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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Make Your Own Baby Monitor

The baby monitor my brothers gave me a couple of years ago died, the battery on the screen no longer charging. The cost of a replacement is $240, and I blanched at that. It's 2014, these things should be dirt cheap.

I bought a Tenvis JPT3815W, which is a wired/wifi internet camera. For about $45, this thing boasts night vision, streaming to Android, Chrome, iOS, and just about everything except IE. (For whatever reason, I couldn't get the ActiveX plugin to work --- this is what happens when companies don't hire Silicon Valley engineers to write software) There's no audio, but that's ok: our 2 year old is quite capable of screaming loud enough for us to hear from anywhere in the house. It also has the advantage of now enabling us to stream the video output outside the house, as long as our smartphone data plans can take the hit.

Setup is a bit of a pain. First, you have to plug in the device into your wired LAN router. Then, you run the wizard and tell it the SSID and password to your wi-fi network. After that, you're good to go. There's an LED light on the device that can't be turned off in software, but electrical tape taped over the LED does just fine.

One item that the baby monitor had that the Tenvis doesn't is a temperature sensor. I replaced it with a $15 wireless thermometer meant for outdoor temperature reporting. Nothing says you have to put the outdoor temperature sensor outdoors! It works fine, and tough the reviews for this unit are mediocre, you'll see that they're all because the temperature sensor isn't waterproof. Not a problem if you use it indoors.

All in all, I'm much happier with the new setup than with the old one. For one thing, since we have plenty of smartphones and tablets lying around the house, we can use our favorite devices rather than passing the old monitor around. Secondly, once the toddler grows up, this can be re-purposed as a security camera for the house. Finally, being able to get at the video from any computer is awesome, since you can monitor your kid while writing a blog post, for instance. And of course, it's $200 cheaper than the dedicated units.

The only way the dedicated units beat this setup is if you don't already have wifi in the home and don't have smartphones/tablets/laptops already sitting around.

Highly recommended.

P.S. Happy New Year!

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