If Amazon succeeds in turning Alexa into the brains of the modern smart home, then Ring will provide the eyes.
In a deal that expands Amazon’s network of internet-connected household gadgets — and with it, the e-commerce giant’s reach into customers’ homes — the Seattle company has agreed to buy Ring, a Santa Monica maker of high-tech doorbells, for a reported $1 billion.
Ring doorbells are already being used by 2 million customers. Its improbable success comes five years after its founder, serial entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff, was rejected on the TV show “Shark Tank.”
But the company proved there was demand for video-enabled doorbells, which enable users to see outside their homes via smartphone or computer. The technology provides a sense of security and a salve for one of the most nagging problems in the e-commerce era: package thieves.
That’s a huge benefit for Amazon, which has revolutionized the way people shop and the way goods are delivered.
But there’s more to this acquisition than protecting parcels, analysts say.
Amazon has been quietly acquiring technology to bolster its smart home capabilities.
Amazon has in recent years focused extensively on Alexa, the popular home speaker that also doubles as an artificial intelligence device that can answer questions and make Amazon purchases. In 2015 the company acquired smart lawn sprinkler company Rachio. That same year it also acquired home security company Scout Alarm.
“Amazon’s really watering the grass, so to speak, to grow into our homes and become more integrated in our lives in ways we haven’t even fathomed yet,” said Matt Schreiber, president and chief investment strategist at WBI. “This isn’t just about Ring’s doorbell technology. It ties into all the acquisitions they’ve quietly made over the years.
“They’ve envisioned Alexa as your personal assistant, as your butler, as the hired help without having a hired help. This is the help for everyone on the planet, and they’re not done yet.”
With investments in so many industries — retail, grocery, hardware, AI — it’s not a stretch to imagine a future where someone can tell Alexa to buy groceries, a delivery worker can pick up the food from an Amazon-owned Whole Foods, and a customer can monitor doorstep delivery via Ring.
“This is like ‘I, Robot,’” Schreiber said, referring to the 2004 science fiction film in which humans create robots to serve as personal assistants. “Hopefully the robots won’t take over, though. That would be terrifying.”
One of the newest, and most controversial, experiments includes Amazon Key, a service that allows couriers to enter homes to drop off packages. If successful, it could eradicate package theft. If unsuccessful, it could erode consumer trust in Amazon’s business.
Ring’s camera-equipped doorbells could give hesitant Amazon shoppers some reassurance in letting strangers open their doors.
“This shows how serious Amazon is about privacy and security,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst for Wedbush, who thinks Ring will give Amazon a jumping-off point to expand even further into home security.
“With Ring, you can set camera zones,” Pachter added. “You can pull it up on your phone, trigger a light, and see what your camera sees. There’s no reason why it can’t trigger an alarm too.”
Siminoff came up with the idea for a video-enabled doorbell after he realized he couldn’t hear his front door ring while brainstorming business ideas inside the garage of his Pacific Palisades home.
Despite the “Shark Tank” setback, his TV appearance in November 2013 sparked an uptick in sales, giving the company new life.
“Nothing ever will supersede ‘Shark Tank.’ We’d have been gone,” Siminoff told The Times last year.