Parents with a young baby know how hard it is to check your little one while he or she is sleeping. You try to quietly tip-toe into the room, but inevitably the baby senses your presence and wakes up from his slumber. One solution that'll let you watch your child without disturbing their sleep is the US$279 WiFi Baby video monitoring system.
Unlike other video monitoring systems, the WiFi Baby works over your home's WiFi network and is compatible with your iPad, iPhone and Mac. It also supports off-site viewing so you can check-in on your children when you are outside the home. We reviewed an earlier version last year, and will take a look at the latest version of the WiFi Baby in this review. This updated unit now supports WiFi N, has a microSD slot for recording and an easier setup process.
The WiFi baby is a compact camera that's 3.4 inches wide, 3.4-inches high and 1.2-inches deep. It includes a mounting bracket/stand that adds an inch or two on to the height of the unit. The bracket has an adjustable mount so you can position the camera as needed. The camera itself includes a 1/4" CMOS sensor for daytime viewing and 30 IR LEDs that provide the unit with night vision. It'll easily let you see your baby from across the room, but works best when it's a few feet away from the crib or playpen.
The WiFi Baby has an integrated WiFi 802.11 b/g/n antenna on the side of the unit. Though it doesn't look as stylish as the cameras that use a removable antenna, I prefer the design of the WiFi baby. I've owned several remote cameras with the removable antennas and they break or get lost when packing/unpacking the unit. With the WiFi Baby, the antenna is always attached and won't break unless you damage the unit by dropping it or stepping on it accidentally. Based on external appearance, the WiFi Baby appears to be a Y-Cam camera that's bundled into a parent-friendly package.
The WiFi Baby includes all the hardware and support necessary to setup the monitor in your home, but it's not the easiest process in the world. After you unpack the camera and attach it to the mount, you then need to connect the device to your Mac and configure the unit to connect to your home WiFi network. The process is straight forward for a tech-savvy user, but it can be tricky for those who are not familiar with WiFi router settings and IP addresses. WiFi Baby, however, provides detailed written instructions, video instructions and a telephone/online support service that's top notch. Customer service reps will talk you through the setup process and can even connect remotely to your computer if you require the additional assistance.
Once the WiFi Baby is connected to your home wireless network, you must install the viewer apps on your iOS device or Mac. In this review, I used an iPhone and an iPad about 90 percent of the time. The free Mac app works well, but it has some issues with audio on Lion and Mountain Lion. Lion and Mountain Lion require you to change the audio on the camera from AMR format to AAC format. The AAC format works great on the desktop, but it won't work on your iPhone or iPad. You either have to keep switching the audio format back and forth or decide to go with either the Mac or an iOS device as your primary viewing device. I decided to stick with iOS as it is much more convenient to pull out my iPhone than it is to login to my Mac.
The WiFi Baby does not ship with the software required to view the video stream on your iOS device. The company recommends the $12 Baby Monitor HD app from SunshineApps GmbH and has worked with the developer to get a profile for the WiFi Baby camera included in the app. The app was easy to configure thanks to this pre-installed profile. You can use any surveillance app to connect to WiFi Baby camera, but without a preset profile, you'll have to try a bunch of other camera profiles to get the WiFi baby to work. There's also an Android app that I tested and works equally as well as the iOS version.
The Baby Monitor HD app lets users connect to their WiFi Baby and receive both live audio and video from the camera. When in video mode, the app disables auto lock so you can have an always-on video feed. I used the video mostly in the morning when I was writing and my son was starting to wake up. I could keep the video running and watch him as he started to stir. It was convenient, but my iPhone's battery life did take a small hit.
The app also includes an audio-only mode and works in the background, so you can still listen to audio from the camera while you check your email or browse the web. The audio-only mode is also great for night time use when you want to hear your baby crying, but don't need to see him because you are sleeping.
Once again, running the app all night has an impact on battery life. To get through an 8-hour sleep, I needed to start the night with a fully-charged phone or charge my phone while I sleep. Baby Monitor HD app supports up to four cameras and includes alerts that'll notify you when your baby starts crying or making noise. The app-camera combo also supports multiple authorized users so Mom and Dad can watch the baby at the same time.
The quality of the video coming from the camera over my WiFi network was superb. The color video during the day was detailed, while the night vision was crisp and clear. The video was clear enough that I could see my child breathing. The camera also has a wide view so you can see the baby's entire crib or the corner of room in which they sleep or play.
This view almost makes up for the fact that you can't pan or tilt the camera remotely. The WiFi Baby is a fixed camera, so you can't move it when your child moves. This is a small drawback that makes the camera useful for a child that is confined in their crib, but not one that is walking all over a room.
The microphone on the WiFi Baby was sensitive enough that you could hear crying, but not breathing noises. This level of detection is perfect for parents who want to be alerted when their child wakes up or is upset, but not one that needs to monitor every breath.
You can also configure the WiFi Baby to record automatically when a noise is detected or at an interval. You can record a video or grab a still that can be save to a microSD card or to a NAS (Network Attached Storage). I found the video recording feature to be very helpful with my older daughter. She snores and we were able to use the camera's recording feature to capture her snoring. We did this for a few nights and then watched the recorded video clips to see if it was a normal snore or sleep apnea.
While most users will use the WiFi Baby to monitor their child from the comfort of home, there are times when you'll want to view your child when you are outside your home WiFi network. In these cases, the monitor can be configured to send its video signal to your mobile phone. This scenario requires you to open up a port on your router that is used to send and receive the camera feed.
WiFi Baby has detailed instructions that'll show you how to setup port forwarding on your wireless router and how to use their dynamic DNS service to detect any changes in the external IP address of your cable/DSL modem. Once again, WiFi Baby's customer service is there to walk you through the setup process and will continue to work with you until everything is working correctly.
Once you get the settings correct, the video over a 3G connection is fantastic. It's not HD quality, but it is good enough for you to watch your child while he is sleeping or playing. It's perfect for when you leave your child with a baby sitter or want to check in on things when you are away on a business trip.
The WiFi Baby is an excellent video monitoring solution for new and seasoned parents. I used it with my one-year old during naps and at night. Before I went to bed every night, I would fire up the app on my iPhone and check in on my one-year-old son to make sure he was comfortable.
When he cried at night, I would launch the app and see what was wrong. Usually it was a quick night-time cry in his sleep, but sometimes I discovered he was upset because he dropped his blanket outside the crib. It was extremely convenient to be able to check on him without going into his room. When he was sleeping, it was also comforting to be able to see him breath.
I also used it for my older kids as noted above and even used it to keep an eye on the dogs when we went away for an afternoon. This latter scenario led to the discovery that the dogs like to sleep on the couch when we go out and hop off when we pull in the driveway.
The quality of the video coming from the WiFi Baby was fantastic, but I wish you could pan and tilt the camera. I would love to be able to use it to watch my baby sleeping at night and then turn it remotely to focus on my 3-year-old while he plays in the room. It's a trade-off, though, as competing cameras that support pan/tilt don't have the high-quality optics of the WiFi Baby.
The WiFi Baby video monitoring system is available for $279. This price includes free tech support and free shipping. It does not include the iOS or Android apps, which are an extra expense. The WiFi Baby is an expensive video monitoring system, especially when compared to standalone surveillance cameras like those from Dropcam and Loftek. This extra cost is likely due to WiFi baby's customer service, which is superior to the customer support offered by other camera manufacturers.Pros
- Quality video and audio feed.
- Setup is made easier by excellent customer support.
- Compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and the Mac.
- Can setup the camera to record automatically, which is great for diagnosing sleep problems.
- Apps are an extra cost.
- Camera is fixed and can't be tilted or panned remotely.
Any parents who want to keep a close eye on their children while they sleep or play.