For anyone who has bought a new iPhone, the question inevitably comes up, “What am I going to do with my old iPhone?” Answers to this question fall in either two camps: Sell it or Save it. As both an Apple lover and parent, I usually try to squeeze as much use out of a product before I consider selling it, which led me down the path to finding out how to repurpose two old iPhones as video baby monitors.
Before I proceed, let me warn you: the following instructions are not for the faint of heart. These are pretty technical instructions and might take quite a bit of your time. Oh, and it’ll require about $7 of iPhone apps. At the end of this, you should hopefully have a system where you can monitor your baby from your current phone, wherever you have an internet connection. Additionally, it will send you push notifications whenever your baby moves or starts crying.
Basically, we’re going to install a program on the old iPhone which will stream video to your Mac. The Mac will then relay that video to your new iPhone, even if you’re away from your home. If your child moves, the Mac will push a notification to your new iPhone, which will prompt you to open up the video of your child.
As far as hardware goes, you’ll need an old iPhone, your current iPhone, a Mac, and a router which you can port map (such as an Apple AirPort). It would probably help to have a long enough USB cable and power adaptor to keep your old iPhone charged while watching your child so that it doesn’t run out of battery. On the old iPhone, go to the App Store and buy this app: Video Babymonitor. On the new iPhone, buy this app: iCam (Webcam Video Streaming). On the Mac, download and install iCamSource.
Port Mapping is kind of like making street signs for your devices, making sure they can find their way to each other. So, what we need to do is reserve a port for your iPhone, to make sure the communication never gets confused as it tries to get to your Mac. These instructions will be for an Apple AirPort (or Time Capsule) router.
Open up AirPort Utility and double click your router. Click the “Internet” tab, and then the “DHCP” tab. Towards the bottom of the window, click on the Plus button and create a description of the device you’re reserving the Port for, I suggest calling it “Old iPhone.” Click Continue, and it will prompt you for something called the MAC Address. This is a piece of information in your old iPhone. On the old iPhone, open up your Settings, click on “General” and then “About.” Scroll down about half-way, and you’ll see something called your “Wi-Fi Address.” Enter this as the MAC Address. After the MAC Address, make note of what the IVp4 is and then click the blue “Done” button. Then, click the Update button. You’ve just assigned a port for your iPhone!
Open up Baby Videomonitor. Note the setting options you have in the bottom left corner. For now, I wouldn’t suggest tampering with those, but it would be a good idea to revisit these once you’ve completed all these steps. Click the Play button at the bottom and write down the web address it gives you in the bottom right corner.
Open up Safari and in the address bar, type in the address you just wrote down. Hopefully, you’ll see your video feed on your computer. We’re half way there! Right click on the video image itself and choose “Copy Image Address”.
Now, open up iCamSource. This will put a little camera icon up in your menu bar. If iCamSource’s preferences aren’t already open, click on the camera icon and choose “Preferences.” If your Mac’s iSight automatically turned on, go ahead and click the “Stop” button at the bottom of the window. Below the Video preview window, click on the “Ethernet / Wi-Fi” tab. (You won’t see this tab if it’s currently capturing video. Make sure you’ve clicked the Stop button.) In the next field, paste in the Image Address you copied from the previous paragraph (Command V will paste.) Then choose a webcam login and password. It would help to also write this login information down as we’ll need them in the next step. Make sure MJPEG is chosen. Then, enter in the same username and password for the iCam Login and Password. On the other half of this window, enter in something as the description, I would suggest something like “Old iPhone” or “Baby’s Room.” Then, you might want to drag the slider more towards the “Less Sensitive” end. Check the box next to “Send Push Notifications.” After this is done, you can close the window. Your Mac is now set to send the video.
On the new iPhone, download iCam (Webcam Video Streaming). Upon opening it, it will prompt you to sign in. Use the same credentials you wrote down from the previous steps. Now, you should see a video being sent from your old phone! (You can also install this app on your iPad and watch the child from there.)
I’ve tried this with both a first gen-iPhone and a 3GS as the “Monitor” phone, and you can definitely tell an improved picture quality on the 3GS due to its higher res camera. Also, you can go into Baby Videomonitor’s settings and increase the picture quality there as well. Depending on your home’s wifi strength, this may work well, or create some pretty substantial lags. One of the things I love about these apps, is that you’ll see a green bar along the bottom of the video, signifying the volume level. If your little one is crying, you’ll see that green bar spike up.
Hopefully this gives you a great tool to keep an extra eye on your child. I’ve got both a two year-old and six month-old, and this helps us make sure the older one isn’t getting into trouble, and the younger one is sleeping soundly. And just think, the more iPhones you buy, the more rooms you can monitor!
I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister; Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.