Back in 2015, husband and wife duo Avril O’Neill and John Nussey did what any creative, tinkering mind does: They took a look at a basic, seldom thought-of product and thought of a way to make it better, more apt for the times. That’s how they’ve come to revolutionize the doorbell to fit into the landscape of the smart home.
The couple, who for the past decade have run their own business making product prototypes for other entrepreneurs, finally reached the point where they were ready to develop something of their own. Ding, which they invented a little more than two years ago, looks like the age-old doorbell button, but is more conducive to modern needs.
“We came up with the idea a few years ago when our own doorbell broke,” O’Neill said. “The doorbell that came with our house had been painted over so many times that there was about an inch of paint around it. We looked for products to replace it, but there was nothing on the market that both suited our home and gave us the connectivity we wanted.”
The WiFi-connected doorbell not only connects to a chime inside the house, but also to your smartphone via an alert like a Skype or WhatsApp call. This enables you to talk to whomever is at the door—from anywhere in the world.
When they began tinkering with the idea, the couple noticed that there were only three options on the market: basic wired doorbells, wireless ones that function exactly like conventional doorbells, or video products. None of these seemed to meet their needs.
“The basic doorbells have done the same thing for decades, and the video products offer lots of features but make answering the door a chore,” Nussey said. According to Nussey, video products have become more about surveillance and only allow you to see who’s at the door—not communicate with them. “With our smart doorbell, homeowners have a contemporary product that has all the utility of a traditional doorbell, but with enough connectivity to be useful in a modern, connected world.”
Of course, innovation doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s certainly been a long road for the couple to bring Ding to market. “We’ve spent the last year designing and developing our smart doorbell,” O’Neill described. “It’s been a constant back and forth between design and engineering to make sure we can use appropriate technology to perform well without sacrificing the look and usability of the product.”
In the last several years, the couple seems to have hit their stride. In 2015, O’Neill and Nussey earned grant funding through the Design Council Spark program. The very next year they joined the JLAB accelerator, based in the UK, which is one of the best-known accelerator programs in the world. Then, two successful 2016 crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo earned the couple more than 800 pre-orders.
“The biggest challenge for us has been finding the right team and partners—you’re never sure when the right people will come along, and it also has to be the time in their lives to take a chance with a startup,” Nussey explained. “Luckily, we’ve met some amazing and talented people who share our passion about making smart home products that work with your lifestyle and suit your home.”
And that—fitting into your lifestyle—is one of the key aims of Ding. One problem it seeks to solve is missed deliveries—a malfunction that costs retailers upwards of $368.5 million a year, and incalculable frustration for consumers. Now, no matter where you are when the doorbell rings for a package, you’re able to answer.
“The biggest challenge for us has been finding the right team and partners—you’re never sure when the right people will come along, and it also has to be the time in their lives to take a chance with a startup.”
—John Nussey, Ding Founder
Of course, Ding is just the latest entry into the fast-growing smart home technology market, a sector set to boom to an estimated $53.45 billion by 2022—with everything from smart energy meters, fridge cams, and virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
And, like any true innovative mind, Nussey said they were a bit ahead of the curve with their doorbell: “When we started, there were only a couple of products out there, but it’s quickly becoming a popular product for consumers.”