Edward Snowden Introduces Baby Monitor For Spies

Famed whistleblower [Edward Snowden] has recently taken to YouTube to announce Haven: an Open Source application designed to allow security-conscious users turn old unused Android smartphones and tablets into high-tech monitoring devices for free. While arguably Haven doesn’t do anything that wasn’t already possible with software on the market, the fact that it’s Open Source and designed from the ground up for security does make it a bit more compelling than what’s been available thus far.

Developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Haven is advertised as something of a role-reversal for the surveillance state. Instead of a smartphone’s microphone and camera spying on its owner, Haven allows the user to use those sensors to perform their own monitoring. It’s not limited to the camera and microphone either, Haven can also pull data from the smartphone’s ambient light sensor and accelerometer to help determine when somebody has moved the device or entered the room. There’s even support for monitoring the device’s power status: so if somebody tries to unplug the device or cut power to the room, the switch over to the battery will trigger the monitoring to go active.

Thanks to the Open Source nature of Haven, it’s hoped that continued development (community and otherwise) will see an expansion of the application’s capabilities. To give an example of a potential enhancement, [Snowden] mentions the possibility of using the smartphone’s barometer to detect the opening of doors and windows.

With most commercially available motion activated monitor systems, such as Nest Cam, the device requires a constant Internet connection and a subscription. Haven, on the other hand, is designed to do everything on the local device without the need for a connection to the Internet, so an intruder can’t just knock out your Wi-Fi to kill all of your monitoring. Once Haven sees or hears something it wants you to know about it can send an alert over standard SMS, or if you’re really security minded, the end-to-end encrypted Signal.

The number of people who need the type of security Haven is advertised as providing is probably pretty low; unless you’re a journalist working on a corruption case or a revolutionary plotting a coup d’etat, you’ll probably be fine with existing solutions. That being said, we’ve covered on our own pages many individuals who’ve spent considerable time and effort rolling their own remote monitoring solutions which seem to overlap the goals of Haven.

So even if your daily life is more John Doe than James Bond, you may want to check out the GitHub page for Haven or even install it on one of the incredibly cheap Android phones that are out there and take it for a spin.

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FruitNanny: The Raspberry Pi Baby Monitor For Geeks

Having a child is perhaps the greatest “hack” a human can perform. There’s no soldering iron, no Arduino (we hope), but in the end, you’ve managed to help create the most complex piece of machinery in the known galaxy. The joys of having a child are of course not lost on the geekier of our citizens, for they wonder the same things that all new parents do: how do we make sure the baby is comfortable, how many IR LEDs do we need to see her in the dark, and of course the age old question, should we do this with a web app or go native?

If you’re the kind of person who was frustrated to see that “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” didn’t even bother to mention streaming video codecs, then you’ll love FruitNanny, the wonderfully over-engineered baby monitor created by [Dmitry Ivanov]. The product of nearly two years of development, FruitNanny started as little more than a Raspberry Pi 1n a plastic lunch box. But as [Dmitry] details in his extensive write-up, the latest iteration could easily go head-to-head with products on the commercial market.

[Dmitry] gives a full bill of materials on his page, but all the usual suspects are here. A Raspberry Pi 3 paired with the official NoIR camera make up the heart of the system, and the extremely popular DHT22 handles the environmental monitoring. A very nice 3D printed case, a lens intended for the iPhone, and a dozen IR LEDs round out the build.

The software side is where the project really kicks into high gear. Reading through the setup instructions [Dmitry] has provided is basically a crash course in platform-agnostic video streaming. Even if a little bundle of joy isn’t on your development roadmap, there’s probably a tip or two you can pick up for your next project that requires remote monitoring.

It probably won’t surprise you that geeky parents have been coming up with ways to spy on their kids for some time now, and if you can believe it, some don’t even include a Raspberry Pi.

Modified Baby Monitor Interrupts Your Groove In Case Of Emergency

You try to be good, but the temptation to drown out the noise of parenthood with some great tunes is just too much to resist. The music washes over you, bringing you back to simpler times. But alas, once you plug in the kids started running amok, and now the house is on fire and there’s the cleaning up to do and all that paperwork. Maybe you should have tried modifying a baby monitor to interrupt your music in case of emergency?

Starting with an off-the-shelf baby monitor, [Ben Heck] takes us through the design goals and does a quick teardown of the circuit. A simple audio switching circuit is breadboarded using an ADG436 dual SPDT chip to allow either the baby monitor audio or music fed from your favorite source through to the output. [Ben] wisely chose the path of least resistance to detecting baby noise by using the volume indicating LEDs on the monitor. A 555 one-shot trips for a few seconds when there’s enough noise, which switches the music off and lets you listen in on [Junior]. The nice touch is that all the added components fit nicely in the roomy case and are powered off the monitor’s supply.

Maybe you’d prefer listening to the nippers less than watching them? In that case, this impromptu eye-in-the-sky baby camera might be a better choice.

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Raspberry Pi Spies On… Err… Monitors Baby

“Quick! We’re having a baby and we need a baby monitor!” Rather than run to the local big box and plunk down cash for an off-the-shelf solution, any self-respecting hacker would rise to the challenge and hit the shop to build something like this live streaming eye-in-the-sky baby camera. Right?

baby-monitor-raspberry-pi-cameraAt least that’s how [Antibore] handled the situation, and the results are pretty good. He designed his build around an old Raspberry Pi 2 that was hanging around. That required a WiFi adapter, and since he wanted video and audio he needed a camera and mic. The first USB mic had a nice compact design but didn’t perform well, so a gutted gooseneck mic soldered right to the USB connector joined the design spec. A camera module, cell-phone quick charge battery bank, and a 3D printed case round out the BOM. A knitted cozy to keep it looking warm and fuzzy was provided by the mother-to-be — although we think it looks a little like [Mike Wazowski].

This self-contained unit will work anywhere it has access to a WiFi network. Mounted on the baby carrier, it’ll provide a live stream to any browser and provide the new parents with a little peace of mind.

There are a lot of baby monitors on the market, some of them terrible and in need of a rebuild. Kudos to [Antibore] for deciding to roll his own custom solution and for getting it done before the blessed event. Now how about painting that nursery?

Baby Monitor Rebuild Is Also ESP8266 Audio Streaming How-To

[Sven337]’s rebuild of a cheap and terrible baby monitor isn’t super visual, but it has so much more going on than it first seems. It’s also a how-to for streaming audio via UDP over WiFi with a pair of ESP8266 units, and includes a frank sharing of things that went wrong in the process and how they were addressed. [Sven337] even experimented with a couple of different methods for real-time compression of the transmitted audio data, for no other reason than the sake of doing things as well as they can reasonably be done without adding parts or spending extra money.

receiverThe original baby monitor had audio and video but was utterly useless for a number of reasons (French).  The range and quality were terrible, and the audio was full of static and interference that was just as loud as anything the microphone actually picked up from the room. The user is left with two choices: either have white noise constantly coming through the receiver, or be unable to hear your child because you turned the volume down to get rid of the constant static. Our favorite part is the VOX “feature”: if the baby is quiet, it turns off the receiver’s screen; it has no effect whatsoever on the audio! As icing on the cake, the analog 2.4GHz transmitter interferes with the household WiFi when it transmits – which is all the time, because it’s always-on.

Small wonder [Sven337] decided to go the DIY route. Instead of getting dumped in the trash, the unit got rebuilt almost from the ground-up.

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Fail Of The Week: Baby Monitor Hack Ends In Facepalm

fotw-baby-monitor-repaired-the-hard-way

Editor’s Note: This was the last Fail of the Week tip we had stored up. If you want to see the series continue on a weekly basis we need help finding more documented fails! Please look back through your projects and document the ones that didn’t go quite right. We also encourage you to send in links to other fails you’ve found. Just drop the links in our tips line. Thanks!

Now on with business. This is a baby monitor which [Eric] cleverly repaired, only to realize that he more than likely did it the hard way. The monitor was broken and went unused until his son figured out how to climb out of the crib, so he figured it was time to start monitoring again. Pulling the unit from the brink of the parts bin he set to work repairing the broken power connector.

Further inspection of the power adapter showed that it was spec’d to put out 5V at 1A. This falls in line with USB power, so he clipped the end off of a USB-B cable and used a hunk of proto-board to inject the 5V lines into the device. It was when it came time to reassemble the case that he flipped the board over and discovered an existing USB-B port. He could have just cut a hole in the case to get at the connector and plugged the un-altered cable in directly. Oh well… we’re sure it was fun figuring out his own custom solution!


2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story — or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.

TI Chronos Watch Monitor Your Sleeping Infant

[Bill] wants a little piece of mind when his infant is sleeping in the other room. For him, the audio-only baby monitor could use some improvement. His proof-of-concept is that blue patch Velcroed on the swaddled infant. It monitors movement, orientation, and temperature and alerts you when something’s amiss.

Inside the pouch you’ll find a TI Chronos eZ430 wristwatch with the band removed. It’s a nice hardware choice because it includes an accelerometer, temperature sensor, and RF link to a USB dongle. [Bill’s] code sends a data packet to the PC about once a second. The PC watches to make sure there’s slight motion, indicating the baby is breathing. This part doesn’t work all that well as the accelerometer doesn’t pick up tiny movements all too well, but it does have potential. In the video after the break you can see the functions which make sure the baby doesn’t roll onto its belly, and that she’s not too cold do work extremely well.

We wonder if the accelerometer would pick up more motion if the watch was hung from a string inside of a small enclosure. This way it would swing back and forth with small movements. But perhaps that would make the whole thing too bulky?

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