recycling an old cell phone as a Baby Monitor

I guess my might have figured out by the title of this post, that my wife I are expecting. So I have been looking into getting a baby monitor (and 258 other things!) and I’m not sure how I came across it to begin with, but I found a bunch of Baby Monitor applications in the Android Market. This got me to thinking, hey! I have a spare android phone, my wife’s old Samsung Moment and I thought it would be pretty sweet if I can use the Moment as a Baby Monitor that I can view from my HTC Evo 4G or my Wife’s HTC Evo Shift (while she is at work she could check in any time she wanted). I thought this would be fantastic!

So the next issue was to find an app that would let me do this, I only had to go through three (each one monitored, but did not provide video or sound to you, they just sent you text messages or called you) before I found one I liked, BabyCam Monitor by Dooblou, it runs a light weight web server on your phone, that any device with a web browser and Java installed can access. The limitation (and a good security measure in my opinion) is that it hosts it only over wifi and only to the network the wifi is connected to (local IP of the phone… 192.168.1.###), so to access this from the outside world, I would have to setup port redirection on my router enabling my wife to access the BabyCam while she is at work.

I downloaded the demo version and installed it on my Evo to give a spin. I liked the way the demo worked and it’s limitations are that you cannot use higher resolution camera settings (not an issue with the Moment! as the camera on it is a low 3.2mp), you are also limited to black and white only in the demo, the last limitation is/was 20 minutes in the application would stop monitoring. There have been 3 updates to the Demo since I first downloaded it, and now the limitation is 10 minutes (I had considered using the 20 minute demo instead of purchasing it, as I might still end up getting a retail baby monitor). Also in one of the updates is an “experimental” feature “audio!” pretty darn important if you ask me! Previously I believe you could see the sound wave of noises, but not hear them. Well this “experimental” feature worked flawlessly when I finally tested it (getting to that part). The last features of the app I feel a need to mention here, is that you can capture video and still images from the web page (the makers of this app have a prior history with web based camera monitoring software and have available a really good looking video surveillance app, although I have not tried it or looked really hard at it. They learned a few tricks before making the BabyCam Monitor). I do agree with some of the commentors that both of the video monitor apps this company makes are lacking in additional security features (ie password based login for the camera feeds! I have emailed the Developer in regards to this, so I hope it will be added in the future).

The next issue was to get the BabyCam on the Samsung Moment, which currently is not attached to a service plan. So, I spent 2.5 weeks researching rooting and custom Roms for the Samsung Moment, I found a few I liked, including a minimalist Rom that actually cut the size down from the original 160MB (compressed) Samsung Official android 2.0 update (or maybe it was the 1.6 version…) down to a teenie tiny 50MB +/- 2 or 3MB (I’ll check and update this part later). A smaller OS base usually means better performance, and I only need the camera and wifi working anyway!

While I did download 4 or 5 Roms to give a chance to, I only ever got one working, the SDX Froyo EF09 2.2.2 Rom v2.0.1 was the only Rom that would bootup (looks a lot like Android 2.3.3 and runs really fast on this older hardware), the others would all hang in a boot loop after flashing. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that not all Android devices work the same even within the same model. I know people with the HTC Evo 4G that have 2 or 3 or even 4 of them in their homes and they try to flash the same Roms to them and get different results, so I am not too concerned that some of the Roms didn’t work the first 4 attempts to flash them, I just went with the one that did (first try, both times I installed it, it is a prerequisite for one of the ones that did not work).

I then added a couple of useful apps, including Titanium Backup Pro so I could remove parts of the system Rom I don’t need. Basically anything non-internet/wifi and non-camera related, as the phone is not going anywhere or doing anything else, so I fully intend on only keeping the necessary apps loaded, so the OS doesn’t have too much running in the background. I of course also installed BabyCam Monitor Demo to make sure it worked on the Moment and the wifi streaming worked. All went well. I also added iBaby, an app for recording various occurrences with your baby (feeding/diaper changes/growth chart and more).

I’ll be adding reviews/summaries of these three apps to my app list sooner or later. The more I use the Moment BabyCam the more I’ll have to say about the Apps on it! Until then, you’ll have to deal with this and my recommendation that they are worth it. I have contacted the Developer of BabyCam as mentioned above, and received a reply at this time. There are plans to implement password based security soon, and a client/server model for multiple android phones to be used as monitors without having to load a webpage (which I have not tested from my phone yet, but am doubtful it will work as it relies on javascript). I will hold off a bit longer before making the app purchase, as the baby is not due for 3 months and I’d like to make sure non of the improvements break what I want to do with the app.


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