A baby monitor for your boat? Maybe!


Another area of boating that may benefit from ever smaller and cheaper wireless computing components is video cameras used for monitoring and just plain fun. It may seem crazy to put a baby product on Panbo but not when you check out the specs of the Withing Smart Baby Monitor. That’s a remotely controlled hi-res pan/tilt/zoom camera in that ipodish box seen above and it can connect to multiple iThing viewer/controllers via Bluetooth, local WiFi, or the Internet. It also has stereo microphones and a temperature/humidity sensor, and it can detect motion and noise anomalies. And if any of these multiple remote monitoring features lead you to think that your boat is unhappy, you can transmit a little sweet talk or play it a lullaby!…

Perhaps most of the useful technology packed into the Smart Monitor is available in some more boat friendly form, but I don’t know of it yet (anyone?).  But I do know of a vaugely similar device called the iZon Remote Room Monitor. And that’s iZON as in “eyes on” your precious boat or whatever, from wherever, as long as everything including your iOS device is online. However, long time Panbot, gadget experimenter, and country blues guitarist John Williams was not impressed:


The executive summary is that I wasn’t able to get the camera to work and the Stem support folks never responded. The unit is going back. 

Nice idea though. You configure the camera by getting into the camera’s own local WiFi network. The problem seems to be that instead of accessing the camera through a simple browser connection you have to do it through a Stem iOS app and the app appears to be pretty unreliable.
I’m an iOS developer and have several devices that I tried but only one worked, an old iPad, and it only worked once but the setup process gave me an error when I tried to save the data. Oh well.
Anyhow, I hope I can send it back with an old fashioned note in the box since I can’t seem to get through to them any other way.
On to other gadgets. 

Meanwhile, yours truly is excited about getting the soon-to-be-available WiFi Back for the little GoPro Hero2 camera I purchased last fall. Video explanation of the Back here. In fact, I would not have made such an impetuous purchase if the back weren’t promised. The camera itself is wonderfully able and sharp, but it has no live view and the miniscule monochrome control screen is frustrating.
   But the hope is being able to both stream and control the GoPro from a fast color display I already own, like an iPad or Android phone. I picture mounting it on Gizmo’s mast as a poor man’s navigation cam or just to capture footage of good gunkholing. Or maybe I’ll put it in the salon sometimes and watch it from home in case some anti-NMEA zealot intrudes (I kid). The technological possibilities are getting pretty obvious, and affordable. What might you do with it?


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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

10 Responses

  1. Capn. Chuck says:

    Ben, We are prepping our trawler Beach House for some extended cruising Starting in November. We plan to winter in the Bahamas and head up the east coast in the Spring to do the Great Loop. We are currently researching equipment to set up a webcam on the boat so we can stream live to our website while traveling and be able to do either live streams or post videos of the ports we visit and also our anchorages. We considered the GoPro camera but even with these new upgrades it does not appear that it will stream live. I also don’t like the limitation of the fish eye lens. The quality of the video is incredible. If you find anything that might fit for our purposes between now and then, I sure would like to hear about it. I think this type of online streaming will also satisfy many boaters need to be able to monitor their boats from anywhere. But I also would like to see something that will work online as well as with mobile devices. It may be out there now but everything I have seen so far is not of very good quality. Thanks for this update. Chuck

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Chuck, my understanding is that the GoPro2 will stream video via the WiFi back. Also you can narrow its field of view as it comes right now. But there certainly may be issues with long-term streaming and there will no doubt be more competitive options coming soon. There is actually a similar WiFi enabled camera already, can’t quite remember the brand.
    I meant to thank Ron Rodgers for sending me a link to the Smart Baby Monitor, and he also just told me that Ken Williams plans to try one on his Nordhaven. Maybe he’ll blog about it:

  3. Capn. Chuck says:

    From looking at the link on your posting I got the impression it will only stream to a mobile device. Maybe I misunderstood. If you think of the other WiFi camera name, let me know.

  4. Larry Brandt says:

    Is it ‘I kid’ or iKid?

  5. Frank Burrows says:

    I have some indicator lights for my engine block heaters and 3 pump house heaters in my bilge. I was trying to diagnose a issue with low temperature and I wanted to be able to monitor the cycling of these heaters on very cold nights. I installed a Foscam FI8918W camera. It has its own wireless built in and remotely pans and tilts. It has an amazingly good picture. The only issue is that it drops its internet connection every two weeks or so. I am going to return it to Amazon and get the newer model. Here is a link to the new model:
    It has the ability to email you if it detects motion and include pictures in the email. It can send and receive audio as well. I downloaded an app for my Droid phone and I can view it from the phone. I can also work the pan and tilt from the phone. It has an infrared light built in. For $100 this thing is impressive. I wish it was waterproof for outside.
    The only problem is configuring the wireless router to allow a outside connection (port forwarding) makes setting up a Bullet WiFi connection look like child’s play. Be prepared to do a lot of Google searches.

  6. John - gCaptain says:

    I have the iZon and agree, it’s next to useless and their app is horrible. I have a few other iPod gadgets I like (e.g. the Jambox!) but only one that I love…. the zeo: http://amzn.to/AsXEkd
    This is a monitor you strap to your head (like those LED headlamps but thinner) that tracks the amount of sleep you are getting. I used it on a multi-day solo passage last year and I don’t know how I lived before owning it as it gives you a complete run down on both the amount AND quality of the sleep you are getting. You can also monitor other people’s sleep (with their permission of course) so you can better figure out sleep schedules on passages. You can even (in real time!!) tell if that loud noise you made in the middle of the night woke up your crew.
    It also has a bunch of other cool features like a vibrating alarm so that you don’t wake up the rest of the boat when you get up for watch.
    Their are other units on the market (the most popular being the lark) but I’ve tested each and the zeo wins hands down because it actually measures (don’t ask me how) brain waves. The other units just have a motion sensor that tells you when you woke up…. and, while I didn’t test the others on the boat, I image they would get confused by the vessel motions.

  7. Looks like the Withing sells around $300. That’s big bucks. I’ve been checking into IP video that is affordable. We travel on our Hatteras 53 MY with Max – the Great Dane. Max likes to wonder around while cruising and its nice to know where he is without getting up and down from the bridge often. I found and demo’d online a product that I think might be the ticket. Its an IP video camera, hi-res, tilt, pan, two-way intercom, and sound sensitive for recording, viewed on any internet cabale device. Foscam makes it. I ‘m not affiliated, but for $99 or less, I will order one. Supposedly works with iPad, iPhone, Android, Explorer, Safari. Without an internet connection it is only local, but with an internet connection is remote viewable. If anyone else has one, let me know how it works!

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, TopHatt. The Foscam cams do look interesting, especially the FI8910W I think you’re contemplating. I’m a little leery about the purported smart phone support, though. I suspect a dedicated actual app, like Withing’s, will be a lot nicer to use than a browser. At any rate, please let us know how it works out.

  9. Ken Williams says:

    Greetings Ben!
    I bought one of the Whiting Baby Monitors.
    It’s a very cool little device. Extremely well engineered, and easy to set up. The documentation is a little light, and confusing. I’ve read them a couple of times and still am somewhat confused (and, I’m a computer guy! I can’t imagine a non-geek).
    It’s fun to use, and the video looks good on an iphone, and better on an ipad.
    The motion sensitive alerts work well.
    A few negatives:
    – It’s not really pan/tilt/zoom. It uses a trick to simulate having pan/tilt capability, and then I’m pretty sure it does digital zoom (not real zoom)
    – A lot of standard features on this kind of product are missing, in order to “keep it simple.” For instance, you can’t set clipping rectangles for motion sensitivity.
    – The remote monitoring is limited to 15 mins a day, if connecting via 3g (as opposed to wifi).
    – I can’t figure how to talk to the monitor (from remote). I’m sure there’s a way, but, how?
    As to usefulness on the boat:
    I can’t imagine putting it into the engine room. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look engineered for a hot environment. I suspect it would melt quickly.
    But.. I’m thinking it could be handy to have on the back of the boat, to warn me if anyone steps into the cockpit. It has a great motion sensor, and reasonable night-vision. It uses iphone notifications, so if anyone comes near the boat, I’ll know immediately.
    -Ken W

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Ken! But I’m sorry to hear that the PTZ is apparently just a software technique of moving around a high res wide angle fixed video image. It seems obvious now as the product photo does not look like regular PTZ cams. Oh well, at least there aren’t motors and moving parts to break.
    I do recall that Withings plans to offer some sort of service so camera owners can go beyond that daily 15 minute online monitoring limit.
    By the way, Ken, I enjoy reading your blog from time to time, both to see the exotic places you’ve cruised and for the occasional technical asides. Thanks for all that!

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