Everything You Need to Know About Baby Monitor Frequencies

This is the most comprehensive guide on baby monitor frequencies.

In fact, ever since their first use in the mid 1890’s, radio waves have become part of human life.

Baby monitors, cell phones, AM and FM radios, satellites, and practically any electronic that sends and receives communication to and from an outside source would not have existed without this powerful discovery.

By using radio waves, a device can transmit a message in form of written text, audio, or video formats, provided it has the right hardware and software configuration.

The prime reason why parents buy long distance baby monitors is to be able to stay connected with their young ones, even though they might be in a different place in the compound, thanks to radio waves.

Before we give you a comprehensive coverage on baby monitor frequencies, let’s first take a look at some of the unique components that enables a baby monitor to perform well.

Parts of a Baby Monitor

baby monitor parts

Although today’s baby monitors are a bit advanced, the earliest gadgets had two components: a sender unit and a receiver unit.

The sender had a microphone that collected sounds from the baby and transmitted this to the receiver.

The user placed the sender unit in the baby’s room, preferably in the baby’s cot, and they would take the receiver with them to hear if the baby woke up or if they got uncomfortable.

Modern baby monitors are a bit more complex. They have a two-way communication channel in which both ends can send and receive signals. The nature of information that these gadgets can convey has also become more detailed over time.

In a two-way channel baby monitor, a mother can hear signals from her baby cry and, at the same time, use the receiver gadget to sing for or talk back to the baby.

Some modern monitors can also transmit video and audio signals, and others even have bulbs of different colors, each of which lights up to correspond with the apparent mood of the baby.

For instance, when the baby is having crib talk and seems happy, green bulbs light up on the parent unit. Most of them use red bulbs to indicate that the baby is very uncomfortable or is crying.

This apparently simple modification has proved important, especially when the caregiver is at a noisy place and cannot hear the baby cry.

What is Radio Frequency?

what is radio frequency

Every communication gadget has a design that either enables it to collect and convert voice, text, and audio data into electromagnetic signals, or to receive these signals and convert them back to human-identifiable forms such (audio, video, text), or do both.

Amplitude Modulators (AM) and Frequency Modulators (FM) do the work of converting waves to forms that human beings can understand.

The term frequency, in this sense, refers the distance that one wave travels from the source before the generation of the next wave within a one second period.

All waves travel in cycles, and when you hear a person use the term “hertz”, they are referring to cycles of waves per second.

The terms kilohertz, megahertz, gigahertz, are frequency multiples of 1000, 1,000,000, and 1,000,000,000 respectively.

Transmitting Data in Waves

transmit data in waves

A transmitter has two options when transferring data through waves. Data transfer can happen either along the amplitude of a wave or through frequency differences in every second.

Amplitude is the height of the wave while frequency is the distance between one wave and the next wave.

With AM baby monitors, for instance, different amplitude combinations correlate with different sound intensities that the receiver device understands and produces when it receives a set of waves with such amplitudes.

Types of Baby Monitors Based on Frequencies

Majority of baby monitors usually operate within 49.3MHZ to 49.8MHZ, although there are some that operate in other frequency ranges, like 2.4GHz.

It is important to understand at this point that baby monitors fall into various categories based on the type of technology that they use in transmitting and receiving frequencies. They can either be AM or FM based or analog or digital.

Each has its own advantages and downsides.

1. AM Baby Monitors

AM baby monitor

The transmitters of AM monitors encode signals within the amplitudes of electromagnetic waves.

The receivers are designed to be able to decode signals transmitted this way. Amplitude Modulators receiver will therefore “lookout” for any signals along the particular wave spectrum that it read.

One advantage of AM signals is that they can travel over longer distances and do not face the challenges of barriers such as walls.

Moreover, AM baby monitors tend to be cheaper due to the low cost of their demodulation units.

Security is a major concern with AM baby monitors. They are relatively easy to pry on, especially due to the reduced reading range.

Unlike frequency modulation, which can happen over multiple waves to provide a longer spectrum to read from, amplitude modulation only happens along the height of a single wave, making them easier for an external party to scan and listen to conversations within a home.

Another problem with AM modulation is signal interference.

If two people who live in the same apartment were to use AM baby monitors at the same time, chances are that one would end up picking the other person’s signals, leading to a mix-up.

In addition, AM receivers have lots of background noise and might be uncomfortable to use.

2. FM Baby Monitors

FM baby monitor

FM receivers decode messages sent along the frequency spectrum.

Here, the length of a single wave or a set of waves generated within one second denotes particular information, unlike in AM receivers where the amplitude of the wave is all that really matters.

Many people love baby monitors that use FM modulation due to their reduced noise and minimal signal interference. A good example is the Levana Lila. Such devices tend to be more comfortable to use as compared to AM monitors.

While an AM radio will pass all signals that it receives from similar amplitudes, an FM receiver ignores weaker signals and modulates only the strongest one in the particular frequency.

The possibility that two neighbors who use the same FM baby monitors will get mixed-up signals is therefore low, almost close to zero.

Because they have a higher bandwidth, their transmission systems can also incorporate video signals, provided the underlying hardware supports this.

Distance limitations affect FM receivers than AM receivers. FM signals tend to weaken with distance, and barriers such as walls can have a great impact on their efficiency.

For example, if you leave your baby in a room and carry the receiver with you to the backyard, the possibility that you won’t receive signals are higher when you use an AM monitor.

Moreover, FM Baby Monitors have raised the same security concerns like their AM counterparts, although many experts say that the possibility of false-positives make such concerns unnecessary. 

Note that some baby monitors have a switch that the owner can use to choose between AM and FM transmissions. This allows one to enjoy the benefits of both monitors without needing to buy two separate units for the same job.

3. Digital vs. Analog Baby Monitors

digital baby monitor

Digital signals can carry similar information as analog signals. The only difference is that signals sent through digital means are not continuous.

Pieces of data in digital signals either adopt 0 or 1 formats. A baby monitor of this kind, therefore, converts the baby’s movements or voice into 0s and 1s and transmits these as electromagnetic waves. When they reach the other end, the receiver converts the digital values back to sounds.

Digital monitors have become popular in the recent years due to the obvious advantages that they offer over their counterparts.

Most important among these is their nature of security. And although they are still prone to hacking, it would require more resources and time to hack a digital receiver than it would to hack an analog-based receiver.

Moreover, digital baby monitors are compatible with modern, internet-based technology. With a good internet connection, devices like iBaby Monitor M6S and Withings Smart Baby Monitor can synchronize information with personal computers and smartphones.

With the help of a Wifi-enabled monitoring device, a mother can monitor the baby she left at home even if she is far away at the mall.

Their audio and video quality also tends to be higher than those of analog-based devices, as they don’t face the problem of noise interference.

The problem with digital baby monitors is that they tend to be more expensive than analog monitors are. A digital monitor will cost you two to three times the price of a fully equipped analog monitor.

However, the prices have been falling lately as the technology becomes more affordable. There are also online baby shops that offer crazy discounts on these.

The other disadvantage is that they require a strong internet to operate. In regions where Wifi and mobile network connections are expensive, or in places where internet connectivity is unreliable, such gadgets wouldn’t be preferable.