Baby Monitors – There’s an app for that

Recently I sang praises of the Summer Infant Babel Band. It is compact and light weight, the vibration mode is handy if you are trying to be social and still keep tabs on your baby, and the touch to listen is a nice feature. I still feel the Babel Band is perfect for naps, but recently the Wee Baby T has been sleeping longer at night, and the battery just can’t keep up. We needed a new solution, and didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars.

But then I had a thought – Why don’t we just put my wife’s phone in the nursery. Use it to call my phone, and leave my phone on mute?  Instant, portable baby monitor.  While this works when we are both at home it has it’s limitations – if we are away from our home calling area the long distance charges can add up, any texts or emails that we receive overnight will make noise in the nursery, and having a phone call run for 10 hours can cause the phone to overheat and shut off.  The premise was sound, but we needed help with the execution.

That’s when I found Baby Monitor All-In-One (Android only).  After trying the demo I contacted to development team to arrange a test of the full version, and I’m quite pleased.

Using the same google account, K and I signed in to the app store with 3 devices and installed the monitor with a single product activation.  The app supports up to 1 baby unit and 3 parent units for any connection, so my wife and I can both listen and watch what is going on in the nursery while we are in different rooms.  Connecting over Bluetooth or Wifi is a breeze, and the connections are handled by the app itself.

Setup:

Using a selfie stick and some strategically placed zip-ties we mounted the ‘baby unit’ away from the crib and tiny hands.  Securing the power supply means there is no concern about the battery running flat overnight, and the selfie stick and old cell phone set up means we can place the phone exactly where we need it, turn it on, and leave it running.  Our overheating problem isn’t an issue with the Baby Monitor All-In-One app, we have run this set up for 4 days now and the phone has never been warm to the touch.

So we’ve got the app downloaded, the rig set up, and the little one down for a nap.  Let’s quietly discuss the app itself so as not to wake the baby.  The Baby Monitor All-In-One app has 2 modes – Nanny mode, which detects sound while you are away and will call or text a number if it is triggered, or Walkie Talkie mode which requires at least 2 phones paired together and provides real time audio or video transmission. The app has an automatic audio shut-off if the room goes quiet for more than a set timeframe (established by the user), and the parent unit controls all of the features of the baby unit, including sensitivity, baby speaker volume, camera, and light.  For this review we only tested the Walkie Talkie mode.

Audio:

While delayed slightly, the audio comes across five-by-five (military speak for loud and clear). When setting up the monitor we used our BabelBand to determine the sensitivity adjustment.  Using the slider we could easily adjust the sensitivity so the app would trigger at the same volume as our existing monitor.  From the parent device we adjusted the volume on the Baby unit, which can play music that you have stored on that phone, and you can also talk to your child from the Parent device.  There is a mute button on the Parent device which helps avoid feedback when you go into the nursery to check on your little one with your phone still in your pocket, a feature sorely lacking on the BabelBand.

Video:

This depends largely on the device you are using for the Baby unit.  The Baby Monitor All-In-One supports night-vision mode for phones with an infra-red camera, sadly our Samsung Galaxy S5 does not have that feature.  When it’s dark in the room we have to rely on the audio.  But wait, you can turn on the flash!  With the press of a button the entire room lights up with the power of a thousand suns.  You can set the maximum time that the flash can stay on, but it won’t matter much, if you turn the light on your child will probably wake up thinking it is day time.  I can see this being a handy feature for diaper changes, but not so much for checking in on your little one.

Security:

A primary concern when it comes to video monitors is the security of the system – who is watching your baby sleep, or listening in?  I asked the developer:

“All the communication remains private on your wi-fi network.
I designed the app for our personal use and thinking of our needs, and later when it was fully tested I decided to publish it. The app is designed to be rock solid, reliable, simple and functional. Configurable but without bells and whistles that can produce possible bugs. For me, to watch a baby is something serious, and as a parent, I think that if you care for a baby you need to stay near him, so I didn’t consider sending data over internet using intermediate servers.”

Using Bluetooth is also an option.  The only problem with Bluetooth is a reduced range depending on building materials and the layout of your home (Bluetooth typically has a range of 30 meters).

The app also has an indicator to let you know how many devices are connected at any point in time.  If you see there are 3 parent devices connected, but you only have 2 phones active you can re-set the connection to cut off the intrusive device.

To increase security further, this app can only be accessed over the network that it is paired on.  This means I can’t go in to work and log in to the monitor, I can only use it when connected to Bluetooth or the same WiFi network.

False alarms:

As a safety feature, the Baby Monitor All-In-One will notify the parent device in the event of a disconnection by triggering your phones vibrate until the devices reconnect. This is great during the day, you wouldn’t want to be doing laundry or watching TV in the other room thinking everything was secure and safe only to find out that you haven’t been connected for the last half an hour.

The downside of this feature is the potential for disconnections in the middle of the night.  We have been woken up at least once every other night with a disconnect alarm.  While it is easy to reconnect, it would be nicer not to be woken up in the first place. On the other hand we were woken up with the low-battery alarm on the BabelBand, so this may just be a net neutral issue.

You can never have too many zip ties. Keep those cables neat and away from curious fingers!

Synopsis:

Overall I think the Baby Monitor All-In-One is a great alternative to a $200 video baby monitor.  It is ideal for travel and has all the features of a video monitor. The disconnections can be a little frustrating, but it’s better than being unaware that you aren’t monitoring your little one.  I would strongly suggest this app for the budget conscious parent.  I genuinely believe the shortfalls of the system is the hardware, and not the app.  As technology improves this will become more effective.

Giveaway:

Want to give it a try?  There is of course the Demo version, which enables 15 minutes of continuous monitoring to experience the functionality, but the developer has provided me with free activation codes for lucky winners of our caption contest!  Just comment below with your caption to the below photo for your chance to win.  We will be picking the winners to share on social media on March 17th, so be sure to follow Dadsense on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to see if you won!

Baby Monitor
Caption me to win a full version of Baby Monitor All-In-One!

Happy monitoring, and good luck out there!

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