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Baby Monitors
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Nov 17, 2013, 01:25 AM
 
So I have a new baby at home and my wife is nagging me to find a baby monitor. Usually I'm excited about buying new electronics, but it looks like most baby monitors suck in one way or another.

My guess is someone here has already done some research and can help put me on the right path.

Above all else I'd like a monitor with good image and audio quality. After that I'm looking at features such as:

Night vision (it looks like most have this)
Internet accessible (this would be a real plus)
iOS viewing app
Pan and tilt
Zoom
Thermometer
Plays music
Night light
Two way audio
Recording

Using an iPhone as a screen sounds like a good idea, but the reviews I've read are overwhelmingly negative so it needs to have a standalone video screen. This also rules out complicated setups using webcams as baby monitors.

I did a quick search and found a thread from 2009, but hopefully something new is on the market.
( Last edited by SSharon; Nov 17, 2013 at 01:43 AM. )
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Nov 17, 2013, 04:51 AM
 
Congrats!

For the kids, we just went with a low tech audio solution from safety first. Actually have been looking for something similar... for our dog. Video and two way audio, net access.

I found a $50 wireless camera on amazon that seems to fit the bill, but from the reviews is somewhat hard to set up. It wasn't listed under baby monitors.
     
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Nov 17, 2013, 10:54 AM
 
Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
Congrats!

For the kids, we just went with a low tech audio solution from safety first. Actually have been looking for something similar... for our dog. Video and two way audio, net access.

I found a $50 wireless camera on amazon that seems to fit the bill, but from the reviews is somewhat hard to set up. It wasn't listed under baby monitors.
Thank you.

The problem with the IP cameras that use your displays as the monitor seems to be terrible impacts on battery life and annoying timeouts after 10-15 minutes if you leave them on.

I've been looking at some of the models by Lorex such as Lorex Care 'N' Share Series Wireless Video Baby Monitor BB4325X
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Nov 17, 2013, 11:18 AM
 
I use a sub-$100 640x480 IP camera with infrared support. The one I use is the TrendNET IP-312W. It is NOT reliable over WiFi, but it is rock solid over Gigabit Ethernet, although I've noticed the same thing with other ones as well. No pan and tilt, which is OK, since the field of view is wide enough to cover 90% of the crib from where it's mounted. I didn't bother with two-way audio either and am glad I didn't. I don't need it at all. I don't really see the need for a thermometer either, but I guess it could be important if you have heating or cooling problems or something in your baby's room.

For the screen I either use an iPad or iPhone with LiveCams Pro, or else my Nexus 7 or RAZR HD with IP Cam Viewer Pro. Actually, usually two of the above (one for my wife and one for me).

I've tried other IP cam apps, but they flaked out after 15-20 minutes with the same camera. So, the timeouts you mentioned may be software related, not necessarily hardware related. With the above two apps (one on iOS and one on Android), I could leave the software running 12 hours and it'd still be fine. However, I'd need to leave the mobile device plugged into the charger. Otherwise the battery would run out after several hours.

This is what it looks like on my iPhone 5s, but it works just fine on the lowly iPhone 4 too.



This is during the day. At night because of IR, it's black-and-white and fuzzier. Note again though that this is just a VGA camera. The HD cameras are much clearer. But that being said, most of the dedicated baby cams look significantly worse than my VGA cam.

The two potential issues I ran into was automatic software updates and out-of-range WiFi. If I allowed the software to update automatically, at least on Android it might do so while it was active. When it updated, not surprisingly it would kill the video feed until I loaded it up again. Obviously this is not a good thing when you're trying to monitor your baby. So, I turned of automatic updates. For the second issue, like I said, I don't use the IP camera over WiFi, but of course I use the iPad/iPhone/Android devices over WiFi. If the device was in an area with bad WiFi reception, the feed would time out. However, in my house I have multiple WiFi access points. I just make sure my mobile device is on the strongest signal. When the WiFi connection for the mobile device is good (and the IP camera is connected via Ethernet), then I can leave it on for 12 hours straight with no problems as mentioned earlier. In fact, I've left my Nexus 7 on by accident when I went to work and when I got back home the video feed from the night before was still active, 20 hours later.

And yeah, many if not most of those video baby monitors really do suck. A more basic solution might actually be a better one, and that is to get one that is sound only. We bought a used one to use at a friend's house while visiting and the range kinda sucked and the video quality was worse. There are some higher end models, but when the cheap crappy ones go for $150 and the most expensive ones go for over $400, I'm not interested.

If I wanted more redundancy I think what I would do is get a IP camera solution as described above, which is flexible but more technically complex, and then a wireless dedicated sound-only baby monitor, which being sound-only is limited functionality but which is also the simplest.

BTW, we do this partially because we sleep on the opposite side of the house as the nursery. From our bedroom, we can't hear anything at all from the nursery. If we were say in the very next room, I'm not sure I'd bother with any of this. Which reminds me: I don't think the range of many dedicated babycams would be good enough to maintain a reliable feed across my house. I know that several cordless phones have problems with maintaining a good signal if the phone and base are on opposite sides of the house. If you do get a dedicated babycam, get it from a reputable store with a decent return policy.

And yeah... Congrats!
( Last edited by Eug; Nov 17, 2013 at 11:54 AM. )
     
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Nov 17, 2013, 10:30 PM
 
Congratulations.

I honestly wouldn't bother with video. I've got three kids, the youngest is 16 months old, and we used the same low tech audio monitor for all of them. I can't think of many situations where the video component would have added anything. They cry, you check. They sleep, you sleep.
     
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Nov 17, 2013, 10:58 PM
 
Thanks Eug for the lengthy and informative response. Definitely the kind of information I'm looking for even if now I'm back to square one and considering IP cameras not specifically marketed as baby monitors.

Phileas, one reason for video is that I'm starting a new job that will require a lot of travel and this will let me check in on the little one without a Facetime call to the wife. In general, my wife and I are not the panicky types and don't rush to the baby at every little sound. We have 10 nieces and nephews age 10 and under so although this is our first child we've had enough exposure to know what's what.
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Nov 18, 2013, 12:16 AM
 
If you want to check video when you're not home, then the only option is an IP camera.

However, in my case I don't see the point of checking on the kid if I'm not actually home to do anything about it. Thus I haven't bothered to expose the link to the internet. It's all behind the home firewall, and my significant other prefers it that way too. (I did expose my backyard deercam to the net for a while, but that was just for fun.)

Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
I honestly wouldn't bother with video. I've got three kids, the youngest is 16 months old, and we used the same low tech audio monitor for all of them. I can't think of many situations where the video component would have added anything. They cry, you check. They sleep, you sleep.
Most of the time that's true, but not always.

My kid will sometimes cry, and then go back to sleep. However, she's also developed this interesting and odd habit of crying very briefly when she wakes up, and then just standing up in the crib and waiting there with no crying. It's amusing to walk in her room to see her standing there with her hands on the crib rail and peering over at the door, waiting for that human feeding machine to come in. Or else she'll go play in the corner of the crib, again with no crying.

Video tells us which it is - if she's fallen back asleep or if she's standing there waiting for someone to feed her.
     
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Nov 18, 2013, 08:18 AM
 
Congratulations from me, as well.

The problem I see with most "baby monitors" is that they are aimed at people who don't know nothin' about nothin'. They often use WiFi frequencies but aren't WiFi, they have limited range and limited remote control capabilities, and they are completely UNprivate.

Using an IP camera with microphone is a much better idea. I got a DLink DCS-930L IP camera (WiFi and wired) on a refurb deal for something like $20 a while back to set up at my front door. It lets me look out from my den's window and see what's there via the Internet (the thing came with the ability to connect through their server - password protected and all), and it has a microphone as well so I can hear anything going on as well.

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Nov 18, 2013, 08:52 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post
The problem I see with most "baby monitors" is that they are aimed at people who don't know nothin' about nothin'. They often use WiFi frequencies but aren't WiFi, they have limited range and limited remote control capabilities, and they are completely UNprivate.
Usual video baby monitors as described are wireless but not WiFi. They are also are passcode protected usually AFAIK.

Using an IP camera with microphone is a much better idea. I got a DLink DCS-930L IP camera (WiFi and wired) on a refurb deal for something like $20 a while back to set up at my front door. It lets me look out from my den's window and see what's there via the Internet (the thing came with the ability to connect through their server - password protected and all), and it has a microphone as well so I can hear anything going on as well.
Arguably, these are less secure. Many contain exploits that a persistent hacker can use to bypass the security over the internet. For example, there was a case of a European screaming obscenities at a Texan family's kid over the internet through an IP camera used as a baby monitor. Plus, lots of people choose not to even attempt to properly secure the baby monitor, cuz it can be a PITA, and beyond many laypersons' networking skills.

This type of problem is not an issue with traditional baby monitors since there is no network hookup. The worst that can happen is that your next door neighbour can gain access if they happen to have a device with the same non-WiFi frequency.
     
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Nov 18, 2013, 10:40 AM
 
I'll wholeheartedly give DropCam two thumbs up.

Live view standard $150 DropCam, camera set to "HD" video.



Originally Posted by SSharon View Post
The problem with the IP cameras that use your displays as the monitor seems to be terrible impacts on battery life and annoying timeouts after 10-15 minutes if you leave them on.
We haven't run into any issues with timeouts, and battery drain hasn't been an issue for us either, perhaps our circumstances are unique:
- We don't typically constantly monitor. He's loud enough if something's wrong we can hear him anywhere in the house, so it's mostly for periodic checkups.
- If we do constantly monitor, it's around bedtime so the monitoring device will be plugged in soon enough.
- We have a total of six devices capable of being used as a monitor, including a spare iPod Touch, so there's always something around to use or leave for the babysitter.

Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
I honestly wouldn't bother with video. I've got three kids, the youngest is 16 months old, and we used the same low tech audio monitor for all of them. I can't think of many situations where the video component would have added anything.
Our unique circumstances make video incredibly useful, and it sounds like the kind of thing SSharon could use.

I can view the camera from my Android device, iPhone, iPad, and computer anywhere in the world. It's great when I'm traveling to be able to check up on the little one, or watch him take a bottle. It makes the months away much more tolerable.
     
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Nov 18, 2013, 12:04 PM
 
We just hired a hobo to watch our little guy while he sleeps.

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Nov 18, 2013, 02:11 PM
 
Another vote for Dropcam. Does a great job for applications such as this.
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Nov 18, 2013, 02:57 PM
 
Just my two Eurocent: You don't want to create a bunch of electro smog around a newborn.
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Nov 18, 2013, 03:25 PM
 
How do you measure "electro smog"?
     
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Nov 18, 2013, 08:58 PM
 
I think that's probably too late anyway, with wifi in the house.
     
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Nov 19, 2013, 10:13 AM
 
Originally Posted by Powerbook View Post
Just my two Eurocent: You don't want to create a bunch of electro smog around a newborn.
If you hold a banana in your ear, it will keep the alligators away.
     
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Nov 19, 2013, 07:54 PM
 
Originally Posted by Eug View Post
Usual video baby monitors as described are wireless but not WiFi. They are also are passcode protected usually AFAIK.


Arguably, these are less secure. Many contain exploits that a persistent hacker can use to bypass the security over the internet. For example, there was a case of a European screaming obscenities at a Texan family's kid over the internet through an IP camera used as a baby monitor. Plus, lots of people choose not to even attempt to properly secure the baby monitor, cuz it can be a PITA, and beyond many laypersons' networking skills.

This type of problem is not an issue with traditional baby monitors since there is no network hookup. The worst that can happen is that your next door neighbour can gain access if they happen to have a device with the same non-WiFi frequency.
I don't trust the "passcode protection" used in most baby monitors, since they typically dumb down all their packaging to the point that you can't find any mention of how that passcode protects anything. And I'm very much against a device that screws up WiFi frequencies on a 2- or 3-house radius (older monitors were even worse).

The IP camera/mic I mentioned is one-way, password protected, and to get into mine, you have to get into my network, since it's connected via WPA2. I had posted the suggestion for the OP, not Joe Public, who usually doesn't have the sense to not step into traffic while he's playing Angry Birds on his Galaxy 4.

Baby monitors that are 2-way, work on the WiFi band but aren't WiFi, and that state they're "private" without even saying how they manage that privacy are less credible options than a reliable, properly secured IP camera with microphone. Having a speaker in the baby's room so mom and dad can "soothe the baby with their voices" so they don't have to budge from their chairs or bed is just plain bad parenting.

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Nov 20, 2013, 06:52 AM
 
Meh. You can just as easily say having a video monitor in the baby's room so mom and dad can monitor the baby without having to budget from their chairs or bed is just plain bad parenting.

Plus, if you link the camera to the internet, as mentioned, IP cameras are potentially more exposed than el cheapo non-WiFi cameras. Unwanted access on "secured" cameras have been documented time and again.
     
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Nov 20, 2013, 07:03 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
Our unique circumstances make video incredibly useful, and it sounds like the kind of thing SSharon could use.

I can view the camera from my Android device, iPhone, iPad, and computer anywhere in the world. It's great when I'm traveling to be able to check up on the little one, or watch him take a bottle. It makes the months away much more tolerable.
This is what FaceTime and/or Skype are for.

Keeping an active mic/camera connected to the intarwebs would give me the willies, even if I were fairly sure it would only be my partner eavesdropping.
     
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Nov 20, 2013, 07:09 AM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
How do you measure "electro smog"?
You switch on a radio. If you can tune in on a station and hear music, yep, it's there.

Another option is to switch on a cellphone. If it has reception, yep, it's there.

Alternately, you can hire an expert for a one-time fee of 450€ who will walk around the apartment with complex devices he built himself (parts value <10€) and make recommendations as to which of his partners to buy the €2000 copper net mattress isolator from.
     
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Nov 20, 2013, 07:39 AM
 
There is enough electromagnetic radiation around everywhere that adding a WiFi device a meter or more away from the baby won't make a measurable difference. It's not like you're taping a high-power microwave transmitter to the kid's head. Further, a lot of systems use spread spectrum techniques that allow for very low transmit power levels; the spread spectrum pattern allows the receiver to pick out the signal from below the "grass" or ambient radio signal background radiation level. Oh and that background level is typically almost entirely due to what comes from the nearest star, AKA "Sol," with very little local background being contributed by human activity - unless you're right next to an AM radio station's transmitting antenna.

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Nov 20, 2013, 10:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
This is what FaceTime and/or Skype are for.
Sorry, I'm not going to rouse the wife at 3AM so she can point her iPhone at the kid while he sleeps.

DropCam has the "talk-back" feature but it's way more creepy than soothing. Good for pranks, though.
     
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Nov 20, 2013, 10:50 AM
 
I'm tempted to say "Well, that's just the way things are", but I can relate to the craving to HAVE TO see your child right now while away, quite well.

I wouldn't feel comfortable with that solution, though.
     
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Nov 20, 2013, 11:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
I'm tempted to say "Well, that's just the way things are", but I can relate to the craving to HAVE TO see your child right now while away, quite well.

I wouldn't feel comfortable with that solution, though.
A month away when the kid's only a few months old is a long time. He does love Facetime on the iPad. I actually just went back and gave my account a more secure password. I think I used the same settings for DropCam as I did for MacOS Rumors forums...
     
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Nov 21, 2013, 11:20 PM
 
Thanks for all the advice. I haven't had a chance to do any more research as I started the new job I mentioned this week.

I vaguely remember seeing that one of the ways a baby monitor allowed remote access was through Skype. Must be security through obscurity because there is no protection at all as long as you know the skype ID that they told you to set to automatically accept incoming calls.

Obviously if I'm here my home network is well secured and I wouldn't think of leaving any default passwords in place.
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Nov 22, 2013, 10:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by SSharon View Post
I vaguely remember seeing that one of the ways a baby monitor allowed remote access was through Skype. Must be security through obscurity because there is no protection at all as long as you know the skype ID that they told you to set to automatically accept incoming calls.
That would scare me. It sounds like someone's too lazy to host their own video streams.
     
   
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