My wife and I are in the midst of 'sleep training' our daughter, trying our best to get her accustomed to taking adequate naps during the day. This usually involves going through the daytime nap routine, moving her to her crib, and then leaving the room. This is
usually immediately followed by crying for a period of time, which we pick up on our baby monitor, but then there is silence, blessed silence! But because our baby monitor is audio only, we are left wondering - is she really asleep or is she just lying there, staring off into space? And if, 45 minutes later, we hear some noises, is that Alice rousing from her nap or is she just shifting around in her sleep? Do we go check up on her and risk waking her from a light slumber? Oh, to be a new parent.
If capitalism is to be any guide, it is clear that we are not the only parents who would benefit from a video monitor. There are several video baby monitor models on the market, and there are countless wireless surveillance cameras available, from low-grade wireless web cams to highend, night-vision security cameras that would not look out of place affixed to the exterior of a bank. But what fun is buying something when you can spend half a day jerry-rigging your own solution? If you have a spare computer, a wireless network, and a web cam you can build your own BabyCam!
The BabyCam my wife and I built is composed of the following hardware:
- A spare laptop that was bought circa 2001.
- A Sony PCMCIA wireless network card that had been previously used with this laptop, as this laptop is so dated that it does not have integrated WiFi support.
- An old Logitech WebCam 4000 that I picked up a few years back and had sitting in the closet.
To get the BabyCam going, simply hook up the web cam to the computer and position them in the baby's room as desired. To broadcast the images captures by the web cam to computers in other rooms (or, potentially, any computer on the Internet), you'll need some software. I use Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9, which is free and can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/download/AllDownloads.aspx. Once you have the software installed it's pretty easy to get it going - you set it up to broadcast a live recording, specify the video and audio source, and choose to have the broadcast 'pull from the encoder' (rather than setting up a Media Server).
That's all there is to it! Once you've got the broadcast going, you can view it from any other computer in your home network by opening Windows Media Player, going to File --> Open URL and entering the appropriate URL, which, by default, will be http://machineName:8080, although you can configure what port is used for the broadcast. And if you are interested in sharing BabyCam with the world, you will need either a static IP address or a service like DynDNS and then configure your router to properly forward incoming requests on a specific port to the BabyCam computer.
There's a great step-by-step guide on setting up the Windows Media Encoder software along with tips on how to open the BabyCam to Internet-wide access at: Setting Up a Live Webcam Feed.