wifi baby monitor success   -   November 29, 2011

Our first child is due in just a few weeks, and one of the things on my todo list was selecting a baby monitor. Looking at the state-of-the-art, I cringed at the idea of buying a device that was going to have only a single viewing device, have substandard range, and interfere with my wifi network. Why not just use a wifi camera instead? With a wifi camera I could get perfect reception anywhere on my wifi (or the world), and view it on any device in my home. One failed attempt and some advice from my gadgeteer advisors, and I now have the perfect at-home wifi baby monitor solution!

My setup is built around the $89 Foscam FI8918W. I ordered it directly from foscam.us, as the company warns that some Amazon listings for the camera are fake clones. There is wild variation among webcams, so be careful. I tried another camera before the Foscam and it was a bit of a mess, requiring ActiveX to do anything (even configure).

I plugged the Foscam into my ethernet network and booted it up. I checked my wireless router device-list to find out what IP address it came up on, but it also includes some software to "find" the camera on the network. Once I had the IP address, I typed it into my browser at was greeted with a nice plain-HTML web UI to configure. Perfect.

Next I configured the Wifi configuration for my network. It only took a few moments for it to scan and find my wireless network. I typed in my password, and let the router reboot. I was confused at first, as I expected it to be on the same IP address. However, their wifi and ethernet interfaces have different MAC addresses. If you didn't understand what that means, it means that the camera gets a different IP address on wifi and wired networking. A moment in my router device list (or the "camera finder" program) and I was back in business over the wifi network. I added a static DHCP entry to my router so the camera will always come up on the same address when it boots at home. Another option would be to set a static IP address on the camera itself.

Once I had the camera up on wifi, I turned to my mobile devices. We're a multi-vendor household, so we have an iPad, Xoom, and Kindle Fire, in addition to my Droid3 and my wife's iPhone4. It took me a few more minutes of research to figure out which apps to use on each device and get them all configured and installed.

On the iOS devices, I'm using "Baby Monitor Foscam", which is a fantastic implementation of what you want when using the camera as a baby monitor. It has an auto-mute function so you don't have to hear the low-hum of background audio. It even has an audio alarm that can sound to alert you when the mute disables. It can play audio and alerts in the background, even when you put the phone to sleep, though I'm sure that kills your battery. I don't see any way to toggle it other than going into settings.

On Android, I'm using "IP Cam Viewer Basic" by Robert Chou. It's not nearly as pretty or nice as Baby Monitor Foscam, but it does the job. I wish it had the auto-mute feature, maybe a future version will.

Now I can use any PC, or any of four mobile devices, to view a crystal clear picture of the baby room anywhere within my home wifi-range. A little more time configuring router port-forwarding and external Dynamic-DNS and I'll be able to access the camera from anywhere in the world. So much better than buying a $300 junky baby monitor that would *interfere* with my wifi network. I'm up in the air about how to handle baby-monitoring while traveling. I could get a consumer video baby monitor, but it's so tempting just to bring a Foscam AND a wifi router. Half the times we travel I wish I had my own router to plug in anyhow.

Posted by jeske at November 29, 2011 10:34 AM