Set up baby cam using computer with webcam and iPhone/iPod/iPad

My wife and I were thinking of getting baby cam for monitoring our baby when he sleeps at night. There are many different kinds of baby cam in the market, priced ranging from $300 to $600 SGD. Even Singtel offers baby cam service for remote monitoring via mobile phone on monthly subscription basis.

We have no issue with the cost, but my problem is, those cams aren’t exactly cool and sexy in terms of product design; more over, I am not a big fan of spending money on something that is useful for only a short period. Once Jude starts to walk and talk, the cam is no longer useful per se. Well unless I can find a cam that moves and follows Jude where ever he goes (maybe something like R2D2?)

With this in mind, I began to think I can put the old MacBook into a good use. Why MacBook? Because it has a built-in webcam (iSight). Don’t worry if you don’t have MacBook, any spare computer, be it Mac or PC, as long as you have a webcam connected to it, you are good! The rest of this post will be made into a step-by-step instruction for easy reference. So here we go…

What you need

  1. A spare computer (Mac or PC) that has internet connection (WiFi or Ethernet)
  2. A webcam (built-in or USB)
  3. For remote monitoring, you need another computer (Mac or PC), iPhone, iPad, iPod or Android phone. Obviously, it needs to be connected to internet
  4. Most importantly, you need to install iCam app (details below)

Setting up the surveillance unit

The computer

Make sure the spare computer is still good with internet connectivity and the webcam is working fine. Mine is a MacBook running on 2.2 GHz Intel CPU but I suppose hardware performance isn’t pivotal in this since all we need is what the webcam can see and no super computing power is required (unless you are thinking about recording the captured video then you might need something more powerful.)

The software

Next, you need to install iCamSource to the computer. After that, just make sure the app runs properly and it detects your webcam.

To allow for remote monitoring, you need to enter a username and password of your choice. (Refer to help page for guides.)

Now this is VERY IMPORTANT: for both your username and password, use something that is difficult to guess.

To give you a bad example:
Username: icam
Password: 1234

With easy combination like above, you are risking letting prying eyes to spy on your baby.

If you want to be a smart parent, use something that even yourself can’t remember without referring. In the event you have forgotten either the username or password, you can easily change them in the preferences panel again.

The camera

Not forgetting to mention, you need to make sure you are able to place the computer and webcam on a position that allows you to view the baby without obstruction. For my set up, I’m using the webcam came with my Xbox 360 (finally put to good use) that is connected to USB port via a 3m cable. With the length, I am able to place the webcam on the top of the shelf that gives me a good bird’s eye view on Jude’ crib.

Setting up the monitoring unit

Finally, the easiest part, depends on what you are going to use for monitoring, here are the different solutions:

Using computer

Go to iCamWeb, enter the username and password which you have created in steps above. Wait for some Java thingamajig to load, and voila, enjoy the cam!

Using iPhone/iPad/iPod

Install iCam app, it’s only $4.99 and runs in both iPhone/iPod and iPad (i.e. no need to buy separate copies.) Runs the app, enter username and password and enjoy!

Using Android phone

You may get the Android version of iCam app here. Unfortunately I don’t have an Android phone so I can’t exactly get any screenshot of how it will look. But I suppose there won’t be much difference.

The conclusion

If you haven’t realized already, the winning point of this set up is, you don’t need to stay within the same network in order to access the camera. For as long as you have internet access, either via the WiFi in your office or 3G connection on your iPhone/iPad, you are good to go. I have tested it on 3G with my iPhone 4, apart from slight lags, everything else was working per expected. Now is that a good news or what?

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