This post originally appeared on Joyful Abode in November of 2011. It has been a resource for thousands of parents through the years, so I finally updated it in June of 2015.
Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to babysit for a sweet family with a 2.5 year old boy. It was then that I got my first taste of the genius that is the Video Baby Monitor. Sure it was staticky and only worked with the receiver plugged in (the battery sucked, which I think is pretty common with this type of monitor) but the information gained from being able to SEE the child was so valuable.
You see, it could be 100% quiet in his room, but he could be going through his dresser, or standing on his bed, or any number of other non-sleep things. Usually that meant he needed a diaper change, to be honest. So I’d go check on him, change his diaper, and remind him to lie down in his bed.
Other times, a sound-only monitor would’ve had me opening the door to check on him unnecessarily! Sometimes it was a bit loud in there, but he was just lying in bed telling his stuffed animal a story. Or laughing in his sleep at a funny dream.
I knew I would NEED a video monitor when I had children of my own.
It’s just far too useful to be able to have that little bit of extra information. This conviction was solidified when I nannied for another family who had sound-only monitors. There were so many times I had to peek in because of a sound when it would have been perfectly fine (but I couldn’t know until I peeked!) not to… and the door closing, or the tiny bit of change in light, or the sound of a floorboard squeaking would wake up the child…
I tried to convince the parents to buy a video monitor but they didn’t understand what they were missing, so they stuck with audio-only. I researched and researched, and in 2009, when I was looking at these, there were not as many options as there are now. I really wanted one with two cameras so that I could have one on the cosleeper in our room (when Anneliese was tiny she slept in there for naps, and at night) and one on her bed in her room (after a couple of months, we had her taking occasional naps in her room, and later, she started the night in her room too).
I wanted the option of adding more cameras when we had more children with more rooms… see? I was thinking long-term. I read a LOT of reviews of a LOT of cameras, and ended up settling on the Safe Baby video monitor with 2 cameras ($215, but no longer being made).
Because it was digital, I hoped to avoid the static I had experienced in my babysitting job (and I did avoid that. Now and then it would go blank for a second or two, but that was fine with me).
It also had the capability to monitor up to 8 cameras at a time, with auto-scan, or you could manually select which camera to view. It also tuned out low noises like our white-noise or the fan, but clicks the sound on when baby whimpers or cries. So that was nice to not have constant whooshing sounds coming from the monitor.
In 2011, touch screen video monitors are becoming all the rage. The Summer Infant Baby Touch Color Video Monitor was highly advertised and very popular, at $250 for the receiver and one camera. Additional cameras for the system were available at $130 each.
Despite the high price tag, this one was tempting to me. I knew a few new moms who had gotten it and RAVED about it, and I liked that the camera had remote panning ability so that more of the room would be visible (important since we use a floor bed with Anneliese, so she can crawl off of her bed and ideally go play with her toys when she wakes up).
I’ve also grown accustomed to the touch screen of my iPhone and generally dislike buttons now. A larger viewing are on the monitor was also appealing.
Wait a second… the touch screen ON MY IPHONE???
“Why isn’t there a baby monitor system that works with the iPhone?” I wondered.
Oh, there HAS to be something. Because, you know, “there’s an app for that.”
So many months ago, I began searching. It just seemed silly to me to carry around TWO touch screens, when one should work. My phone is usually on my person, and as long as I plug it in at night, I rarely have to think about charging it, so this would be perfect!
My searching took me to the Wifi Baby Video Monitor, which seems to be (in 2011) semi-well-known among techy mamas. At the time, there were NO actual mom-blog reviews of this monitor (there were a few on youtube that all seemed to be the same, created by the Wifi Baby “team” most likely), and currently there are still only a few out there. There was speculation and a few negative comments here and there too.
Still, I thought it HAD TO BE A GOOD IDEA because ever part of it made sense in my head. So I emailed the company, told them I believed in their product from what I knew of it, and that I’d love the opportunity to review it on my blog with pictures and screenshots and whatnot, so that others searching for iPhone baby monitors would be able to find my review and learn more about it, and feel more secure purchasing it. Because dude, I was that mom. Searching. Finding nothing. And because I found nothing, I felt pretty insecure about dropping $279 (!!!) on a hunch.
After a while they emailed me back and basically told me I had to buy one myself to do a review, or I could borrow one for like a week, then return it (I wanted to review it but not badly enough to do it for zero compensation, and if I liked it not even get a discount on the purchase for my effort…).
I wrote back with a final appeal, telling them that my blog has high google ranking and that a lot of my reviews appear in the top google results when people search for them (it’s true!) and reminding them that moms who are unsure but curious would love to read about first-hand experience with their product. Nope.
They sent me a very rude email saying not to contact them again. Fine. I also chose not to buy their camera. But guess what. I’m GLAD I didn’t.
It’s completely overpriced (it still is, in 2015), and the camera itself doesn’t tilt or pan, which was a feature I was hoping for since my daughter has free rein of her room. But the more I looked at it and wished there were another option, the closer I came to the lightbulb moment.
There must be something special about this camera… for it to be able to connect over a network. More googling took me to a “new” class of cameras.
New to me anyway. Because they aren’t marketed as baby monitors. They’re marketed as home surveillance cameras. And what is baby monitoring anyway?
IP cameras are available at a range of price points, and with a variety of features. I’m not sure what IP stands for, but it means that it can connect to your wifi network (or can be plugged in with ethernet) WITHOUT being connected to a computer (another option I had seen and immediately ruled out was a camera that only worked when your computer was on. No).
It’s just another device that can connect to your network, just like your wireless printer, your playstation 3, or your wireless external networked hard drive. The model I purchased is the Foscam F18918W in white. (Edit: I later bought a newer model, and it was even more awesome! Faster responsiveness, clearer night vision… so great.)
It has night vision/infrared that works up to 26 feet or so – MORE than adequate for any nursery or child’s room, can pan and tilt to view nearly an entire room (depending on where you mount it), has a mic and even speakers (so you can talk to your child from far away!), and also has a wide viewing angle so you can see a good amount if you are zoomed all the way out.
I chose white because it would better blend in with Anneliese’s furniture and things, but I have read that the black version has even clearer night vision because there is no reflection of light (from the LEDs) off of the plastic of the camera itself.
This camera is LESS THAN $100, and way better than the almost-$300 Wifi Baby camera.
It just requires a bit more tech knowledge (OR this blog post, where I’ve saved you the trial and error I went through myself) to set up. There is no receiver (like with the summer infant monitor) so you’ll need to be prepared to use your Android smart phone, iPhone, iPad, and/or your computer.
Like I said, I always have my phone on my person, so that wasn’t an issue for me. It was a perk. One less piece of equipment! So I have the long version of installation (how it actually went for me), and then the short version. If you want to be amused (or just laugh at me), you can read the long version, but if you’re just looking for the nitty gritty, feel free to skip ahead.
How to install an IP Camera as a Wireless Baby Monitor for iPhone – Long Version
(Skip ahead to the Short Version if you just want the nitty gritty)
- Screw the antenna into the back of the camera. Easy peasy! I can do this, no problem! This camera setup is going to be a piece of cake!
- Plug in the ethernet cord and the power cord to the back of the camera. Woo hoo!
- Go over to your router and plug the other end of the ethernet cord into the router. Except that all the spots in the router are being used already. Unplug something else and hope it wasn’t important. Then plug in the camera.
- Plug in the power cord to any outlet. Realize there’s only one outlet nearby and it’s covered with a crazy child-proofing thing you have to pry off with two hands. Attempt to plug in the power cord but discover that the child-proofing thing only allows straight plain plugs, and nothing with a “box” on the plug end. Search for an extension cord. Grab the only one you can find, a 4000 foot outdoor bright orange extension cord. THEN plug the camera in. Yes, ridiculous.
- Put the CD in your computer’s CD drive, and open the folder that matches the type of computer you’re using (windows/mac). Select IP Camera Tool and install IPCamSetup.exe .
- Restart the computer to finish installation. So far so good!!!
- Once the computer has rebooted, click the IP Camera Tool icon on your desktop.
- The instruction booklet has a list of 3 IP addresses that show up in their tool, and one is labeled “foscamdemo” which you might think is what you’re looking for (since the brand is foscam, and the other two IPs were “anonymous”). Freak out a little bit when only one IP address shows up and it’s an Anonymous one. Plug/unplug things a few times waiting for a “foscam” IP address to show up, but then realize maybe when they were taking the screenshots, they had 3 cameras connected. Double click the “anonymous” IP address and cross your fingers.
- Success! The IP Camera login page pops up. Type in “admin” for the username, and leave the password field blank. Then click “login” for the browser you’re using. You may be prompted to enter the username/password again. It’s still admin/nothing.
- The camera monitor will load on “device settings” initially, but you can click “live video” to make sure everything is connected. Again, freak out a little bit because it appears that there is no video stream, but then realize the camera is pointing at a blank wall. Use the mouse to pan the camera around and relax when you see the miles of extension cord appear in the video.
- Decide you don’t want to have to run ethernet all over the house to connect the camera to the router all the time (and that other thing might need to be plugged back in, too), so take a deep breath and click “Device Management” and then “Wireless LAN Settings.”
- Click “scan” to find the available WIFI devices. Select your wireless network and enter your “Share Key.” Panic because what the heck is a “share key”? Enter your network’s password and hold your breath while the camera reboots. During the reboot, unplug the ethernet cable from the back of the camera.
- Become upset when the camera reboot countdown ends and an error message “The Connection Was Reset” appears where the camera info should be in the browser.
- Plug the ethernet cord back in. Go back to step 11. Admit that the “Share Key” probably isn’t the network’s password in this case. Google. Get more confused. Call the router company’s customer service line. After giving the lady all your information, hang up the phone with your face accidentally.
- Wait for the customer service woman to call back, since she JUST TOOK YOUR PHONE NUMBER. After several minutes, realize she is not calling back. Try calling again. Accidentally select “French” for the language option. Hang up. Try calling back again. Make it through the menu in English, then accidentally hang up again.
- Go to the bathroom and get some Reese’s peanut butter cups to reboot your brain.
- Look in the husband’s file box to see if there is anything about a key that came with the router. When you don’t find anything, call customer support again. The support guy, after a lot of prodding, tells you that there isn’t a separate password attached to the router by the manufacturer, and that the ONLY password is the personal one you set and use for logging in to the network on all other devices (so your password should have worked). Also find out that because your warranty has expired, they cant talk to you any more and want to send you to a third party support company who “only” wants $70 in exchange for helping you solve 3 problems within the next year. Tell them that’s ridiculous and hang up.
- Wave at yourself in the live camera view.
- Take a deep breath and return to google. Discover that the instruction booklet that came with your camera actually has different instructions than the Foscam site, for how to set up the camera wirelessly. Rejoice in new information.
- Realize the encryption method and encryption technique selection (which was supposed to be “auto-selected” when you scanned and selected your network) might be wrong, not the “share key.”
- Log into the router to find out what encryption is used. I’m sorry, but this really depends on what type of router you have. For mine, Cisco Valet, I had to type http://192.168.0.1/ into internet explorer and then enter my network name and password. I have read that http://192.168.1.1/ is also a very common one, so try those two first. If neither works, google. You might also have to use a default user/pass if you haven’t changed yours. If that’s the case, google “[your router name] default user password” and you should find some information there. My router uses WPA/WPA2 mixed-mode. The camera thought it just used WPA, which is why it didn’t work before.
- Correct the settings in the Wireless Lan Settings of the IP Camera to include the proper encryption. Then reboot the device again and unplug the ethernet cable.
- IT WILL STILL show that the network connection “has been reset” but this is because your camera now has a new IP address. So close the window you were using before, and click the IP Camera Tool icon on your desktop again. Double-click the one that appears, and log in again like you did before. Now you can view the live video WIRELESSLY!!!!
- With your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, open the app store and download IP Cam Viewer Pro by Robert Chou / NibblesnBits. It’s only $2.99 and from reading reviews, I decided it was the best one to go with. (Edit: I have since downloaded Foscam’s app, and it’s even better now.) Many IP Camera apps do NOT include the ability to listen to the sound, or to talk through the camera’s speakers with your device’s mic. This app has both. It also works with TONS of brands of IP Cameras, so if you decide on a different one, you’re still covered. AND there is an android app (which I haven’t tried obviously, but if you have a different smartphone, you can use that). The app will also support lots and lots of cameras, so you can add as many as you choose to over time, if needed.
- Setting up the camera with your app is easy. Click Options / Manage Cameras / Add Camera / IP Camera, DVR, NVR. Then you can name your camera whatever you want, select the type (this Foscam model is supported), and type in the IP address of your camera, which is what pops up when you click the IP Camera Tool icon on your computer. A quick test will confirm that you’ve entered everything correctly, and then you’re good to go! You can view the camera remotely, toggle sound, and toggle mic. You can also pinch to zoom, pan, take screen shots, and I’m sure some goodies I haven’t discovered yet. Here’s a crazy screenshot (not photo) of what it looked like on my phone when I got it all set up.
- Move it to your baby’s room (it will still work after unplugging and plugging in) in a good spot, and you’re set.
Here’s a shot of my baby after she went to bed tonight. Her room is pitch black…completely dark.
I decided to (for the first time ever) see if I could “remotely soothe” her using the microphone on my phone / speakers on the camera in her room. I clicked the mic icon to toggle it on, and told her to find her sleepy sheep or her pacifier if she wanted them, and go back to sleep. She FROZE. Disembodied-Mama-Voice can be kind of disorienting I suppose. But no more crying. She looked around for a while. I suggested again, that she lie down and “go night-night.” After a few seconds, she did this:
You guys??? I REMOTELY SOOTHED MY BABY. With my IPHONE!!!! What more could a technology-loving mama ask for?
(Note: I’m not endorsing NOT visiting your baby or meeting his or her needs. If your baby needs a new diaper or to nurse or even just a snuggle, by all means, GO IN THERE. But it doesn’t hurt to see if maybe all he or she needs is a little reassurance and a reminder that it’s nighttime.)
If I weren’t already completely sold on the IP-Camera-as-iPhone-Baby-Monitor concept, this sealed the deal. Now for the short version, in case you just want to get to the point and set yours up.
How to install an IP Camera as a Wireless Video Baby Monitor for iPhone – Short Version
- Screw the antenna into the back of the camera. Plug in the ethernet cord and the power cord to the back of the camera.
- Go over to your router and plug the other end of the ethernet cord into the router. Plug in the power cord to any outlet.
- Restart the computer to finish installation.
- Once the computer has rebooted, click the IP Camera Tool icon on your desktop.
- Double click the “anonymous” IP address that pops up.
- The camera monitor will load on “device settings” initially, but you can click “live video” to make sure everything is connected. Use the mouse to pan the camera around. Cool, right?
- Click “Device Management” and then “Wireless LAN Settings.”
- Click “scan” to find the available WIFI devices. Select your wireless network.
- In a new window or tab, log into your router to find out what encryption is used. I’m sorry, but this really depends on what type of router you have. For mine, Cisco Valet, I had to type http://192.168.0.1/ into internet explorer and then enter my network name and password. I have read that http://192.168.1.1/ is also a very common one, so try those two first. If neither works, google. You might also have to use a default user/pass if you haven’t changed yours. If that’s the case, google “[your router name] default user password” and you should find some information there. My router uses WPA/WPA2 mixed-mode.
- Back in the IP Camera Lan Settings, select the proper encryption, and your “share key” which is your network’s password (the same one you use to connect to the network from your computer, phone, or any wifi device).
- Reboot the device again and unplug the ethernet cable.
- It will show that the network connection “has been reset” but this is because your camera now has a new IP address. So close the window you were using before, and click the IP Camera Tool icon on your desktop again. Double-click the one that appears, and log in again like you did before. Now you can view the live video WIRELESSLY!!!!
- With your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, open the app store and download IP Cam Viewer Pro by Robert Chou / NibblesnBits. It’s only $2.99 and from reading reviews, I decided it was the best one to go with. (Edit: I’ve since used Foscam’s app and it’s great too.) Many IP Camera apps do NOT include the ability to listen to the sound, or to talk through the camera’s speakers with your device’s mic. This app has both. It also works with TONS of brands of IP Cameras, so if you decide on a different one, you’re still covered. AND there is an android app (which I haven’t tried obviously, but if you have a different smartphone, you can use that). The app will also support lots and lots of cameras, so you can add as many as you choose to over time, if needed.
- Setting up the camera with your app is easy. Click Options / Manage Cameras / Add Camera / IP Camera, DVR, NVR. Then you can name your camera whatever you want, select the type (this Foscam model is supported), and type in the IP address of your camera, which is what pops up when you click the IP Camera Tool icon on your computer. A quick test will confirm that you’ve entered everything correctly, and then you’re good to go! You can view the camera remotely, toggle sound, and toggle mic. You can also pinch to zoom, pan, take screen shots, and I’m sure some goodies I haven’t discovered yet.
Hopefully this post helped you decide whether using an IP Camera as a video baby monitor is right for you. And if so, maybe I saved you a little bit of legwork or trial and error when it comes to research and setup.
Some questions people have asked me are:
- Can I control whether other people see my video stream? Yes you can. I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories about nasty talking to babies over IP monitors… but no one is going to try hard to “hack into” a network to do that… they only do it if it’s easy. So make sure your home wifi network is protected with a good password AND if you set up your camera to be accessible beyond your home wifi, be sure to change the username and password from the defaults.
- Related: Can you access the camera from the 3G network? Like if you were away from home and wanted to check on the baby when with a sitter? YES you can! Lots of techy nerdy people successfully do this. I did it ONCE and was SO excited… I had tried and tried and tried, and failed and failed and failed… but when my router broke and I got a new one, it was suddenly easy to set up. So I am pretty sure hardware plays a big role in the ease (or not) of doing this. Then? We moved and couldn’t use our awesome new modem/router… because DSL wasn’t available in our new town. So we got a new one again, and I haven’t tried to set that up again yet. I’ll let you know if I do.
- Can the app be running constantly and have your phone still work as a phone and everything else? Yes. It can run in the background, and if you have the sound on, you’ll be able to hear it even with the app minimized. But it will drain the battery if you run it all night without it being plugged in, so when you go to bed, plug it into a charger and sit it up on your bedside table so you can see it (if you want).
- Can you still have sound when you aren’t viewing the camera? Yes.
Let me know if you have any other questions you’d like addressed, and I’ll let you know if I know.
If this post has helped you in any way, please consider using one of my Amazon links to purchase your camera (or make ANY purchase). It won’t cost YOU a penny more, but I’ll get a small percentage as an affiliate kickback.
It would be a really nice way of saying “Thank you for opening my eyes to the magical world that is IP Cameras as iPhone Video Baby Monitors, Emily. I appreciate you, and you are awesome.”
If you don’t need to buy anything any time soon, I also appreciate Pins, Facebook shares, and Tweets. All of that lets me know that I didn’t sit here typing for hours for nothing, and keeps me doing what I do.