NextStepBabyMonitors.com Knowledge Base|
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Video baby monitors are a relatively new item on the market, utilizing some of the latest advances in technology. These exciting new products are revolutionizing the way we monitor our loved ones, and represent the next generation of baby monitoring.
By learning more about video baby monitors and how they work, we hope to make you an informed consumer. Overall our goal is to help you decide which system is best for you, and to ensure you get the best performance possible when using it.
We receive the most questions from customers asking which monitoring system is right for them. Different video baby monitors use different frequencies to send their signals. Video baby monitors use the same frequencies as many other common household electronics, and as a result undesirable interference can occur.
By purchasing a monitoring system that is most compatible with the other wireless electronics (if any) in your household you can get the best performance from your monitor. At NextStepBabyMonitors.com each monitor is clearly labeled with the frequency it uses.
Below we outline the most common frequencies used by video baby monitors, as well as other electronic devices that share those frequencies. If there are no other wireless devices on the same frequency in the vicinity of your video baby monitor, you can expect optimum performance.
5.8 GHz Overview
The majority of new cordless phones now use 5.8 GHz. None of the video monitoring systems at NextStepBabyMonitors.com use this frequency. So environments with 5.8 GHz phones in use will not cause unwanted interference.
2.4 GHz Overview
2.4 GHz is one of the most common frequencies for video baby monitors today. In the past most cordless phones and other devices used the 900 MHz band. So when the 2.4 GHz band became available several years ago manufacturers flocked to 2.4 GHz. The reason being since 2.4 GHz was relatively unused it could offer a high level of interference free operation for devices using it.
As a result, currently the 2.4 GHz band is being used by an increasing number of devices everyday. This is quickly causing the 2.4 GHz band to become over crowded and prone to interference issues as you may have several devices using this frequency in your house.
2.4 GHz Cordless Phones
2.4 GHz phones do interfere with a 2.4 GHz baby monitor. When the phone is ringing or in use the video image can have added static.
Generally, when a 2.4 GHz phone is not in use, no interference is caused. However, we have come across a few customers with 2.4 GHz phones, that even when with the headset on the base and not in use, the phone was still transmitting data and causing harmful interference. The ways to eliminate the interference in this case was to un-plug the 2.4 GHz phone all together, get a different cordless phone using another frequency (900 MHz or 5.8 GHz), or get a video baby monitor using a different frequency (such as 900 MHz).
Overall, please check the frequencies of any cordless phones that will be in the area with the baby monitor to make sure they are not using the same frequency.
Also See: How Do I Know What Frequency Devices In My House Use?
2.4 GHz Wireless Computer Networks (Wi-Fi)
Probably one of the biggest causes of interference problems with 2.4 GHz wireless video baby monitors. Wireless computer networks share this same set of frequencies and can be powerful enough to cause severe interference and limit the usable range of your monitoring system.
Whenever a computer in your house is on and connected to a wireless network, data is constantly being transferred on the network regardless of if the computer is being used or not. When the computer and wireless network are off, no interference can occur.
The best rule of thumb here is to use a 900 MHz baby monitor, or any monitor that uses a frequency other than 2.4 GHz. From our own tests, 2.4 GHz baby monitors do not shut down or severely disrupt the computer network (unless the two systems are very close together). Rather, the baby monitor suffers more and becomes un-useable due to the static from the interfering Wi-Fi computer network. As a result we recommend against purchasing any 2.4 GHz baby monitor system when you have and use a Wi-Fi computer network in or around your house.
Wireless G vs B? Wireless computer networks now come in a few different protocols. Older networks are referred to as B while new faster networks are G. Whether the wireless network is G or the older B, the frequency used is still 2.4 GHz. The B and G refers to the protocol and compression, and not the frequency, which is what matters when we're talking about interference with baby monitors. So it makes no difference if the wireless network is B or G, it's still on 2.4 GHz and will cause continuous harmful interference to all 2.4 Ghz devices including baby monitors and cordless phones. If there's a wireless computer network in the house go with a 900 MHz baby monitor.
Cellular Wireless Internet The new cell provider based (Verizon & Sprint) wireless internet connections use their own frequencies. They do not use 2.4 GHz like the wireless computer networks that are used in the home.
As a result, this type of wireless internet access will not interfere with your baby monitor.
Also See: How Do I Know What Frequency Devices In My House Use?
900 MHz is a frequency band that was popular for many wireless devices a few years back. Devices using this band that can cause interference with a 900 MHz baby monitor are cordless phones, wireless headphones and wireless speaker systems.
While there are now fewer cordless phones today that use 900 MHz, they are still out there. Additionally there are still new cordless phones and devices being sold today using 900 MHz. Overall, if you have a 900 MHz wireless device in use around your house do not purchase a 900 MHz baby monitor.
Also See: How Do I Know What Frequency Devices In My House Use?
The Mini Cam System offered at NextStepBabyMonitors operates on the 1.2 GHz band. This is the only system we are aware of on the market using this frequency and we are also not aware of any other devices that share this frequency which could cause possible interference.
Microwave ovens, when in use (cooking), can cause possible interference with nearby baby monitors of all frequencies. Microwaves emit RF spanning a large range of upper frequencies when cooking food. This can happen anytime a monitor or camera is placed within close proximity of a microwave. No interference can occur when the microwave is not in use, or when the baby monitor is over approx 20+ feet away.
With the concern about interference caused from common cordless phones, many people have now lumped cell phones into that category because they are also cordless.
Cell phones operate in a fully different frequency spectrum than baby monitors and will not cause interference due to frequency sharing.
However, cell phones do emit very strong RF so if a monitor or camera is placed within a few feet of an in-use cell phone you may encounter some audio interference.
The same is true with the new cell provider based (Verizon & Sprint) wireless internet connections. This data link is on its own frequency, and does not use 2.4 GHz like the wireless computer networks that are used in the home.
As a result, this type of wireless internet access will not interfere with your baby monitor.
How To Avoid Interference Overview:
There are three main ways to insure the highest level of performance of your monitoring system and to minimize the effects of unwanted interference. We will outline them below:
If you have some of the wireless devices mentioned above in your home, find out what frequency they use and simply purchase a monitoring system that uses a different frequency.
How Do I Know What Frequency Devices In My House Use? Usually this is very simple. Cordless phones often clearly label the unit itself with the frequency it uses. If not, try looking at the bottom of the base unit for the phone. It should say in smaller text on the label there.
The same is true with all other wireless devices. They will often display their frequency on the product itself in one form or another. If not check the user manual (if you still have it), the frequency used will always be provided there.
Another useful way is to Google the model number of your product. You can almost always bring up product info on-line and find out what frequency your wireless device uses. Once you know what frequency your cordless phones and other devices (if any) use, you can purchase a baby monitor which uses a different (and un-used) frequency so it can operate in an interference free environment.
The majority of video baby monitors have multiple channels. These extra channels can be used for multiple cameras. But they are also designed to allow you to select the channel with the least amount of interference. Be sure to try all channels to identify the one that provides the best performance.
Other wireless devices such as cordless phones, and even computer networks all have channel selectors. Moving some of these devices to other channels can also minimize interference.
In reality however, two devices on the same frequency band will not be able to operate without interference regardless of the channel settings on either unit, as the frequency separation between channels is very small. Overall, do not count on channels to fix an interference issue. By far the best is using devices that do not share the same frequency band.
If you have devices which share the same frequency as your video baby monitor, unplugging or not using them while the baby monitor is in use will eliminate any interference issues. Or, if you just can't part with or turn off those devices, just be aware of the interference they can cause when the monitoring system is in use.
If you live close to your neighbors such as in an apartment or condo, keep in mind if they use some of the wireless devices mentioned here, they too can affect your monitoring just like devices in your own home. As you know, wireless computer signals and wireless audio/video signals are designed to penetrate walls and ceilings.
It can be a real pain dealing with wireless interference coming from one or more of your neighbors. It can also be hard to tell where exactly where the interfering device is located. As mentioned above, the best answer is the "work around", and simply using a different frequency than the competing wireless device(s) next door.
As much as you might like to, going to your neighbor's home and smashing their offending wireless devices is not recommended. :)
Also See Privacy Overview
The reception range of your video baby monitor system depends on several factors. The factors with the most impact on useable range are Transmission Strength, Geography, and Power, all of which are outlined below:
The amount of transmission power the wireless camera has is the first primary factor in how much range you can expect to get out of any system. Less expensive units will often save money by utilizing a less powerful and less expensive transmission system.
At NextStepBabyMonitors.com we list the estimated range for each system as provided to us by the manufacturer. This is the best way to gauge the transmission power of the system, since there is not a specific specification for this.
If the distance between where you plan to have the camera and receiver are very close together, then a less powerful unit will most likely work fine and save you some money as well.
On the other hand, if the distance between the monitor and camera will be larger, then you will want to get a system capable of longer transmission ranges.
For example, if the camera is to be upstairs and the receiver downstairs, or if your house has especially thick walls you will want to go with a more powerful unit. Another case is if your area has high levels of interference, you will want the additional power to "punch through" that interference.
You will see two different distances provided under the range specification on the video baby monitor pages. These are "clear line of sight" and "obstructed".
Clear Line Of Sight means the maximum distance the camera and receiver can be when used on a flat open area such as a football field, where there are also no obstructions. Obviously the usable distance will be much greater when the camera and receiver can visibly see each other and there are no obstructions.
Unfortunately in real world, most people use video baby monitors in the home and the camera and receiver are rarely used in an environment such as a football field. Fortunately, all the frequencies used by video baby monitors were specifically designed to penetrate walls, ceiling, floors, and other obstacles that are commonly found in between the receiver and camera.
While these signals can pass through solid objects such as walls, it does come at the price of reduced range. The more barriers a signal must penetrate, and the denser those barriers are, the shorter the usable distance becomes between receiver and camera.
Obstructed is the distance provided in the specifications that is a rough estimate of the range you can expect when the system is being used with obstructions between camera and receiver. This range will obviously vary depending on the number and density of obstacles a signal must penetrate in the particular environment the system is used in.
Lastly, a camera is unable to transmit at its maximum capacity on a dead or dying set of batteries. Always make sure the camera is plugged in, or using a good set of batteries to ensure you get the most reception range out of your system.
If you notice a gradual decrease in the reception range of your system and you are using batteries, there is a good chance the batteries need to be replaced. It is also just as important for the monitor/receiver to have a good set of batteries to ensure the best performance. Plugging the units into AC power is always best when the portability and convenience of battery power is not required.
Learn more about the power systems for video baby monitors below.
Power Systems Overview
The majority of video baby monitoring systems allow both the camera and monitor to be powered by AC adapter or batteries.
Overall, the video screens on the monitors by far consume the most power. When running on battery power most monitors have an auto-off function that turns off the monitor after several minutes of inactivity. This serves to preserve the battery life. When plugged in the auto-off feature is usually disabled.
Cameras in general will use less power than a receiver with a built-in monitor. However, Night Vision capable cameras (those with IR illuminators) use much more power in night vision mode than they do in normal mode.
This is because in night vision mode the IR illuminators are turned on. These LED (light emitting diodes) lights work the same as mini-flashlights, except the light is invisible infrared light. These lights do consume a lot of power, and most night vision cameras have at least six or more IR LEDs which are illuminated in night vision mode.
Camera power is an important factor when using night vision mode to monitor a sleeping baby all night. Since the camera consumes much more power when in night vision mode, a set of batteries will typically be drained before morning. So it is best to be able to plug in a camera using the AC power if it is to be used for extended periods of time in night vision mode.
There are a few models, like our Value System, that have a rechargeable battery for the monitor unit. This is the same style battery found in many cordless phones. The added benefit is mainly the cost savings of not having to continually purchase expensive alkaline batteries.
Night vision solves a very important issue with video baby monitors. As we all know, babies and the rest of us usually sleep with the lights off. And the main purpose of a baby monitor is to monitor your infant while they sleep. But cameras need light to be able to see.
The solution is infrared (IR) night vision. Our human eyes are able to see what is called the visible light spectrum. The wavelengths just below the visible light spectrum is infrared (IR).
Humans are unable to see infrared light, making it fully invisible. Cameras however, can be designed to see infrared light, which is the case of the monitoring systems we carry with the night vision feature.
In a fully dark room our eyes and standard cameras require a light source to be able to see. Infrared cameras are no different, they require an infrared light source to illuminate the area which you wish to monitor. Note that almost all night vision capable cameras are also able to operate in a normal mode with regular visible light and full color.
Night Vision On/Off: Night vision is either automatically or manually turned on and off depending on the system. Automatic systems like the Intelligent 2000 use a light sensor just like those found in common night lights. This sensor automatically kicks in the night vision when light goes below a set level. On other systems like MobiCam, there is a selector on the camera that switches the unit between normal and night vision modes. We've had customers report their night vision was "broken" when they simply failed to turn it on.
Night Vision Has No Color: We had a return where a lady thought her system was "cheaply made" because the night vision picture was a greenish tint. In low and no light situations there is no color to be viewed. Color is the first thing to go from our eye site as light dims to dark. All video baby monitors when in night vision mode either switch to black and white or green monochrome. This is mainly to increase contrast to make the low light images more visible, just like professional and military night vision systems.
In the pitch dark this is where IR illuminators come in. These are small yet powerful LED (light emitting diodes) lights that are built into cameras and shine IR light. Most cameras have several IR LEDs, numbering anywhere from 6 to 18. These IR LEDs work just like an invisible flash light providing the IR light the camera needs to be able to see in the dark room. The result is the dark room is now lit so the camera can see, but since the light is fully invisible it will not disturb your sleeping baby.
Night Vision Is Very Short Range: The average range these IR LEDs are able to illuminate is up to about 6-8 feet max. Look at the LEDs and you will see they are very small. So they will not illuminate the whole room, but will be able to provide enough IR light to the immediate area in front of the camera to allow for viewing. Again customers have reported their night vision was "not working" because they couldn't see their baby in the dark. In this situation the camera was placed across the room from the baby over 12 feet away and the small IR LEDs are unable to illuminate that far.
If we are unable to see IR light, then how do we get a viewable image on the receiver end? The answer is the camera system takes the IR image and converts it into the visible light image which we can then view.
This is a very important topic and one of increasing importance as the number and availability of wireless devices continues to grow.
Just as with cordless phones that share the same frequencies, wireless video systems send their signals in an unencrypted format. Just as you have the ability to purchase another receiver unit to monitor your cameras, this also means anyone else with a compatible receiver within range can potentially pick up those audio and video signals as well.
The reason why so many wireless devices (phones, computer networks, wireless audio/video) operate so well for so many people in such close proximity is the FCC has limited the amount of power they use to transmit. This limits the reception range of these devices, allowing cordless phones in your home for example to not interfere with your neighbor's cordless phone across the street.
So while all these signals are unencrypted, the range is limited to the immediate area in and around your home. Wireless video systems are a great tool, but consumers should be knowledgeable about how they operate.
Here at NextStepBabyMonitors.com we have been working hard for the better part of year to bring monitoring systems to the next level for the average consumer. Basic video baby monitors allow a wireless camera to send audio and video back to a nearby receiver where it can be viewed.
But what if you could take that same wireless camera and make its live video available on-line? Parents could monitor their children, the nanny, or even pets while at work or any location in the world with access to the Internet.
Up to now the traditional way to get video on the web was to use a web cam. These are wired cameras that plug into a PC, and as a result are only good for monitoring the area around your computer. Most people do not have their PC in the baby's room.
The other option was to get an expensive video capturing board which must be installed in into your PC. Along with extensive and confusing software a standard video camera could then be plugged into the PC and theoretically be able to broadcast live video. Of course you still then had the issue of the camera being tethered to your PC with wires.
The problem with these old methods of getting video on-line is they are very complicated and require a person with extensive computer knowledge to have any hope of getting it working. We wanted something the average parent could quickly and easily setup, and these systems certainly were not it.
We then looked into a new line of products that claimed they could put a video feed on-line without using a PC. These units are commonly called video servers, but in reality they did not deliver on the promise. They still required a PC to configure and setup and had many complications, such as not being able to work behind a router without extensive configuration. Video servers are also very expensive and overall did not work very well. So we kept searching.
We finally came across the Logitech QuickCam Cordless which provides the ease of a plug-and-play web cam along with the cordless ability of a wireless video baby monitor. The QuickCam requires a minimum of setup and configuration, and its USB connection means the receiver can be plugged right into the front of your PC.
A bandwidth provider service, such as that from Fast-Serv.com is required to get the video from your QuickCam Cordless on-line. This service allows the camera to be used from any PC, even if it's behind a router or firewall. This service also allows multiple people to be tuned into your video feed at once. And of course it is secure and all password protected.
This is truly a unique cutting edge product and service combination which revolutionizes the way you can monitor your children, loved ones, and home. Be sure to read more about the QuickCam Cordless and Fast-Serv.com service plan here.