Thursday, April 27, 2006

Keeping an eye on the little ones with IP web cams

Our new house is a bit bigger than the last with our Master bed room further away from our children's bedrooms than before.

It caused a bit of concern that we might not hear them at night if there's a problem.

To address this we broke out the old baby monitors. They're not very good. I think they operate at the 900 MHz spectrum, which was sufficiently unattractive quality for most consumers to abandon 900 MHz cordless phones in favor of 2400 MHz and 5.8 GHz.

Since our house is networked, I had been considering installing network based IP cameras to allow us to look in on them.

I visited Radioshack and to find IP cameras that might work.
One of the most impressive was the Panasonic bl-c30a, but it's about $300 each and I need at least two. It's wireless and wired with motion detection, which is pretty nifty. Most of the IP based web-cams include their own mini-webserver. I'm not sure how I'll manage security through my router regarding that, but there will be a way. Maybe the DMZ?

Anyway, I'd like to avoid spending $300 each. The older version is wired, not wireless, but that will do fine for me. It's available at Radio Shack for $199.00 with a $100 rebate - pretty good deal!! I'm going to pick one up at a local store if I can return it (after testing it out).

What I did end up buying was the Mobicam Handheld monitoring System from Costco. It's $129.99 including shipping + sales tax. It's a little different than most IP cameras. Actually it may not even be an IP camera. This is what I like about it:
  • It operates wirelessly over 2.4 GHz
  • Has a receiver with a 1.5" screen. This way you can carry the receiver around the house and grandma doesn't need to learn how to surf to a website. Also, I don't need to setup a laptop in the kitchen while the children are sleeping.
  • Has 10' Infrared function (none of the other cameras say they do this)
  • Voice activated video (such as when the children cry)
  • Portable (can take it when we travel - BIG plus)
  • dual power (AC & battery - again great for travel)
  • can add up to 2 additional cameras to the same receiver
  • has optional PC software and adapter (this I'll need to test out)
  • has costco's unconditional return policy

What it may not have is the ability to zoom and pan remotely like the Panasonic.

I'll buy both and compare them.

In my dream world, I'd like to have a complete video security installation covering the front and back of the house, driveway, garage, sides, children's rooms and entry way. Then again, that would be quite expensive.

Costco has a really nifty Q-See product that will do most of what I want, but it's about $1600 and is more of a want than a need.

Has anyone else setup a child monitoring or home security system?

Please share your thoughts and experience.

Also, ethically, do you think it's right to monitor your young children at night?

Have a great Friday,


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