Along with bundles of diapers, gallons of milk and the ubiquitous baby stroller, a smart baby monitor should go next on your shopping list.
Well, if you’re a tech-loving smart home fanatic, a WiFi-enabled baby monitor is a must-have. We touched upon this in our recent look at how smart homes can help parents. Today it’s time to dive down in a little more detail…
We’ll highlight what you should look out for when you’re on the buying trail and t explore some of the strongest products.
Smart Baby Monitors: What To Consider
We’ve included a broad cross-section of smart baby monitors rather than a batch offering exactly the same features so the first thing you should do before even thinking about specific models is to double down on what you want from this kit.
Do you need environmental feedback so you can keep abreast of the temperature in your baby’s room?
Is your home WiFi connection strong enough to ensure the reliable video monitoring you’re hoping for?
Are you sure you need the added benefits of video streaming or would a more traditional audio-only monitor serve you just as well?
Would it be just as easy to get a home security camera that will serve double-duty monitoring your baby? Would it be good enough?
Far from trying to put you off buying one of these nifty smart devices, we’d just like to make sure you ask yourself the right questions and don’t waste money if you don’t really need one. If you’ve decided that investing in a baby monitor makes sense, take the following elements into account to ensure you get the most appropriate model…
Early iterations of baby monitors came with a woefully inadequate and blocky video that rendered the experience painful.
Most smart alternatives come with cameras packing at least 720p of resolution, sometimes 1080p in full HD. Given the pretty narrow focus of these cameras, 720p is more than fit for purpose so you should prioritize another aspect of video quality rather than resolution…
By definition, you’ll need to see when the lights are out. The more effective the night vision capability of the monitor you’re considering, the farther away from the crib you’ll be able to position it. Try hunting down demo videos online showing the camera in action at night so you can see what you’re letting yourself in for before committing to purchase.
A strong motion sensor will come as standard on pretty much any smart baby monitor. The only exception in the models we reviewed is the specialist Owlet since it monitors heart rate and oxygen levels only. Check that the model you’re looking at isn’t too sensitive on the motion sensor front or you’ll soon get annoyed at endless false positives with your baby simply tossing and turning rather than creating a cause for alarm. You should also bear in mind that a motion sensor alone won’t give you too much real insight into your baby’s wellbeing.
Sound sensors ramp things up and alert you when a baseline ambient sound level is breached. This is a far more accurate way of gauging if your baby is in distress than a motion sensor alone.
Alongside these basics, you can also get smart baby monitors giving you more input concerning the environment so you can determine if the room is too hot, too cold, or too humid.
App and Need For Paid Subscriptions
It’s always a good move to try downloading the app of any smart device you’re thinking of buying so you can see for yourself how you’ll find the overall feel of things.
Make sure the monitors on your shortlist have an easily navigable menu and a logical structure to any historical data offered. It’s also key to have access to the camera feed from the home page if you want to avoid a clunky user experience.
The level of storage offered with free plans is usually pretty restricted so investigate the paid plans all baby monitors offer and determine in advance if you think they’ll offer value for money while delivering exactly what you want. Often, premium features will only be available with the subscription services so make sure you know exactly what you’ll get with the free version if you don’t fancy ongoing running costs.
Where an all-purpose security camera needs to cover a whole room, with smart baby monitors, you can get away with a much narrower focus.
Although this gives you a little more freedom with placement, some do need to be placed directly above the crib. Consider the overall configuration of your nursery or bedroom and if you’re limited with shelving or bookcases, it’s worth considering a monitor powered by rechargeable batteries or, at a minimum, one with a lengthy cord.
The range of extra features on baby monitors varies widely. Rather than looking for one with needless bells and whistles, focus instead on what you’ll really use.
Night lights, lullabies, white noise and two-way audio are all potentially valuable extras if you think you’ll take advantage of them. If not, stick to a simple camera and cut your costs without diminishing core functionality.
With a solid overview of what to look out for when you’re tracking down the best smart baby monitor for your needs, here is a cross-section of 5 of the strongest options currently available…
5 Best Smart Baby Monitors
If you thought you couldn’t get hold of an affordable smart baby monitor with sophisticated motion detection and a half-decent camera, think again.
The uprated Cocoon Cam Plus puts a heavy focus on tracking the patterns of your baby’s breathing during the night. This is key since Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, while still cloaked in uncertainty, is highly likely to center around the part of your baby’s brain that controls breathing. If there are any abnormalities in this regard while your precious bundle of joy sleeps, you’ll get an instant alert so you can take action.
Installation is straightforward and you pop the camera flush and center over your baby’s crib so the sensors can accurately gauge movement. Aside from some drilling and covering up the power cable, there’s not much to it and you shouldn’t need to call in professional assistance.
While on paper the 720p video stream might seem at best average, in practice the night vision means you’ll be able to pick out what your baby is up to even at a distance. Video is stored on the cloud and you won’t be able to manually record but this is hardly a deal-breaker.
On the downside, there’s just a single sensor. There’s no sound and there’s no temperature sensor either so you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on your baby’s environment rather than relying on input from this monitor.
With no wearables to inconvenience your baby, this completely contact-free experience gives your baby the best chance of a solid sleep while you can drop up without any headaches about irregular breathing causing every parent’s worst nightmare to become a reality.
• Remarkably refined motion sensors with no need for any wearables
• Impressive HD video quality surprising considering the budget price point
• Useful and instant alerts so you can sleep easily knowing you’ll be informed if your baby needs you
Although you’ll need to fit your baby into the provided socks to hook them up to this innovative baby monitor, you’ll get 3 washable pieces included and they’ll fit most babies up to 18 months old. While this model deviates from the normal baby monitors featuring video and audio along with movement sensors, it’s this uniqueness that has brought Owlet a loyal following.
So, you won’t get a camera with the Owlet and you should decide whether to use this pioneering monitor as a supplement to an existing monitor or as a standalone means of keeping tabs on your baby’s vital stats as he sleeps. If you have any cause for concern with the heart rate or oxygen levels of your newborn, this smart monitor is essential even if slightly expensive.
The app is intuitive and set-up is a breeze. You can also extend access to anyone else you want so they can simply download the app, enter their credentials and keep an eye on your baby remotely as a handy back-up. A companion app attracting a modest monthly fee gives you access to historical data but we can’t say we’d recommend this.
If you don’t mind the narrow focus of this smart baby monitor and you’re not concerned about your baby needing to wear a Bluetooth-enabled sock as they sleep, the Smart Sock 2 from Owlet occupies a singular place in the baby monitor space and deserves a place on any shortlist for its innovation alone.
• Monitor both heart rate and oxygen levels in-app from multiple smartphones using the same pulse oximetry method as in hospitals
• Customizable alerts allowing you to put the fear of SIDS far out of mind and ensuring you’ll be immediately notified in the event of any abnormalities
• 45-day refund option so you can buy without any real risk and see whether the Smart Sock 2 fits your needs
While it might seem like borderline overkill to have 1080p video for a smart baby monitor, the crisp and detailed footage will soon have you changing your mind. You’d expect nothing less from Arlo given the functionality of their security cameras and the piercing night vision means you’ll notice no drop in clarity as the lights go off and your baby heads toward dreamland.
You’ll get plenty of smart nursery features to back up that first-class camera. There’s a multi-colored nightlight to keep your baby entertained and the Arlo will even play lullabies or recordings of your own voice to lull your beloved infant to sleep.
You can tweak the app so it either records video or instead takes a snapshot as soon as the camera detects sound or motion. You can adjust resolution down from 1080p to 360p and you can also fine-tune the field of view for a supremely customizable experience. The set-up is a cinch and you can then keep in close contact with your baby’s movements using your smartphone.
Alexa-enabled already, Google Assistant integration is also in the pipeline for both Home and Chromecast.
There are 3 plans to choose from and, like with the Owlet, we’d recommend sticking with the free version. The Premier and Elite plans allow you to link 10 and 15 cameras respectively which is unnecessary for most users and also not particularly cheap.
With adjustable motion detection up to an impressive 50 feet and a wireless range of fully 300 feet, this feature-rich smart baby monitor is potentially the strongest overall performer in a glutted market.
• Multiple configurations with playfully shaped cameras (kittens, bunnies and puppies) to make bedtime fun as well as safe
• All the smarts of an Arlo security camera with exceptional 1080p quality and a 130-degree field of view
• Control all aspects of camera behavior in-app and connect with other devices in your smart home using IFTTT or HomeKit
While you can certainly get some cheap smart home devices – and we’ll be looking at some later this week – when it comes to the safety of your baby, you really don’t want to compromise quality in the hunt for a bargain. With the Babysense smart monitor, you don’t need to either.
Connectivity is robust and you’ll enjoy a remarkably long range nudging 1000 feet meaning you can even keep an ear out for your baby if you’re out in the garden. Night vision is highly effective and the zoom feature and wide angle lens allow you to monitor even more mobile toddlers who might otherwise slip out of sight and into mischief.
If you need to monitor additional rooms, the Babysense is fully expandable with up to 4 cameras and you’ll enjoy two-way audio to stay fully connected. Beyond this, you can also set the monitor up to tempt your baby toward sleep with lullabies or a white noise song if standard songs don’t seem to work.
The addition of a temperature monitor gives you the confidence of knowing your baby’s environment remains conducive to the best possible sleep and you can take prompt action in the event of them feeling uncomfy.
As with all the best smart baby monitors, if you’re not entirely satisfied just call in a refund meaning there’s really not any risk in giving this multipurpose Babysense a shot.
• Strong and stable 2.4 GHz connectivity with robust sound and video
• 2-way communication, lullabies and white noise offering you the complete package for staying connected to your baby and soothing them to sleep
• Room temperature monitoring keeps you abreast of the environment, a feature lacking on much of the competition
While it’s by no means cheap, the Nanit Plus smart baby monitor is a strong contender for the best solution currently on the market as long as you can stomach the price tag.
HD video gives you rock-solid night vision and an outstanding zoom while you’ll also get the two-way audio you’d expect from any worthwhile baby monitor. One of the key selling points of this monitor is the way video will still stream even in the event of an Internet outage so you’ll have no nagging worries and you can sleep soundly while your baby does the same.
The manufacturer heavily promotes the paid Insights companion app which gives you access to a broad spread of data so you can track how often your baby naps as well as building out an overall picture of their sleep patterns. The Nanit Plus comes with a free 1-month trial so you can see whether or not this extra layer of functionality is something you’d consider paying for.
The stand provided is not adjustable but you’ll be able to make any tweaks you need using the zoom on the camera and the angle offered by the stand along with the ease of set-up makes this a great extra. You can opt for wall-supported mode as well giving you complete versatility.
Whether you want the paid version with personalized sleep metrics or you’re happy with the more than capable free app, you can create a memorable highlight reel of your baby’s most precious moments while resting easy knowing you’ll be alerted to anything you miss when you’re not actively listening in or communicating with your baby directly.
This new version comes with nature sounds and privacy controls proving that you don’t need to change a winning team but small improvements can make it even better.
• Temperature and humidity sensors allow you to closely monitor the environment in your baby’s room remotely
• Floor stand promotes an unbeatable overhead view along with simplifying cable management to keep your baby safe and in plain sight
• Monitor can stream over WiFi even if the Internet goes down
Investing in a smart baby monitor can give you far more than just peace of mind that your baby is sleeping safely.
The video feature can give you a highlight reel of those precious moments you’d otherwise miss out on as your bundle of joy drops off to sleep and also wakes up bleary-eyed and hungry for feeding.
Beyond this, you’ll also be able to ensure that the sleeping environment never gets too hot or too cold without needing to constantly pop in and out of the bedroom, letting you get the rest you need and deserve just as surely as your newborn.