So you’ve just found out that you’re expecting a little one? Congratulations, that’s awesome! Speaking as a fairly new dad myself, I’m sure that clearly the first question you’ll be asking yourself is “How can I hook-up two Echos to function as a DIY baby monitor“?
Since this is obviously an important topic, I thought that I’d temporarily re -purpose a couple of my Echos to try this out!
You can use either the Alexa ‘Calling’ or ‘Drop-In’ features to hear audio from an Echo in your baby’s nursery, whilst you can also get video via the Echo Show/Spot. This has numerous benefits, but there are a couple of crucial flaws too.
The below article covers how you can set-up Echo devices to act as a baby monitor and it explores everything you need to know – along with some alternatives – but a summarized version of this article is available in my YouTube video on this topic:
Equipment That You Will Need
What you need for this is fairly straightforward:
- An Amazon Echo device in the baby’s nursery (as the speaker/camera). This can be a device with or without a screen, depending on your preference.
- An Alexa-enabled device near you (as the receiver). This can be your smartphone, or it can be another Echo device. If you have an Echo Show/Spot for video in the nursery, naturally be sure to use an equivalent Show/Spot ‘on your end’ otherwise you’ll only be able to hear the audio.
- Ensure that the ‘Calling’ and/or ‘Drop In’ features are enabled, as explained below.
- A baby!
Let’s discuss how to actually set this all up, and then finally discuss whether this is better or worse than just using an ‘off the shelf’ baby monitor.
Walk-Through For Achieving This
The process for using your Echos as DIY baby monitors is simple enough – firstly we need to ensure that certain settings are enabled in the Alexa app, before trying this out with the plugged-in Echo devices.
Alexa App Settings
First up, we need to make sure that ‘Drop In’ is enabled, so click on the ‘Communicate’ tab at the bottom and then ‘Drop In’. If it’s not enabled, you’ll get the following message:
In this case, follow the instructions – go to ‘My Communication Settings’ and tap ‘Allow Drop In’ which will show the following message:
Click ‘OK’ and Drop In will now be enabled on your registered account – meaning that you can now use the app to drop in on any Echo device – such as the one in your baby’s nursery.
Next, we want to ensure that the two devices we will be using are correctly setup to allow calls and drop-ins. This is enabled by default, but it’s worth checking nonetheless. So navigate to each device under the ‘Devices’ tab and then scroll to ‘Communication’. It should say ‘enabled’ but it’s worth clicking it to see the full settings:
You’ll want to ensure that both ‘Calling & Messaging’ and ‘Drop In’ are enabled here.
In-Home Testing With Your Echo Devices
Once this is all done, we can try out this DIY baby monitor set-up. The first method – calling – is best done at the nursery end because you can initiate the Echo call there, and then answer the call once you’ve left the nursery.
Okay, so firstly turn the volume right down because you won’t want background noise coming through on the baby’s Echo (potentially waking your baby up).
Next up, say “Alexa, call my receiver Echo” and the nursery echo will go into calling mode (notice the green light):
Once you’re done in the nursery, go to the receiver Echo and say “Alexa, answer the call” to start the call up.
And that’s it, you can now hear any noise – or crying – from your baby! Simple.
The second approach is to instead use the drop-in feature to listen into your baby’s nursery echo. To do this, simply go to your receiver echo and say “Alexa, drop in on my nursery Echo”:
Again you’ll have the green lights on both devices and you’ll then be able to hear any audio from the nursery. As you can tell, this method is easier than the first. The reason I cover both is so that you have two approaches under your belt in-case one of them fails.
Remember To Also Test This Away From Your Home
If you aren’t at home, you can still use Echo as a baby monitor via the ‘drop in’ feature. Simply ensure that you have internet enabled, then go to the Amazon Alexa app and ‘Communication’. From there, select the device to drop in on and it will start a call:
This looks and feels like a standard phone call, and it essentially is. The Echo device at home will show a green ring around it as a privacy feature, to show anyone looking after your children that you are dropping in (i.e. listening in).
Is It Worth It? Pros/Cons
So there we have it. You can clearly use two Echos (or one Echo and another Alexa-compatible device) as a makeshift baby monitor. This shows that the Amazon Echo platform is fairly flexible which is very promising, but I did also observe some major downsides of this approach.
- If you already have two or more Echos, it is arguably a bit wasteful to then go out and buy a separate baby monitor.
Plus an Echo in the nursery can be great for playing white noise to help sooth your baby during night-time – so why not also use the Echo as a baby monitor, since it’s already there?
- You can listen in on your baby when you’re away, for example when you’re out with friends and you have a childminder or family member looking after your little one. This is always handy as a bit of extra peace-of-mind – or when you’re missing your baby.
- Whilst Amazon haven’t confirmed that there are any time limits to Alexa calls or ‘drop in’ sessions, many users have reported that it drops out after 30 minutes. This may vary per country, so if want to hear noise from the nursery all night (as most parents will!), be sure to trial this before relying on it fully.
Alternatively you may genuinely only want to hear noise on an ad-hoc basis (such as you wake up in the night and think you can hear crying), in which case the drop in feature will work perfectly for you.
- Setting up Echos as a baby monitor is more effort than just using a normal baby monitor (as these are just plug and play).
- If your internet connection (or power) goes out temporarily overnight, your call or drop-in session will be cut-off. This means that you’ll then miss your baby crying.
Requiring both a perfectly stable internet connection and power supply is a retrograde step compared to a standard baby monitor which usually has a battery backup and uses simple fixed-frequency radio waves – no internet required.
As you can tell, whilst using an Echo as a baby monitor does work, I’m not 100% sold on the idea. They just aren’t as good as dedicated baby monitors. Heck, any of the following budget monitors should work just fine:
- The VTech DM111 for $17.99 (albeit with some bad reviews) of the awesomely reviewed VTech DM221 for $35.40.
- The Victure 1080P FHD Baby Monitor for $29.99 which has audio, full HD video and it also has motion detection and can alert your smartphone accordingly.
- APEMAN’s Baby Monitor Camera for $24.99 is full HD and also has crying alerts.
Plus if you really want ‘smartness’ (i.e. you want to be able to listen to/view the output when away from home), you’ll find that some more expensive baby monitors already offer this – as does using a cheap IP camera with audio/motion alerts:
- The Arlo smart Wifi baby monitor costs $99.99 and comes with a good number of features, although its reviews are mixed with just 3.7/5.
- At the higher end, the Nanit Plus Smart Baby Monitor is $298.89 but it has absolutely tons of features including temperature and humidity tracking, Echo integration and secure video access over the internet.
- This 4MP Wireless Security Camera from ‘Lefun’ is $59.99 and it has over-the-internet capability along with audio detection (and a 24/7 video feed). This could be perfect for a baby monitor, as the Amazon description mentions.
- The Victure 1080P FHD WiFi IP Camera is just $29.99 and offers pan/tilt functionality, motion (but not audio) detection and hence alerts, and is full HD.
The lack of audio alerts is a bit of a pain, but upset babies older than a few months old will also be moving – meaning that the motion detection alone might make this sufficient as a baby monitor.