Why did we create the Vivint Ping Camera?
The Vivint Ping Camera product managers Landon Langford (left) and Mike Child (right) took a moment from their busy schedules to answer some popular questions about how the Ping came to be and what inspired this bit of smart home technology. From kids needing to contact their parents to the flexibility that is needed in today’s smart home market, check out what they had to say!
What inspired the Ping Camera?
LANDON: As team and as a company we are driven to simplify and streamline the lives of our users. We wanted to provide a world-class camera that enabled people to quickly and easily connect to those that are important to them. This goes beyond allowing people to see into their house from anywhere, but actually allows communication to be initiated from either side of the interaction. Part of this inspiration was gleaned from our then recent release of our doorbell camera. After the doorbell camera release, which was a tremendous success, we began to receive some interesting feedback from customers—we found that thousands of customers were using their doorbell as a two-way communication device, often as a mechanism for young children (without cell phones) to get in quick contact with their parents. It was a very interesting observation. Children were actually walking outside their own home, and ringing their own doorbell so that they could talk with their own parents. All of this happened while the child was standing outside at their front door. This insight along with many others helped shape our vision for the Ping camera.
What were your goals when you were creating the Ping?
MIKE: Our lives are very busy and complex, and often our most precious resource is time. We strive to reduce friction points that prevent simplicity and efficient use of resources. Communication is very important piece of our day-to-day lives, and we found a gap in quick interactions. “Quick” is key, as most people don’t typically want to or have time for long periods of communication. People often want to text message instead of making a phone call. There was a gap in smart home market in quick communication, and we saw value in filling that gap. We wanted to create a product that accomplished this goal while also providing world-class security integration experiences through our full Vivint Smart Home Solution. Building a product that did so much more than communication, or even being a security camera was important to us. So we built the Ping on a platform that we grow and continue to expand on years to come.
What challenges did you face developing the technology?
LANDON: You also have to remember that no one had ever built an in-home device like this before, so we were literally blazing a new path in the Smart Home world. We were creating a new paradigm in how users interact with cameras and how they quickly connect, or “Ping” their family and friends. These challenges were tough but also very exciting. The team put in many long nights and voluntarily filled most weekends with prototyping and code development rather than watching football, but we feel proud of the product that we were able to develop. Today thousands upon thousands of customers use and love our new Ping camera.
How did you test the Ping feature?
MIKE: Remember that no one had ever built a product like this before. No one had built a smart home device that is truly designed for quick interactions. Whether it be small children without cell phones, or aging parents, the Ping camera gives all users the ability to call out of the home and quickly interact with others. We had to extensively test this call-out feature to make sure it worked well for all ages. The little nuances that go along with this are actually quite intricate and complex. For example, the call out button needed to be designed and placed on the camera in such a way that it would not be accidentally pressed, too easily pressed, pressed too many times, or thought that it needed to be pressed too much force. All of these situations can cause issues. We needed users to naturally know how to interact with the button, and that required extensive research, prototyping, and iterations to make it work well. We were able to effectively and efficiently test and iterate on this by working closely with people all over North America, in utilizing the comprehensive Smart Home Pro network of installation technicians, sales representatives, and customers.
Are there any unique ways you’ve heard people using the Ping?
LANDON: We have received feedback from thousands of users who absolutely love their Ping camera. The Ping helps people connect in all stages of life; whether it’s connecting young parents to their newborn baby or allowing an aging parent to get ahold of their caregiver—the use cases really vary and depend on the situation and environment in which the camera is placed. One of the more interesting cases we hear about, is how frustrated some of the younger kids are with the Ping camera. It’s actually kind of funny. I can definitely relate to some of these kids. The Ping gives account administrators (usually the parents) a channel of communication to the home that is always open. ‘Always open’ is key, but it can also be a frustration to a kid who doesn’t want to communicate with their parents. Even with a cell phone, kids can decide whether they want to answer it. Some parents have a really hard time getting a hold of their kids. If a parent wants to call in and ask their kid if they have finished their homework, a situation in which the child might be reluctant to answer the phone, the Ping allows the parent to see and to call in and still get through their kid. Sometimes I jokingly say that homework productivity is up 50% since the launch of the Ping camera.
What problems do you hope the Ping solves for families?
MIKE: The Ping really adds value by simplifying the lives of the customers. Quickly connecting members of the family is an important aspect of that. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling to China or at work in the office—no call or connection is too far away for the Ping camera. We also understand the value the Ping offers with its integration into our full Vivint Smart Home offering. Having peace of mind that your family and home are safe and running efficiently is so much more than just a Ping camera. Being able to use smart algorithms to connect and enhance your Ping camera experience with thermostats, door locks, lights, flood sensors, and doorbell cameras better allows users to have full control of their home, and to truly simplify their lives.
What’s next for the Ping Camera?
LANDON: We built the Ping camera with the ability to adapt and to play a growing role in the smart home for many years to come. We decided to build the Ping with the potential to add new and exciting features down the road, without changing the hardware. I don’t want to show our hand, but don’t be surprised if you keep seeing enhancements to the Ping experience for years to come.