In this article, I provide an extensive guide on how baby monitors work including detailed explanations on different technologies for both video and audio baby monitors. By the end of this, we’ll have answered the common question of ‘how do baby monitors work’
Technology has seen baby monitor technology progress since the first Zenith Nurse baby monitor was invented in 1937. This post has a detailed explanation of how baby monitors works.
Most baby monitors you’ll find in the market in 2020 are digital in that they rely on 1900 Hz to 5000 MHz frequency bands to transfer signals from the baby unit to the parent unit. Before the digital-tech age, monitors and other communication equipment relied on analog signals and there are still a few analog baby monitors in the market. You can read about our top analog baby monitors here.
Here are helpful subtopics that you can use to navigate this detailed post:
- How audio baby monitors work
- How WiFi baby monitors work
- How baby breathing monitors work
- How baby movement monitors work
- How wireless baby monitors work
- How Motorola baby monitor works
- How does a Miku baby monitor work
- How does a baby monitor app work
- How does Angelcare baby monitor work
- How Cloud Baby monitors work
- How Owlet baby monitor works
- How does a baby does baby monitor work on a cruise on cruise ship?
- How Nest Cam work as a baby monitor
- How night-vision baby monitors work
Why You Need One
With our fast-paced work-driven lifestyles, bringing up a child while meeting our day-to-day responsibilities requires an ability to juggle many things at once. We are literally required to be everywhere all at once and that can bring a lot of stress. How can one then ensure a proper balance of taking care of their baby while making sure they get enough rest or even catch up on emails while at home? Luckily, we live in an era with superior communication tools that can alleviate some of the demands. When you have a baby, you can equip their crib with modern tools that allow for remote monitoring while you catch up with some work around your home or in the office even.
How audio baby monitors work
A baby monitor is a radio system used remotely to listen in or to watch the baby remotely. They can be either audio monitors or video monitors. An audio monitor consists of a transmitter unit with a microphone and is placed near the baby. It transmits the sound through radio waves to a receiving unit with a speaker, usually carried or placed near the parent or caregiver. Below is a picture representation of VTech DM221, the best-selling audio baby monitor in 2020.
Audio baby monitors rely on DECT 6.0 technology and FHSS technology which use 1.9 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequency respectively.
The video below will give you an idea of how audio baby monitors work:
A baby monitor that has a video camera and receiver is also referred to as a baby cam. These monitors allow you to see and hear your baby. Others also allow two-way communication, which enables you to speak to your baby. For a video baby monitor, the camera unit or baby unit is placed in the baby’s nursery and it takes pictures, videos, and audios. These signals are transmitted by the camera unit to the parent unit which could be a dedicated screen or a baby monitor smartphone app. Most Non-Wifi Baby monitors rely on a dedicated screen/parent unit similar to the one shown below:
You can use the parent unit shown above to view the videos and photos of your baby that are being transmitted by the camera mounted on the baby’s nursery. Here is a picture of Infant Optics’ camera:
In stores, you may see a set of baby camera which consists of a camera and the parent unit similar to the one below:
Distance: how far does a baby monitor work?
WiFi baby monitors cover an unlimited range, but other monitors generally cover between 600 and 1500 feet, with some claiming up to 2000 feet in an open field.
How WiFi baby monitors work
A WiFi baby monitor is a wireless device that connects a baby camera to the parent unit using your WiFi connection. As long as you have a good internet connection or local WiFi network and the baby monitor is within the WiFi range, you should be able to video stream from anywhere.
You need the following to use as receivers of the signal from the baby unit :
Many WiFi monitors in the market are compatible with smartphones. So all you do is download the app on your phone, and you will be able to see your baby from anywhere in the world remotely. You can also allow access to other parties in different locations to see your baby.
- An app to connect the baby unit to the internet
The best thing about WiFi monitors is that it accesses the baby unit from anywhere in the world, so you don’t need to be within a specific range. It also has the unique advantage of giving you the ability to watch your baby from your mobile device, tablet, or iPad, or computer.
Concerning security, you can enforce security on your WiFi monitor by ensuring the connection has a protected password at all times as well as keeping your computer firmware up-to-date.
On the other hand, WiFi monitors also have some problems; the signal can drop in certain areas of your home or become jammed or slowed due to being in a highly-populated area and you are sharing the same network. These problems could affect your baby monitor signal strength. You can overcome this problem by connecting to a proprietary signal.
How baby breathing monitors work
A breathing monitor works by detecting breathing movements on your baby’s chest and abdomen. If breathing stops for longer than the pre-set time (usually 20 seconds), it raises an alarm sound and a flashing light as well.
How baby movement monitors work
A baby movement monitor has powerful sensor pads, so when it is placed under the crib mattress, it will detect every movement the baby makes. It raises the alarm if the movement stops for more than 20 seconds.
How wireless baby monitors work
Baby monitors typically use a wireless system. This system has three categories, namely: FHSS, Digital enhanced cordless telecommunication (DECT), and WiFi. Both FHSS and DECT technologies do not use WiFi to relay audio and visual signals from the baby unit to the parent unit.
RF baby monitors use radio frequencies to transmit audio and visual information. However, they suffer interferences from neighboring devices on the same frequency. They also are not secure and can be easily hacked.
DECT baby monitors operate similarly to RFs, but on a unique wireless protocol on a rare frequency. Their audio and visual signal is much clearer than the RFs because they do not experience interferences but are also unsecured.
WiFi baby monitors transmit the audio and video to your parent device (s) through your home network. They have the strongest security features and are the most reliable.
You connect to your existing wireless network, which enables you to use your phone, tablet, or computer as the receiver. Some monitors send notifications and alarms to your devices to alert you if there has been a change in your baby’s nursery.
How Motorola baby monitor works
Motorola has a wide range of baby monitors including audio monitors using radio frequency, Digital monitors, and WiFi monitors.
The Best Motorola monitors feature high-definition WiFi cameras connected to your parent monitor, smartphone, tablet, or computer. The monitors give high-quality video output with zoom, pan, and tilt camera features. Additionally, some models come with multiple cameras so you can monitor more rooms.
They also support two-way communication so that you can talk or soothe your baby, and the night vision to help you see your baby at night. The pricier ones have the latest security technology with 256-bit encryption that is extremely difficult to hack.
How does a Miku baby monitor work
Miku baby monitor is a WiFi monitor that tracks your baby’s sleep and breathing. It consists of a 1080HD camera with speaker and microphone (baby unit), and a parent unit which is the Miku app downloaded on your smartphone or android device.
The camera has a bird-eye view, so it works best when mounted on the wall above your baby’s crib. It captures your baby’s breathing, sound, and movement without any wires or wearable devices using Miku’s SensorFusion technology. This information is then streamed live in video and audio. Dual HD speakers make your two-way communication audio powerful and clear. It also has a night vision function, to help you see the baby in the dark.
The baby unit communicates to the Miku mind app, which you can download from iTunes and Google Playstore. So long as you have the app, you can get real-time information regarding your baby’s breathing, sounds, sleep and movements, and the humidity and temperature of your baby’s nursery.
How does a baby monitor app work
You download baby monitor apps from stores such as iTunes and Google Play Store and install them on your smartphone, iPad, tablet, or computer. The app connects the baby unit to the internet, so you can watch your baby remotely from any location so long as you have a reliable internet connection, and the baby monitor is within the WiFi range.
How does Angelcare baby monitor work
Angelcare baby monitor is a reliable monitor for tracking your baby’s breathing movements. It consists of three components: a camera, a handheld monitor, and a breathing-sensor pad.
The monitor is the parent unit you will be carrying with you. It is a 4.3 inch LCD with a 480mp resolution. It has buttons on either side for adjustment functions such as zoom, talk-back, pan, and volume and menu navigation, a microphone and LED indicators for sound, movement, and power. It supports one or two cameras and sensor pads, which can be bought separately as a kit.
The camera is the nursery unit and comes paired with the monitor. It uses AC power, so you need to place it near an electric outlet on its stand, set it on a tabletop, or mount it on the wall. Whichever the case, ensure it is at least 3 feet from the crib and sensor pad. The camera has panning and zoom features, and also displays room temperature reading under its lens.
The breathing sensor pad is placed under the baby’s mattress at the center, on a solid surface. The signal from the sensor pad is communicated to the camera unit using a low energy technology similar to Bluetooth Low Energy. It is magnified a hundred times more with an amplifier to be processed by the parent unit. This way, the parent unit can capture every movement your baby makes as generated on the surface of the mattress. If breathing movement stops for 20 seconds, the alarm is sounded.
Angelcare monitor offers uninterrupted monitoring based on the settings you select. To make the most of your monitor, you can choose video, sound, and movement monitoring and make adjustments for daytime or night. In some Angelcare baby monitors models, you can get movement activity and room temperature reports for the previous two months.
Another thing you can appreciate about this monitor is that it’s wireless, so it eliminates safety threats that would result from cords being in your baby’s crib.
How Cloud Baby monitors work
Cloud Baby Monitor is an app that can be used on many smart devices such as iPad, Android, Mac, iPod touch, Apple TV, and Apple Watch. You get notified about your baby’s activities with noise and motion alerts. It also gives you live video with crystal clear audio.
Cloud Baby Monitor comes with the following impressive features:
- Live video streaming using WiFi or Bluetooth
- Unlimited range coverage using 3G, LTE or any WiFi network
- Two-way video talk
- Night Light
- Alerts for noise and motion
- White noise and lullabies player
- Switch your parent device into night clock when you turn off video when sleeping
- Ability to have multiple parent devices
- Ability to monitor multiple children from one parent device at the same time
- Notification when battery in either unit gets low
- Apple watch app to watch live video and receive alerts for noise and motion on your wrist.
- Signal quality indicator to always help you get the best reception.
To use Cloud Baby Monitor, you start by purchasing and downloading the Cloud Baby Monitor app from App Store, Mac App Store, or Google Play to two or more of your Apple or Android devices.
Choose one device to place in your baby’s nursery and select Baby Unit on it. Select the Parent Unit for the device that you will be taking with you.
The baby unit will be using your home WiFi to send live video and audio to your parent Unit. Make sure you have a reliable WiFi network to get the best reception, although Bluetooth will still do if your location does not have a WiFi network.
Lastly, all you need to do is open your app on your parent device and enjoy high-quality live video and audio of your baby and alerts no matter where you are in the world. You also get to talk or soothe your baby using the two-way audio function.
How Owlet baby monitor works
Owlet baby monitors surpass most of the other baby monitors in the market. Owlet has gone a step further not only to enable you to see and listen to your baby but also to monitor your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels from your smartphone. Using these reports, a parent can understand her baby’s general health and have less worry and better sleep.
Owlet baby monitor features Owlet Smart Sock and camera. The Owlet Smart Sock is a wearable device that has a smart sensor placed inside of the fabric sock that snugly wraps around the baby’s foot.
The smart Sensor uses the power of pulse oximetry and Bluetooth combined, to measure and communicate your baby’s vital signs. A pulse oximeter is a clip that normally is put on your finger at the hospital when the nurse checks your blood oxygen levels. It shines a light through your skin to measure the amount of light absorbed by your red blood cell, depending on how much oxygen is bound to them.
Using pulse oximetry, the Owlet Smart Sock tracks your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels and sends real-time reports to your phone and Base Station, by Bluetooth technology.
The Base Station has different notification designs, including notifications when heart rate and oxygen levels go outside the normal range.
A Smart Sock unit comes with 3 fabric socks designed to grow with your baby until he is 18 months old or weighs 25 pounds. The socks should be interchanged between the right and left foot daily, and hand washed with cold water after use.
Although many customers have found Owlet Smart Sock reliable and accurate, the information should just assist you in keeping track of your baby’s well-being and is not intended to be used as a medical device or replace a medical device. You can read further on how a pulse oximeter works on the Owlet Sock here.
How does a baby does baby monitor work on a cruise on cruise ship?
You can use a baby monitor on a cruise ship, but it is very tricky and may be unreliable, depending on the type of monitor you are using. Monitors that use radio signals can be affected by the following factors on a ship: poor reception due to ship structure, variations in signal strength, and monitor picking signals. As a result, they cannot be trusted to give reliable monitoring.
Below are some tips from parents who have used baby monitors onboard successfully:
- Using WiFi baby monitors
Most cruising ships have a guest network where passengers connect to check daily programs, account charges, restaurant menus, etc. The guest network connects to the local network of the ship. Because of this simple reason, using your WiFi baby monitor will keep you connected in all areas of the ship whether your baby monitor is audio or video-based. That said, some WiFi baby monitors reject open cruise lines due to security reasons. We advise you to check your baby monitor’s requirements before embarking on your cruising and check with the cruise line also.
- Using baby monitoring app on your smartphone or android device
If you do not own a WiFi baby monitor, you can download a baby monitor app on your smartphone, iPad, or tablet. Have the app on two devices; one to keep in your baby’s room and the other one to carry with you. As long as you keep your devices connected to the ship’s local network, you will be receiving your baby’s video monitoring from anywhere on the ship. The best thing is that with more devices, you can have multiple baby units or parent units.
How Nest Cam work as a baby monitor
Nest Cam is a hi-tech gadget designed to be used as an indoor camera. But because it has some similar features to those in baby monitors, some parents have also used Nest Cam as a baby monitor, but with a set of challenges too. It streams HD video and audio to your smartphone or tablet using the Nest App with zoom, pan, and tilt capabilities. It also has high-quality audio with a two-way communication function so you can talk to your baby. Infrared light so you can see your baby in the dark, and ability to measure room humidity and temperature at an extra cost for the kit.
The Nest Cam also detects movement and sends alerts using your smartphone’s push notification. The best thing is that it creates video recordings you can peek through to catch up on what your baby has been up to.
As we said earlier, Nest cam has its limitations since it’s not a dedicated baby monitor. But, it can be a great choice for parents who love hi-tech gadgets that can be used for various purposes, including using Alexa to connect with Amazon Prime and Google assistant.
How night-vision baby monitors work
Baby monitors with night vision use near-infrared light. It is a light that cannot be seen by the human eye, and it occurs in the wavelength of 2500 to 750 nm. It got its name from being part of the infrared spectrum that is close to the visible light spectrum of 760- 380nm.
Near-infrared light is produced by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that create light when electricity passes through the LED wires. Baby monitors with night vision are set to turn on the LEDs automatically when ambient light in the room decreases to a specific level. The near-infrared amplifies the ambient light and creates images based on that light. This way, baby monitors can clearly see everything in the dark. Near-infrared light cannot create images if the room is pitch black because it has to have some ambient light to work. Luckily, the amount of light required to produce a good camera image is very low and will not bother your sleeping baby.
So, the LEDs produce light that is sufficient for the camera in the baby monitor to see and create an image. The image created is sent to the iOS device the parent is using.
I am Ashley Davis, a mom of three kids and the editor here at MotherhoodHQ (formerly 10BabyGear). I have been a parent since 2011 and have been doing full-time consulting as a baby sleep expert since 2019. When I am not researching or testing the next baby gear hitting the market, you’ll find me teaching my toddlers a trick or two – especially over the last few months with the lockdown. I hope you’ll find my guides and reviews helpful as you make your next purchase decision. If you have any questions, you can reach me at email@example.com.