systems
Think of these are FaceTime or whatApp video calls from visitors. These are the most popular systems being deployed today. While the building intercom hardware needs to be wired to a power source and internet (with an ethernet cable), the call are transmitted wireless as a video call. These calls are received to a mobile app or web app. Companies like Swiftlane, Latch etc offer these types of video intercom systems.
Wireless Video Intercoms for Buildings
How building video intercoms work
These are dominantly used now for the following reasons:
- Cheap to install. You only need to wire a single building intercom device. It eliminate traditional wiring to each unit in a building
- Remote management: You have the option to take calls even when you are not in the building, on the go. Even within a building, you are not stuck to the front desk, and step away and still handle calls
- More secure: Porch pirates are everywhere. They pretend to be delivery drivers and get buzzed in. Video calls prevent that from happening
- Over the air updates: Many modern system, like Swiftlane, can update the intercom with new features constantly. This brings new features without having to replace the hardware every few years
Wired Video Intercom Systems
Wired building intercoms, as the name suggests, requires cabling from the intercom hardware to a receiving unit. When a person pressed a button on the intercom, it rings the other side, and allow you to see and talk to them and remotely unlock the door. You can find many such products Amazon. e.g.
Considerations for buying a wired video intercom:
- Cost effective
- Typically good for a very small building with a single office
- Installation costs are high since you need to wire the tablets in the building
- You constantly would need to run to the intercom to answer it and cannot handle it remotely
Telephone entry systems
Products like Doorking and Linear systems have been around for decades, offering these types of building telephone entry callboxes. These systems provide a directory of residents. When you click on one of the entries, it uses a landline connection to make a telephone call to the resident. You can talk to the person on the door, and then press a specific key to release the door lock remotely. (e.g. press 9 to unlock).
Here are considerations for buying a telephone entry system for your building:
- Been around for a long time and proven technology.
- PIN entry options on the building intercom box for residents
- Telecom companies are getting out of the landline business, and these are getting very expensive to operate. Requires a landline service and prices have skyrocketed recently as telecom companies look to shut that business down
- Cellular VOIP calling options may be available
- Lack of photo logs is a security issue. There is no trail if there is a break-in
- Residents cannot verify the other person at the door
- Often has limitations on area codes that can be supported
- Many video intercom options are available now at a similar hardware and ongoing costs. Also, many video intercom systems now support telephone calling for non-tech savvy users, as an existing feature
Wired Building Intercom Systems – Audio
These mostly exist as artifacts of the past, as relics of the past. Many continue to operate for decades, and this technology is fairly simple and reliable. The biggest challenges why this is not utilized anymore:
- Very expensive wiring is needed to install these systems. Requires wiring every single unit
- Many companies that sell these dont have parts anymore
- Getting service and support is very expensive. Even though these are no ongoing contracts to pay for these systems, you will paying through the nose for fixing thousands of feet of cabling and hundreds of receiver devices.
- We do not recommend these systems as an upgrade or for a brand new building
e.g. companies like Aiphone manufacturer many varieties of 2 unit, 4 unit, 6 unit apartment intercoms. These get wired from the mail station, to a central master station, and then wired to each unit. It’s cheaper due to no ongoing costs, but expensive to install. You have to wire each unit with the intercom.
Single Family Home / Small Office Intercom
For single family homes or a small individual office, a Ring doorbell might be sufficient to communicate with the visitors. You won’t have the ability to remotely release the door, and may have to be physical present and walk up to the door to unlock it. Ring provides a cheap option to get the building intercom set up as a battery operated doorbell with a single push button. It does not work for multi-tenant intercom needs.
Best building intercoms
Best is a relative term. It depends on what your needs are. We will try to show you the best building intercom systems so that you can choose what’s best for your specific needs. We cover features of the popular intercom systems below.
We cover the following best building intercom systems below:
Please refer to the specific guides depending on your building type:
Doorking Building Intercom
Doorking is a leader in telephone based door entry systems. Doorking provides a telephone landline based building intercom system for apartment as well as commercial buildings. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it’s a proven product if you are sticking to the absolute basic functionality, and ok with the ongoing landline costs. It’s not the most functional system, but it does the job of making telephone based calls, and remotely buzzing the doors. Programming and management is challenging, and you may have to pay security companies to come in and make changes, every time a new tenant moves in – this may cost you anywhere from $100-$250 every time.
- Telephone entry building system intercom
- Works with a landline system or a cellular based VOIP call
- Can provide audio phone calls to individual tenants, and they can press 9 to unlock the door
- Doorking also offers key fob reader system
- Various intercom options are present that can be mounted on pedastals, flush or surface mounted
- Varying intercom sizes
- No video intercom option on most intercoms
- All programming needs to be done on the device itself
- The software is not easy to use, and may require paying a security company to come in and make changes, everytime a tenant moves in or out
- Cannot be managed remotely without a VPN or internet forwarding setup
- Not photo audit logs
- Many intercoms have major security risks, where you can open a doorking system with a key you can purchase online.
How to get a quote for Doorking?
You can contact doorking on their website to get connected with a local installer. Doorking sells through their local installer network across the US.
Watch how to use the Doorking intercom
Watch how easy it is to open and break in with doorking intercom
It’s a cheap and reliable intercom, but important to keep the security risks in mind.
Swiftlane Video Intercom
Start by watching how the Swiftlane video intercom works
Our company, Swiftlane is a modern video intercom company out of San Francisco, operating all over the US. Swiftlane’s product line is built to serve the modern day intercom needs for apartment and commercial buildings. Here is a quick summary of how the Swiftlane building intercom works:
Video intercom calls to a phone, tablet or computer
You can receive wireless video calls on your phone. Think of it as Facetime and Whatsapp video calls. You can see the person on the other end before letting them in. This way, a porch pirate cannot pretend to be a delivery driver and get into the building. For offices, we can support calling to a tablet or computer.
For non tech-savvy people, the system can make regular phone calls, and the person can press 9 to unlock the door.
Multi-tenant and single tenant touch screen intercom
You can configure Swiftlane intercom for either multi-tenant buildings or single tenant buildings. There is a touch screen directory that can be programmed from anywhere, through the web based browser. You can choose to show full names, initials, unit numbers, whatever you like.
System can be managed from any web browser, remotely
Swiftlane can be managed from any web browser remotely. You can add tenants, remove them etc. You dont need to be onsite. For apartments, the entries can be automated through property management systems like Yardi, Entrata and Realpage. For commercial buildings, it can be automated using OKTA, G Suite and Azure Active Directory integrations.
- Freedom from being onsite all the time
- Easy and intuitive to understand and use
Touchless face recognition access
Swiftlane comes with built in touchless face recognition access. With over a billion people using face ID, we sought out to build a privacy first, convenient form of access. Used over 4 million times a year, Swiftlane’s face unlock is convenient because you dont have to fumble and look around for key fobs to get into buildings.
Swiftlane provides the ability to open doors with your phone as well.
In order to learn more or request a demo and quote, you can contact here:
Phone: 833-6-SWIFT (833-607-9438)
Latch is a maker of smart locks and smart building solutions, based out of San Francisco. Latch has a big focus on design and looks for their hardware, as well as focus on privacy. Latch intercom provides a wireless, internet based audio intercom in a modern hardware. This intercom can be connected to an external CCTV camera in order to convert to a video intercom system.
- Latch intercom provides a beautiful hardware design
- It provides a minimal button design
- You can navigate and scroll through the tenant entries – it can display upto 5 entries at a time
- Weather resistant hardware
- Calls can be received through the Latch mobile app
- The same mobile app can connect to other smart locks on the property
To read all our detailed reviews about Alphatouch, Aiphone and Doorbird systems, I recommend visiting our guide to best apartment video intercom systems.
Get an overview of the Swiftlane Video Intercom System
Request a Swiftlane demo
Please reach out to get a demo or a quote from Swiftlane