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Withings Company Overview

A French consumer electronics company based in the Paris suburbs, Withings was founded in June 2008 by three technology and telecom executives who wanted to design and market products featuring internet connectivity. It is a well-capitalized concern, having received $3.8 million in funding from Ventech in September 2010 followed by a $30 million capitalization from Bpifrance, Idinvest Partners, 360 Capital Partners and Ventech in July 2013. Their first product was the WiFi Body Scale, which measures both weight and fat mass and uploads data via wireless to the company’s site. Withings also has apps for evaluating the scale data for Apple iOs, Android and Blackberry PCDs. The company also makes a blood pressure monitor.

At the January 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Withings announced its intention to make a baby monitor compatible with smartphones and other connected devices. In Europe the Withings Smart Baby Monitor became available the following November; the product made its North American debut in February 2012.

Gold Award 2014To its credit, while the Withings baby monitor is one of the most expensive monitors on the market, they manufacture and sell only one model. It has received lavish praise from industry observers, named as the best baby monitor by Australia’s ‘Reckoner‘ and Top Best Reviews and won the 2014 Gold Award from Top Ten Reviews. However, consumers as a whole have a decidedly lower opinion of the product. It only averages 3.2 stars of 5 based on reviews from Amazon. An aggregate of reviews similarly garners the Withings baby monitor three of five stars from Apple Store.

Withngs baby video monitorWhy the discrepancy? Since the gap between parental and professional reviews of the product is considerable, one must wonder if some websites receive compensation for their glowing recommendations. Consider Simon Mateljan of reckoner.com.au, who trumpets that the one baby monitor “left standing was the Withings.” He cites two reasons: one, “it was a single unit that had video and audio capabilities, and also acted as a nightlight.” At this point, skeptics may begin to question Mr. Mateljan’s motivation since the consumer pays a premium price for a product without a standalone monitor. Many also include built-in nightlights. His second reason? “We all have a mobile device which is either a phone or a tablet near us … at all times.” Withings is not the only product available with Wi-Fi connectivity to PCDs. The reader of Mr. Mateljan’s review is left thinking that the Smart Baby Monitor is a product with features that are unique compared to its competitors — cursory comparison of other top-of-the-line baby monitors soon reveals that this impression is, charitably speaking, misleading at best. Effusive commentary such as this often sways vacillating consumers. As a reader commented, “We are going to get one thanks to your review… but the reviews about it on Amazon are terrible… We are going to get one thanks to your review….

Speaking of Amazon, a fair number of reviewers slam the Withings with complaints regarding the product’s design and quality. A thoughtful parent noticed that the monitor base gets in the way of the image unless the camera is pointed straight forward, has “really sub-par” night vision and, worst of all, the unit is “unstable,” e.g., “it disconnects and buffers endlessly on occasion.” Other reviewers at Amazon claim that it does not work on Android devices, has product quality issues such as the power adapter mini-USB port tends to “easily” fall out of the back of the unit and connections are frequently lost and the system will not reconnect. In fact, one reviewer pointed out that his product had a very “serious and dangerous flaw,” viz —

At least once every one or two weeks the connection with the video feed will freeze, but instead of giving you a warning that the connection is frozen you will get a still image while the sound continues to work. So if the image freezes at a point when the baby is sound asleep and not moving you will continue to get this image regardless of what the baby is doing! My wife removed our baby from the crib and I was looking at the monitor and it continued to show me my baby sleeping in the crib!

As both professional reviewers and parents are quick to note, the Withings Smart Baby Monitor has a panoply of eye-catching features that, if the product were reliable, would make it worthy of its partisans’ plaudits. Paul Banas of ‘Pregnancy‘ magazine touts the monitor’s “simple clean design” and recommends it for “smartphone users wanting lots of features in a small package.” Gordon Meyer praises the design as “inoffensive and minimalist,” saying that it “doesn’t make you feel like you’re running a peep show.” Another positive aspect of the Withings is the fact that the monitor doesn’t need a computer to be commissioned, as it is easily configured with an iPhone using Bluetooth, allowing easy portability and connectivity to local WLANs.

Withings Smart Baby Monitor
Withings Smart Baby Monitor

Withings Smart Baby Monitor Features

Below is a summary of the Withings Smart Baby Monitor’s features lifted from the company website:

  • PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) HD camera with up to x4 zoom
  • Infrared night vision LEDs automatically illuminate as needed, providing clear images in “pitch black”
  • High quality audio feed with two-way talkback capability
  • Remote-activated, multi-colored LED nightlight allows the choice of a particular color or rainbow animation and a choice of seven lullabies to lull baby to sleep
  • Track temperature, humidity, noise and movements via built-in sensors
  • Fifteen minute recorded buffer of baby’s sound and movement variations
  • Maximized connectivity options from Wi-Fi, ethernet or Bluetooth with secure audiovisual feed
  • Tactile command buttons
Dimensions & Weight
  • Length x Width x Height = 92mm x 92mm x 63 mm
  • Weight = 293 g (includes 23 g battery)
Atmospheric Conditions
  • Operating Temperature from 10° C to 35°C (50° F to 95° F)
  • Storage Temperature from 0° to 50°C (32° F to 122° F)
Video
  • 3 megapixel high definition video sensors (2048 x 1536 pixels)
  • Intuitive camera angle adjustment and zoom x4 via virtual PTZ
  • Wide angle shot (90° horizontally, 120° diagonally
  • LED infrared night vision up to 5 meters (15 feet) with automatic activation system
  • H264 encoding: 512*384, adaptive bandwidth
Sound
  • Dual input microphone, 16 bit sound sampling at 44.1 kHz, AAC 32kbit/s encoding
  • Built-in loudspeakers (AAC, 22 kHz)

Note that the Withings Smart Baby Monitor does not come with its own stand-alone monitor; a smartphone or tablet must be used for video reception from the camera. Not to be overlooked is the hefty price: the product sells for about $250. As of this writing, Amazon has it available for $217.39 with free shipping. As the product is available for free returns from Amazon, one might consider evaluating the monitor based on its reported quality and Android issues.


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