Video intercoms are a great way to control door entry, boost safety, and add convenient communication to your building. But since today’s video intercom systems come in such a wide variety, choosing the right one can be tricky. Options range from simple telephone entry devices to cutting-edge cloud-based systems that pair with mobile apps for offsite use.
Making the right choice can benefit your business or residence for years. If you haven’t read our ultimate guide on choosing a video intercom system (link), it’s a good place to start. Or keep scrolling to see our top picks for video intercom systems in 2020, who they are for, and what a property owner or manager should know before buying.
ButterflyMX is a technology-forward maker of smart intercom systems that pair with a mobile app, offering convenient cloud-based security. Butterfly does not include in-unit stations for tenants — instead, tenants simply use their phones to see guests and swipe to unlock the door. The app also lets you create “virtual keys” to temporarily grant access to visitors. Visitors at the door can search a resident directory to call someone, leave messages, or let residents know they have a delivery.
ButterflyMX is a multi-tenant solution for multi-family buildings, gated communities, commercial and office buildings, student housing, and industrial and warehouse spaces. Any building with a concierge or doorman can use a ButterflyMX station at the front desk to video-call residents on behalf of visitors.
ButterflyMX is arguably the best-looking building intercom on the market, with flexible and attractive hardware options. Its sleek touch-screen panels look elegant and high-tech at the same time, making it a top choice for property owners and managers who care about maintaining a good face for their building. Butterfly intercom panels come in three different sizes, with a landscape option and two portrait options.
ButterflyMX was founded relatively recently in 2012, but it has become an innovator of smart intercoms. Butterfly’s team of skilled software engineers help it to stay ahead of the curve, regularly developing new features based on user feedback, and putting out app updates about once a month. And though visitors have to use the entry touchscreen, residents’ ability to unlock the door using only their phones prevents the spread of germs and makes Butterfly a great option for touch-free entry.
Since the ButterflyMX app connects via the cloud, residents can see and let in guests from anywhere, as long as they have internet access. This feature is important for many users, as they do not have to be in the building to access door entry video and let people in. This makes the ButterflyMX a great choice for user convenience.
ButterflyMX’s open API allows it to integrate with other cloud-based systems, including property management software for automatic tenant directory updates and help keeping up with rent roll. For property owners and managers who want to supplement the Butterfly app with video tenant stations, Butterfly can pair with Brilliant smart home hardware to make this possible. ButterflyMX supports hundreds of integrations, and can pair with Alexa, Siri, Openpath, and more.
- Package room
ButterflyMX’s package room solution cuts down on theft by controlling package room access and taking time-stamped photos of everyone who enters the room. Couriers can enter a delivery PIN when dropping off a package, and tenants are then notified of the delivery via email, text, or a push notification on their smartphone. A surveillance camera to monitor the inside of the package room is optional.
- ButterflyMX uses the same wiring as telephone entry. It only requires three connections to install: internet, door strike, and power.
- Users cannot incorporate external cameras into ButterflyMX software, but they can use other methods such as HDMI cables.
- Butterfly has no tenant stations, unless partnered with Brilliant. This means property managers do not have to pay to install and run cables to these stations.
ButterflyMX panels are available in 11.6” and 21” landscape sizes, and a 7” portrait size. All sizes are available in surface and flush mount, except the 21”, which is available in surface mount only.
- Founded in 2012, ButterflyMX does not have the longstanding reputation and experience as some of its competitors. However, it has experienced massive growth in a short time.
- Tenant stations are not included, so users who want these must integrate them in.
DKS (Doorking) is a small American-based company with local Inglewood engineers that build everything in-house in California. The long-established manufacturer has been operating since 1948, with a history of making durable access control and telephone entry products. Doorking has been a leader in telephone entry for many years, manufacturing a range of audio-only telephone intercoms that use dialer systems.
Doorking offers a range of telephone entry systems for different users:
- The Doorking 1830 series are suitable for a wide range of commercial and residential buildings. The systems are PC-programmable, and they come with Doorking’s remote account management software.
- The Doorking 1802, 1803, 1808 and 1810 systems are for stand-alone telephone entry control.
- The Doorking 1812, 1816, and 1820 systems enable residents to use a telephone for audio communication and door access control.
- The DKS Access Plus line is for residential buildings, small apartments, condos, gated communities, and business facilities.
Doorking telephone entry systems do not yet offer video capabilities, and there is no app for residents — so you should only opt for Doorking if you are okay with a traditional telephone entry system and a limited app for property managers.
- Reliable access control
Doorking is a long-established leader in access control. Doorking gate operators and door openers are some of the most widely used on the market. Doorking makes the best access control products, aside from more modern IP-based access control systems such as Brivo and Kisi. This makes Doorking a great option for property managers who value top-notch door access.
- Durable quality
Doorking is owned by engineers who make everything themselves. Doorking access control equipment is known for its longevity and durability, and it can last for decades without needing to be replaced. Doorking’s sturdy non-touch-screen panels will not be easily ruined if they get wet or are tampered with.
- Streamlined system
Doorking software unites building control of multiple areas into one streamlined database, making it easy to control multiple building access points from one secure system. Property owners and managers like Doorking for its simplicity in uniting all access control functioning.
- Flexible integration
Many buildings have old legacy Doorking systems — and these can integrate with new Doorking equipment to bring security up to date and save costs. Doorking systems include secure MIFARE card readers built into the lock hardware, meaning employees can use the same MIFARE credentials for this lock and for common area doors. Doorking systems can also incorporate HID, prox, and smart card readers. And if you want to combine Doorking access control but don’t want to sacrifice touch-screen entry panels, you can integrate a Doorking 1838 access controller with ButterflyMX touch-screen stations.
- Administrator support
Doorking intercom systems come with guaranteed technical support and training for administrators. Building owners and property managers can also use a basic Doorking app that offers cloud administrative management options for offsite software management.
- Doorking traditionally has used POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines to provide voice communication. Users can add data programming for the DKS 1830 and Access Plus Series with the DKS IM Server ModemTM interface.
- The DKS Internet Option provides a cellular programming and voice service that eliminates trenching, phone lines, and ethernet cables.
- The DKS 1830 Series and Access Plus Systems work with most VoIP providers, using ethernet for internet-based voice communication and programming.
- Surface and flush mounting are available.
Doorking offers a range of hardware sizes.
- Doorking does not offer video communication with guests, or apps for tenants.
- Though durable, the equipment is not the most visually appealing or modern-looking.
Aiphone was founded in 1948 and has been in North America since 1971. It enjoys the reputation of a trusted leader in intercom technology, and it has the innovative range of products to back that up. Aiphone is the only intercom manufacturer to win the prestigious Deming Prize for quality control — and it has won it twice. The new Aiphone video intercom is the IXG, an IP multi-tenant system featuring a touch-screen entry panel, cloud-based mobile app, and HID card readers. Users can see and talk to visitors, unlock doors, and access past recorded calls from the tenant station or the app.
The IXG is for residential and commercial multi-tenant buildings, including gated communities that need gate intercom systems. Since the IXG can integrate up to 9,999 stations, and the app can disperse credentials to many users, the system can scale to huge apartment complexes, giant high-rise buildings, and sprawling campuses. Aiphone’s recent successes include providing comprehensive video intercoms for mixed-use structures with condos on top, retail spaces underneath them, and parking structures on the side.
- Cutting-edge technology
Aiphone’s construction-oriented design team builds products to last, while consistently achieving innovative designs. Like the ButterflyMX, the IXG cloud-based intercom provides users with a convenient app that lets users view guests and control access from anywhere, even offsite. This is an exciting step up from Aiphone’s older IX app, which required users to be onsite to connect to their wi-fi network. Aiphone’s exciting new touchless sensor also combines with IX Series door stations to enable hands-free calling, so visitors can avoid spreading bacteria while entering the building.
- Tenant experience
The Aiphone IXG offers a convenient condo, gated community, and apartment intercom system. Similarly to ButterflyMX, residents can download credentials and receive calls from the door or gate on the Aiphone app. Unlike Butterfly, residents can also have tenant stations in their units, making the IXG the most convenient and flexible solution for tenants.
- All-around solution
Unlike ButterflyMX, the Aiphone IXG doesn’t make you choose between a phone app and interior tenant stations — it gives you the option of both. This means in an IXG apartment intercom system, residents can use the Aiphone app with or without an interior station. The IXG also features a built-in card reader, whereas in the ButterflyMX card readers must be integrated separately. The IXG is a great solution for access control that runs throughout the entire building, forming a comprehensive apartment intercom system with cell phone app capabilities.
Aiphone door intercoms have built-in HID card readers with Bluetooth, smart card, and prox card capabilities, that can be integrated with a range of different key cards. If you already have access control cards you want to pair with your Aiphone intercom system, this makes the IXG a great bet. What’s more, IXG software can be integrated with Aiphone IX Series 2 stations for more flexibility, including the Aiphone IX-MV video master station and the Aiphone IX-DV video door station.
Aiphone systems regularly last 10 years or more, which is an impressive lifespan for technological equipment. Aiphone equipment is rigorously tested to ensure the highest quality, meaning Aiphone smart intercoms are sure to deliver a great return on customers’ investment in terms of reliability and durability.
Aiphone IP intercoms aren’t just video calling systems, but sophisticated security devices. Since its start in 1948, Aiphone has earned a reputation for powerful security and integrity. Aiphone engineers have the experience needed to reliably turn out the best in hack-proof door intercom systems. The IXG provides strong security, enhanced by ethernet connection.
- As an IP intercom system, the IXG uses a simple cable from the device to a network.
- All stations require a PoE network drop and a static IP to run.
- Tenant stations use PoE, which simplifies installation and avoids running cables into tenant units.
All IXG panels are 7”.
- Aiphone intercoms are not as attractive as ButterflyMX panels, focusing more on practicality than on aesthetics.
- The IXG only offers 7” panels, so those wanting different screen sizes would need to integrate different panels.
2N is a small intercom company owned by Axis, a leader in IP security systems. 2N was founded in 1991 in Prague, and today it has a considerable share of the telephone exchange market in the Czech Republic. The 2N Helios IP Verso is the new customizable 2N intercom, offering video entry with an app for mobile video streaming and remote door release.
The 2N Helios IP intercom is designed for entrances to commercial and residential buildings, including office spaces, residential complexes, schools and campuses, and hotels.
The Helios IP Verso can be configured to anyone’s needs by combining with up to 29 modules. These include a Bluetooth reader, touch display, a fingerprint reader, call buttons, RFID readers, and an induction loop and pictograms for audio and visually impaired visitors.
- Bluetooth module
The 2N IP Verso’s optional Bluetooth module allows property managers to get rid of access codes, entry cards, and key distribution. The functioning distance from the Bluetooth module can be adjusted through the Mobile Key app, which turns users’ phones into an access card.
The 2N Verso video intercom system can be integrated into many existing systems, and is compatible with multiple card readers supporting all major RFID card types. The Verso integrates into telephone systems via SIP, making it easy to link the intercom with IP phones and PBX systems from other producers, without having to connect it to the server.
- Because the 2N Verso is purely IP based, it only needs one UTP cable with a PoE power supply.
- Users can remotely configure 2N IP intercoms using an online portal.
- The design is customizable with black and nickel options, and six frames, in surface and flush mount, that hold up to three modules each.
The Verso comes with frame options that hold one, two, and three modules. The frames are 4.2” wide and range from 5” tall for the one-module frame to 13” tall for the 3-module frame.
- Since 2N is a small company operating semi-autonomously in the Czech Republic, it can be difficult to obtain modules and replacement equipment, leading to possible maintenance and repair problems.
- A modular system that requires personal configuration may not be the best option for someone who wants to buy a ready-made system.
Is Ring.com a Viable Solution to Commercial Applications?
Ring offers a battery-powered doorbell intercom system that enables door answering and video streaming on a smartphone app. Ring intercoms have a convenient interface, but they do not provide door release. What’s more, Ring has a history of serious security breaches: incidents have allowed malicious actors to hack into Ring users’ smartphone app and see live camera feeds and recordings, phone numbers, wi-fi network details, and home addresses.
This points to a serious lack of proper security measures, as with Ring’s simplistic interface also clearly comes flimsy data protection. Commercial application owners and managers who want to be confident in the security of their data, and who want a system that provides remote door unlocking, should look elsewhere.
Can I Just Have an Entrance Station and an App?
Yes, it is possible to simply use an entrance station and an app without relying on unstable systems such as Ring. This can be a great option to eliminate expensive trenching and wiring, and many people would rather use a mobile app than an in-unit panel these days. The Aiphone IXG, ButterflyMX, and 2N Helios IP Verso all currently offer an entrance station and mobile app option.
Check out how we installed an Aiphone IX Series 4 button tenant door station to protect this brand new multi-tenant building in Burlingame, California, along with technology from Doorking, Brivo, and Eagle Eye:
With more advanced technology than ever, and with the Aiphone IXG making waves in the cloud-based intercom market, this is an exciting year for intercom systems. To learn more about the top video intercoms of 2020 and get a free consultation, contact Safe and Sound Security today.