Can Ring’s Smart Cameras Trigger Ring Alarm?

Ring’s devices can be linked together to provide closer integration, and it’d be nice if motion detected on a Ring camera (especially an outdoor one) could trigger the Ring alarm to sound. But is this possible? I’ve always been curious about this so I wrote this article to find out.

It’s not currently possible for a Ring camera to trigger the Ring alarm (based on motion being detected). Only the reverse is currently true: the Ring alarm can start Ring cameras recording when it goes off. However Ring are adding new features all the time, so cameras triggering alarms may be added in the future.

Recap of Ring cameras

Various Ring doorbells and cameras in a UK store.
Various Ring doorbells and cameras in a UK store.

Ring produce a range of smart cameras and doorbells: many are battery powered, whilst some are ‘externally powered’ (they’re usually hardwired to electric or power over Ethernet, but sometimes they’re solar powered instead). All recent Ring devices record in full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels).

Unlike conventional security cameras that record 24/7, Ring cameras only record when they detect motion (or you enter the ‘Live View’ mode). Recorded clips are around 1 minute long and they are stored in the Ring cloud, meaning that you’re able to watch them back anywhere – on your phone app, a tablet, or a computer.

The idea behind this is that recording 24/7 would lead to higher monthly subscription costs or the need for a local storage box (which could fail or get stolen), and so if the camera only records when motion is detected, you’re still able to see all the interesting (and suspicious!) things that happen around your home, but at a reduced overall cost because there’s a lot less footage to record.

Ring alarm system recap

A Ring Alarm keypad by the front door, with the dad activating it and the mum coming to get the two children.
The Ring Alarm keypad mounted on the wall by the front door.

Ring’s alarm system has pretty much all the same components as a conventional security alarm:

  • A keypad near the front door to arm and disarm the system.
  • Motion sensors to detect when someone is moving around inside the home (and trigger the alarm when this is unexpected movement).
  • Contact sensors which have two magnetic-based parts and sit either side of a window or door, and are able to detect when the door/window opens (by the fact that the magnetic link has been broken).
  • An alarm range extender, which is useful for big houses with lots of sensors that may be out of reach of the main base station.
  • A dome siren, which goes off when a possible intrusion attempt is detected.
  • A base station where all the above component ‘dial in’ to. This is the brains of the system, and it’s where the smart system starts to diverge from normal alarm systems.

The base station of conventional alarm systems (which sometimes ‘lives’ within the keypad itself) will work out whether an intrusion has occurred, and then use the hardwired link to a phone line to notify you and the alarm company of this possible break-in attempt.

However with Ring’s smart alarm system, the system will rely on WiFi (and then a cellular backup) to notify Ring of the potential break-in, and Ring’s system will then notify you (and anyone else setup via the app) via notifications, phone calls, text messages – i.e. whatever you’ve setup. With Ring’s full Protect Plan, you also get professional monitoring so that Ring’s staff can also notify local law enforcement if required.

Finally, Ring’s alarm system can hook into your Ring cameras and tell them to start recording when the alarm goes off – meaning that the burglar will be recorded right after breaking into your house.

How the Ring alarm system is triggered

As I mention in the section above, Ring’s alarm system will be triggered when a possible intrusion attempt has been made. This will be detected in one of two ways, after you have flagged up that you’re away from your home via the keypad:

  • The wall-mounted motion sensors detect motion inside your house that can’t have been caused by a pet. Yes, Ring’s PIR (passive infrared) motion sensors work by detecting change in heat signatures near them – however they are smart enough to ignore heat sources from smaller animals.

    You can tweak the sensitivity, too, so that pets under 30 pounds (13.6 kg) or 50 pounds (22.7 kg) will be ignored with the ‘medium’ or ‘low’ sensitivity options.

    Once unexpected motion is detected, this will be relayed back to the Ring alarm base station, and the alarm system will trigger.
  • The door and window mounted contact sensors come in two parts, both containing magnets which form a magnetic circuit when they’re close together. This is known as a ‘reed switch’ and when a door or window is opened, the magnetic contact – and hence circuit – is broken. It’s like a light switch being flipped.

    This is then relayed back to the Ring base station, and again the alarm system will be triggered.

In this way, Ring’s alarm system is exactly the same as conventional alarm systems. Heck, it’s arguably slightly worse, since some alarm systems also detect broken glass. With Ring’s system, the contact sensors wouldn’t know that glass has been broken (since the magnetic ‘reed switch’ is still closed) – you’d have to rely on your motion sensors detecting a burglar.

Hence it would be really nice if your indoor and outdoor Ring cameras can also help to determine whether a break-in attempt is occurring. After all, if you have a bit of an alleyway down the side of your house, or a backyard that mail couriers never go into, then any motion there (when your system is set to ‘away’) is a big sign of a potential break-in.

Unfortunately this feature isn’t available and there’s no sign that it’s close on Ring’s feature roadmap. It shouldn’t be difficult to introduce (the cameras already have motion detection, and the Ring app could allow you to choose the specific cameras to use as part of the alarm system’s detection systems), so I’ll keep hoping that it’s introduced, but right now it’s not looking too likely.

How Linked Devices lead to closer Ring integration (but no camera -> alarm triggering, sadly)

The Ring Alarm base station mounted on a wall above a shelf, with a Ring stick-up cam sitting on the shelf.
The wall mounted Ring Alarm’s
base station.

In early 2019, Ring introduced a hotly anticipated feature: Linked Devices.

This works by allowing you to group your different Ring devices together, and say that when your Ring Doorbell is pressed, your Ring Stick-up Cam and outdoor Floodlight Cam will also start recording (for example).

You can also say that when your Ring alarm system is triggered by your sensors, all your Ring cameras will start recording so that any break-in attempt (or burglary) is recorded with the clips stored in the cloud for you to view later.

So it’s possible to link your Ring cameras and doorbells together and have one trigger recording of the other, and it’s also possible for your Ring alarm to trigger your Ring cameras.

But the reverse isn’t true: you can’t use motion detection on your Ring cameras to trigger your Ring alarm, sadly.

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