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Video Intercom System – A Complete Guide [2022]

Tags: video intercom | wireless video intercom | video intercom systems | video intercom system with door release | video intercom for home | video intercom for businesses

If you’re looking for a way to increase security and handle visitor communication at your home, business or commercial building, a video intercom system may be the answer. In this post, we take a high-level view of video intercom systems, what they are, how they work, wired vs wireless intercoms, and their types and applications. We have pointed you to the best video intercom systems for apartments and offices towards the end of the post, so you could compare different systems and select what you need.

Watch this video on how modern video intercoms look like

Growth and Modernization of Video Intercoms

You’re not the only one who’s thinking about video intercoms. Just as property owners and managers continue to install video intercoms, the global video intercom market size is growing at a 12.8% CAGR. The expansion can be attributed to the growing need for security and surveillance, especially in commercial and public spaces. The rising awareness about the benefits of video intercom systems is also driving their adoption and growth.

What Are Video Intercom Systems?

A video intercom system is simply an audio intercom system with a camera. The camera may be built into the hardware or available as an add-on. Either way, the aim is to enable video and audio communication between two or more locations. Thanks to the availability of high-speed internet and associated technologies, today’s video intercoms enable high-quality two-way HD video calling and a bunch of additional features, such as remote entrance monitoring, remote unlocking, key-card and mobile access control options, facial recognition, and more. 

How Do Modern Video Intercom Systems Work?

Video intercom systems are designed to provide security and communication between two or more locations. They are equipped with a camera, microphone and software that capture the visitor’s video, convert it into digital signal, and relay it over the air, internet, or fixed telephone or Ethernet cables. The indoor stations, which include monitor screens and buttons for door release, receive these signals and convert them back into voice and video. 

Traditional Systems

Traditional systems typically consist of a control panel, an outdoor station, and indoor monitors. The control panel is hardwired to electronic locks and unlocks the doors upon receiving a command from the call receiver. The outdoor station can have a touchscreen interface or tactile push buttons for calling the building inmates. Multi-tenant video intercom systems usually contain a built-in electronic or paper directory displaying the residents’ contact numbers for one-touch calling. The recipient  can see and talk with visitors through the indoor stations. 

Traditional wired video intercom systems with complicated wiring

Wired video intercom system diagram

Modern Cloud Video Intercoms

Latest IP based video intercom systems can place video calls to mobile devices via mobile apps and also call regular mobile or landline numbers using SIP or IMS technology. This enables visitors to connect with their hosts even when the host is not in the building and eliminates the need to install fixed indoor stations, although they may still be used as an option. Most of these systems offer wireless connectivity with the internet and access control hardware, so you don’t need to run cables to each unit in the building.

Cloud based video intercom system

Applications of Video Intercom Systems

Video intercom systems find applications in both residential and commercial places. In residential buildings, video intercom systems are used for security purposes, such as to screen visitors and deliveries. Stand-alone video intercom systems and video doorbells are used at single-family residences and can also be used to remotely monitor children and elders at home. In commercial places, video intercom systems are widely used in office buildings, retail stores, hotels, industrial facilities, and hospitals, among others.

Related Post: Best Video Intercom Systems for Apartments

Benefits of Video Intercom Systems

Some of the benefits of video intercom systems include:

  • Improved security as it allows you to see who is at your door before letting them in
  • Increased convenience as you can communicate with visitors without having to open the door
  • Better communication as it allows occupants to communicate with each other face to face
  • More peace of mind as you can monitor your property and greet visitors even when you’re not there
  • Reduced package thefts as porch pirates cannot enter the lobby simply by pretending to be delivery drivers, which they can if you’re using an audio-only intercom system

Types of Video Intercom Systems

There are two main types of video intercom systems: wired and wireless. Wired systems use cables to connect the outdoor station to the indoor monitors, while wireless systems use radio frequencies or VoIP technology to transmit the voice and video signals. Many smaller classifications exist within these two broad categories. The following nomenclatures are not mutually exclusive, meaning the same term can combine different types of systems. For example, the term cloud-based systems can also refer to an IP based system, gate video entry system or mobile app video intercom system.

Residential Doorbell Intercom: This is the most common type of video intercom system and is used in single-family homes and apartments. It typically consists of a doorbell unit, an indoor monitor, and an outdoor camera. The latest of these doorbells can place visitor calls to mobile devices.

Commercial Video Intercom: These systems are designed for use in commercial buildings and usually consist of several components, including an entry panel, indoor station, master station, request to exit (REX), and door release button. Commercial intercoms are also designed to support multi-tenant directory, and the ability to release the door remotely.

Swiftlane video intercom

IP Video Intercom: This is the most advanced type of video intercom system that uses IP networking for communication.  It offers many features such as two-way audio and video, call forwarding, standoff door release, and more.

Smartphone Video Intercom:  These are video intercoms that connect to your smartphone through a mobile app. Most mobile app video intercoms are IP based devices. Some of them allow mobile door release whereas others can enable full system management and monitoring through mobile apps.

Video Intercoms with Door Release: Video intercom entry systems invariably include remote door release. It means the person receiving the call can unlock the door using a button on their indoor station or mobile app or browser interface after visually confirming the visitor’s identity. 

Video intercom with door release

Room to Room Video Intercom:  These systems are designed for use in multi-unit apartment and office buildings. They enable room-to-room audio visual communications within the same residential or commercial building. Sometimes room-to-room intercoms can also include an entry panel and door release button to serve the dual purpose of internal communications and access control.

Room to Room intercom

Multi-tenant Video Intercom:   Multi-tenant intercom systems are designed for use in apartment buildings or other multi-tenant commercial properties. They often have features such as door release, video recording, mobile calling, a directory, and multiple calling buttons. Sometimes the term multi-tenant can be used alternatively for room-to-room and apartment intercom systems.

Person Using Swiftreader X Video Intercom
Multi tenant video intercom

Cloud-based Video Intercom Systems: These are IP intercom systems that use cloud data and applications to operate on-site hardware. You can manage cloud-based video intercoms from anywhere through mobile apps and browsers. Systems like Swiftlane offer many additional cloud-enabled functionalities including access control, remote unlock, mobile calling, and facial recognition. 

Video Intercom Systems with Telephone Fallback: Around 85% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2021. That still leaves out 15% who did not. Modern intercoms like Swiftlane ensure that we can make VoIP telephone calls to landlines and phones and press 9 to unlock.

Related Post: Best Telephone Entry Systems

Video Intercom Systems for Gates: Video intercoms can also be installed at the gates of residential communities, parking garages, industrial facilities, and government or defense installations. When intended for outdoor use, the video intercom’s entry station should be IP65 rated water and dust proof and resistant to vandalism. It should house a longer range microphone and camera to capture drivers’ audio and video from inside the vehicle.

Swiftlane Intercom and Access Control Customer Reviews

Should I Replace My Old Intercom System?

If you have an intercom system that was installed 20 or 30 years ago, and you are facing hardware faults and voice and video quality issues quite often, you can consider replacing your old system with a modern video intercom system. 

Today’s cloud-connected systems offer several compelling advantages such as remote management, standoff door release, mobile call routing, and more. Older hardwired telephone entry systems simply cannot provide these benefits, so you have to upgrade if you want to offer a superior resident experience.

Key Features to Look for in a Video Intercom System

You can review our detailed checklist for buying a new intercom system here. The exact features would depend on your needs, but here are some of the basic features anyone buying a video intercom system in 2022 should be looking for:

  • Crisp audio and video: The audio and video quality of the intercom system should be clear enough to recognize and hear the person at the door clearly.
  • Cost Effective retrofit: The intercom system should be easy to retrofit without costing tens of thousands of dollars. Based on the infrastructure and cabling at your facility, you can go for a completely wireless, hardwired or PoE/Ethernet based video intercom system.
  • Affordable: The intercom system should be affordable, so it doesn’t break the bank. Here’s how much a video intercom system costs.
  • Mobile Calling: The entry station should be able to call occupants on mobile phones when they are out of their apartments and offices.
  • Wired or Wireless? If you’re looking to replace just the handsets on the existing wiring, you may save some money but you will miss out on the features that modern IP based video intercom systems have to offer.
  • Extra Features: Modern video intercom systems such as Swiftlane come with built-in card, PIN, mobile and facial recognition access control.
  • Remote Management: Today’s IP based systems can be managed from anywhere through mobile apps and browsers, whereas with older systems you have to go to the master station to configure users and permissions.

What are the Best Video Intercom Systems for Apartments?

The best apartment intercom systems are often multi-tenant systems that offer the ability to take calls on the go and unlock the door remotely from anywhere. These are the features that matter a lot to your residents or tenants. The ideal system makes it easy for you or your property managers to enroll and remove users remotely rather than having to go to the master station. Furthermore, the best apartment video intercom systems such as Swiftlane come with multiple access control methods including card, PIN, mobile app, and face-based entry. 

What Are the Best Office Intercom Systems?

An office or business intercom system is a type of two-way radio that is used to communicate between employees in an office or other business setting. Office intercom systems can be used for a variety of purposes, such as calling for help in an emergency, paging someone who is not at their desk, holding a meeting, or speaking to visitors at the door. The best ones offer a variety of access options, remote management and unlock, multi-factor authentication, along with two-way video and audio calling capability. Compare the best office intercom systems.

The Next Steps

If you have read this far, chances are you’re seriously considering investing in a video intercom system. If we were you, we would take a closer look at the needs of our residents, tenants, staff, and other users before making a decision. Finalize the number of doors you want to secure, the number of units or recipients you want to connect, the features you want to offer, and the price you want to pay before you compare the best intercom systems for homes, apartments or offices, depending on what you’re looking for.

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