The “Smarten Up” series is designed to help you understand the comforts and ease of bringing smarter technology into your home and using it to your advantage. This is a multiple part blog looking at the benefits that can be provided for all ages, from baby to adult.

In this edition of the “Smarten Up” series, we take a look at baby monitors. Baby Monitors have come very far along in just a very short time and the technology of 10-20 years ago have made way to much more sophisticated, yet easy to use products.

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Why use a baby monitor?

Baby monitors are still a great addition to any home or townhouse with a lot of space separating rooms. You may not need one if you live in a smaller condo or apartment (since you’ll usually just be one wall over) but it’s always best to have one for larger spaces. A monitor allows you to react quicker to your baby when they wake up or begin to call for you and it really helps develop a good bond of trust early. A monitor will also be a good way for you not to rush to the baby’s bedside for every little noise since they may just be in the middle of a dream. I’ve been told many times by my parents that they didn’t have any sort of baby monitor for me and my grandmother would constantly be rushing to my room at the sound of any noise. Sorry grandma.

Video Baby Monitors vs. Audio Baby Monitors

Here’s another great question that I’ve been asked by a lot of my friends expecting their first children: Did we use a video baby monitor or just an audio one? We personally used (and still use) a video baby monitor and I wouldn’t look back if faced with the option. Let me explain why.

Something that I realized very quickly after becoming a parent was how much noise a baby makes when they are asleep. Between all the grunts, groans, moans and loud breaths, it was (and still is) really hard to distinguish when the baby’s asleep or when he or she is awake if you have no visual frame of reference. My toddler has now started talking in her sleep too (the other night I heard her muttering something about her bowling set) and without a video to peer in on, I’d be left in the dark about whether she was awake or not.

Baby monitors are also a great way to be able to keep an arm’s length from the baby while staying connected to them. Having a monitor at your disposal will allow you to tend to your housework, go outside to do gardening or whatever else you need to do without worrying that the baby’s awake while you’re out. I live in a townhouse where my home office is the farthest point away from my daughter’s room. Without a monitor, I wouldn’t be able to hear her calling for me once woken up from a nap. With one, I can not only hear what’s happening, but I can even push a button to speak into the intercom to tell her that I’m coming.

Baby Monitors for the 21st century

While I’ve touted the benefits of video baby monitors, I did not have a “smart” baby monitor. We were gifted a standard, by the book video monitor which is good, but not the one I would have chosen.

When selecting a baby monitor, it’s always best not to shop on cost. Don’t grab the first baby monitor that looks or sounds good and figure out what you want from your monitor. There’s a good reason why Baby Monitor A is $100 and Monitor B is $250. Be careful that you aren’t sacrificing some really good features over a few bucks. Chances are that your choice is something that you’ll be using for a few years after purchase, so in averaging out the cost per use, hopefully you’ll see that it’s a pretty sound investment.

If I had my choice, I would have taken something like this Motorola MBP853 3.5″ Screen Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor. There are far more things that I’m concerned about as a parent than just whether baby is asleep, and a monitor like this addresses those concerns.

The best thing about having a “smart” baby monitor is that it can offer you more than just a look at what’s happening inside the crib and cooperates with much more than just the communication between its base unit and satellite screen. Smart baby monitors expand on this idea and can become a multipurpose device for use far after you no longer need it for baby.

Take this Motorola model, for example. Once you no longer need it for the purpose of nap and sleep monitoring, you can expand to add up to 3 more cameras to the setup in order to keep an eye on things in the house. This means that you could stick an additional camera in the playroom or out in the yard for the kids and yourself to watch and/or communicate back and forth if you’re, say, in the kitchen while they’re not.

One major worry of early infancy is a baby’s inability to sweat and control their own body temperatures. Babies typically don’t develop sweat glands until they’re around 3 months old. If you’re worried about the room temperature, the Motorola MBP853 can tell you how hot or cold it is in there. You can even pair this information with a baby wearable like Monbaby to monitor your baby’s exact temperature and comfort level.

One of the problems I’ve found with having a simple monitor is the fact that it only has one video monitor. I realize complaining about this is one of the first world problemest of first world problems, but when you’ve accidentally lost it in a mound of laundry or just misplaced it, it would be nice to have an easy backup. Just about all of us have smartphones, tablets or both. A good smart monitor may have a partner app that works in conjunction with your mobile device in order to give you an additional monitor (or two) if it’s needed. In Motorola’s case, the Hubble App easily turns your tablet or smartphone into a monitoring device itself. This will come in handy if you can’t find the included monitoring screen or if the battery dies. You may laugh now at the thought of your baby sleeping long enough so that the monitoring screen dies but it happens eventually.

You may also choose not to go the route of a dedicated baby monitor either. Perhaps you want to take a technological jump and go the route of an IP Camera instead or something that’s a bit hybridized. A good in between would be something like the Withings Home Wi-Fi Indoor 1080p IP Camera with Air Quality Sensors. It doesn’t measure room temperatures but it does measure air quality on the fly and has lullaby functionality carried over from the old Withings smart baby monitor released many years ago. Air Quality is a really important part of a young baby’s development whether it is keeping them away from certain toxins or even keeping excess pet dander. Withings Home can monitor the quality of the air in baby’s and notify you of any problems. You will need to bring your own monitoring device, however. Since Withings is an IP Camera, it relies on your smartphone or tablet in order to push results and show you video.

A baby monitor is a great idea for keeping an eye on your little one while they sleep and whether you choose to go the traditional route or a newer route, you’ll see that it will add great piece of mind to your home.

Other installments in the “Smarten Up” series include:

Smarten Up Series: Maintaining Optimal Temperature While You Sleep

Matt Paligaru
Emerging Technology
A technology nut at heart, I'm always interested in what makes our lives easier and helps us tick day to day. Whether Home Automation, toys, games (board and video) or everything in between, I'm always looking around the corner to see what drives us in today's day and age.