Sleep is a big deal for us parents. Our babies’ sleep is a bigger deal.
As with many parent, our first child came to us at a very “budget-aware” time of our life. We were starting new careers, paying some student loans, saving… let’s just say that welcoming a new child into the world means all sorts of new investments. The price tag on a wireless video baby monitor was looking to be in the $200-300 range. Not doable, but we were adamant about being in touch with our baby boy while he slept.
We started off with a dirt cheap monitor that I found on a Black Friday fire sale. It was bad. Like connections dropping every 5 minutes from the next room bad. We were constantly worried about what we were missing. You know how first parents are? We needed an upgrade, badly.
Enter the IP Camera, which is at it simplest a network-connected security camera. I had heard about the trend of using an IP camera for monitoring children’s sleep or activity remotely, so at the next opportunity, a Black Friday no less, I grabbed a couple of clearance Foscam FL8916W and set one up facing the crib. At 480p, with infrared, wifi, 360-degree remote panning and two-way audio, it turned out to be a really good fit. The auto-infrared keeps the coverage clear day and night and two-way audio allows us to communicate back to my kids when they might need some parenting. Built-in sound or motion detection can alert us by email, and the device can be set up to allow me access to the audiovisual feed from work or while traveling, in case I want to check in on my darlings.
On the remote end you will need a device and some software to view. IP cameras usually connect up to a Security DVR for recording and replay, but in our case, we just want something convenient and portable. After experimenting with several apps, we found what are by far the best apps for this purpose: TinyCam Monitor Pro on Android and Baby Monitor for IP Camera on iOS devices. These are both basically the same app, are compatible with a huge list of IP cameras from many different vendors, have all the controls we need to manage the camera remotely, and have a pretty great built-in motion and sound tracking system with reliable notifications.
We like this system so much, we have even started using a little D-Link DCS-936L, a tiny usb-powered IP camera the size of a hockey puck, for monitoring the kids’ room while traveling. Amcrest makes a similar model, which, while slightly less portable, has two-way audio, a competitive sale price, and is admittedly more cool-looking. We worry less now about our children’s sleep, and the ability to see them in their beds (or out of them) allows us to hop in and head off any potential mischief.
Want to set up your own IP baby monitor system? Anyone can do it. Here are some recommendations:
- Grab the app recommended above. With motion and noise sensing, panning control, notifications… I promise you will not regret it.
- Look at TinyCam and Baby Monitor for IP Camera app camera compatibility list. It’s a huge list – make sure the camera you get matches one of cameras on the list.
has been rebranded as Amcrest. Same product, new name.*Update: Amcrest used to be the sole distributer for Foscam products however they no longer support or sell Foscam. They now have their own line of cameras. Check out our review of the Amcrest IP2M-841B camera.
- Grab an IP camera. Check the specs. You’ll definitely need night vision and audio. Decide on what resolution you need: 480p is for simple monitoring, while for security cameras you’ll want something that can pick up detail in 1080p. Panning and audio feedback are definite a bonus. These are a few cameras we’d recommend:
- Security! I cannot emphasize this enough. Change your admin password via the web interface or software which comes with your camera. Do not leave your child’s sleep vulnerable to a potential hacker.
- Security! You will want to dig into the settings and turn off UPnP. This setting punches a hole in your firewall so that you can access the camera while away from home. I recommend you don’t leave something like this open to hackers unless you really need it.
- Install camera. Add camera to app, and you are done!
- Add more cameras, worry less. Our rec. room is a bit far from spaces we generally gather, so we’ve added a camera to that room, and can split the iPad screen into two feeds to watch kids at play and respond when we are needed.
And that’s all! Suffice it to say that we have been very happy and peaceful about our children’s sleep when we have the ability to monitor them from the TV room couch. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below – I am happy to help if I can!