Skip

Home Monitoring Via WebCam (Short Term)
January 26, 2012 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Is there an economical way to set up a few webcams so I can remotely monitor my house (for disasters) while on vacation?

I'm going away for a couple weeks in the dead of winter, and want to monitor my house (which is old, and prone to things going wrong).

I've been recommended the Sensaphone 400 with optional water and temperature sensors. About $500.

Problem is, it's really for weekend homes, requiring long term monitoring. It's overkill; I'm willing to put up with some inconvenience, since it's just for a couple weeks.

So I'm thinking of using webcams. One in front of the thermostat (which can also catch front door in background, so I can see if there's been a break-in). Another watching back door. One in basement, showing the floor (to see if there's flooding). And one with a sound-activated microphone upstairs, in case a tree falls on the house, or a window shatters, or an animal gets in (I probably wouldn't see anything, but could replay the audio to try to figure it out).

It wouldn't be perfect, but might reassure me nothing awful's gone down. I'd have to leave a few lights on, but they could be low wattage.

But..I have zero webcam experience. How do I get the feeds onto the 'Net? I guess the cams would need to be wifi enabled....ideally patched directly to whatever sites they feed to.
posted by Quisp Lover to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
cam.ly won't work....only one camera, no sound-activation (only motion activation), and though if I set it up just right, I can view previous recordings while away, it's really designed for viewing footage locally once you get back. So I guess it's more for stealthy surveillance than practical monitoring.

I'm not in a high crime area, not trying to compile evidence. Just want to know if anything horrendous has happened....
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:47 PM on January 26, 2012


Last time I went on holiday and wanted to monitor something at home, I used an old laptop facing the spot I wanted to watch, set to not ever hibernate, and sshed into it while I was away to use the webcam to take a few pics. You need a static IP address for this, though, and I guess it might not be so great for weeks at a time, due to the power use of the laptop(s), the need to leave several laptops running, and the potential (I imagine) for something to go wrong with the setup, like overheat-set-carpet-on-fire wrong.
posted by lollusc at 11:16 PM on January 26, 2012


D-Link has a line of networkable wireless cameras, as well as free software you can run to record from them and access through a firewall (the latter takes a little setup, of course). Several of the camera lines are under $100 each. I have found them to be fussy (e.g. sometimes they need manual reset by unplugging), but they can serve as the basis of a DIY security system, versus something that's more turnkey.
posted by dhartung at 11:43 PM on January 26, 2012


I'm sorry if this is a derail, but do you have a trusted friend or neighbor who can stop in every few days?
posted by bluedaisy at 11:43 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Search term "cheap import electronics". Many types of teeny cameras for $20 and up, 4-input USB DVRs, etc. Ridiculous amounts of versatility, very very cheap. I've never done a system that feeds to the internet, but have seen products listed to do this, not much pricier than stated. Downside is that shipping can take several weeks, and you need to NOT rely on enclosed product documentation, which may be in another language if it is present at all -- but this system let me put together a simple home security system with a couple cameras for $60 and an old netbook, as opposed to not being able to afford it at all, so I offer it as an option.
posted by mie at 12:18 AM on January 27, 2012


You can use an Android phone and run an IP Webcam app. Or you can buy a cheap webcam from deal extreme.

But is it really worth interrupting your holiday just in case? Why not use the money to repair or protect against damage, or ask a neighbour, friend or family to stop by occasionally?
posted by devnull at 4:44 AM on January 27, 2012


I asked several questions similar to this to the green, with my camera of choice the Foscam. At about $80 bucks a pop, it's a far cry from the Sensaphone.

Pros and cons:

-A beast to set up, requiring moderate-level network configuration mojo. Also, a multicamera Foscam setup is only compatible with Windows, so Mac users are stuck with a single cam.
-The camera can be moved multidirectionally, so you might be able to cut down on your proposed number of cameras by logging into a single device on the internet and pressing buttons on the screen to "sweep" the house and environs. However, overuse of this feature is likely to burn out the cheap motor, IMO, so I'm using it sparingly.
-The picture is hardly Hollywood-acceptable Bluray quality. If you were to point it at your basement floor, it's likely that only large water deposits would appear.
-Buy LED lights for your "always-on" strategy. A two-watt LED churns out the "equivalent" of 40 or 60 watts of illumination. Buy one or two, leave 'em on forever.
-The big minus of the Foscam is that, despite being a security camera, the Internet feature lacks https! It's less secure than your online bank, than a gmail account, than a stupid twitter page I checked out a minute ago--than nearly everything requiring https security. It's like hiring a beefy 'roid-headed security guard and handing him or her a drumstick and t-shirt instead of a baton and Kevlar vest. This is a near deal-killer in my book.

Bottom line: With the Foscam, and with many other cheapo cams I've checked out, the verdict is--"not ready for prime time." Hopefully in two or three years, we'll have inexpensive, mac-compatible, plug-n-play, https-ready ip cameras to monitor our houses, but that era ain't here yet.

still, despite its faults, the benefits of my single-cam setup afford me with a peace-of-mind that was worth the hassles
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:47 AM on January 27, 2012


For ease of setup / accessibility, an IP camera is probably the best bet. They usually come with a web interface. Putting them on the internet is as easy as forwarding a different port on your firewall to port 80 on each respective camera (be wary of security though). You can get wired and wireless IP cameras, but as dhartung pointed out, they're usually ~$100 each.

If you have a dedicated computer that you plan to leave on, you could try to put together a cheaper solution with USB cameras. A standard, UVC camera is <>USB range extender which is ~$30-$45 when you factor in it and the necessary Cat5 patch cord. You still have to roll your own user interface to access the camera though. I'm not sure as to what options exist for Windows and MacOS X, but for Linux, mjpg-streamer provides a great web-based interface that supports mjpeg video streaming (it can even be run on several embedded systems that support USB--I currently have it installed on an NSLU2 with a usb camera plugged into it). It's quite possible that when you add up the per-camera cost of this system (including time and aggravation) you won't do much better than the per-camera cost of IP cameras.

You can also go the slightly more professional route and get a security DVR. These usually accept standard security cctv cameras and allow you to record video and view it remotely. The downside is, on your scale the cost-per-camera will be much higher than either the IP or USB solutions.

There are, as mie mentions, really cheap "network video servers" devices out there that accept standard composite video and plug into a LAN, but in my experience, they're not worth the aggravation. I bought an earlier version of the IP-Video 9100A and it needed a firmware upgrade (which could only be installed by by granting a binary ActiveX control full permissions in Internet Explorer--not something I'd like to do for a device whose manufacturer is completely unknown!) to even work as advertised. The reviews on Amazon suggest they may have fixed that though, so it's worth considering. This device takes standard composite video, and cameras are quite cheap.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:13 AM on January 27, 2012


Sorry, formatting error. The second paragraph should read:

If you have a dedicated computer that you plan to leave on, you could try to put together a cheaper solution with USB cameras. A standard, UVC camera can be found for under $20 these days, but you're limited to placing it near the computer. That limitation can be overcome with a USB range extender which is ~$30-$45 when you factor in it and the necessary Cat5 patch cord. You still have to roll your own user interface to access the camera though. I'm not sure as to what options exist for Windows and MacOS X, but for Linux, mjpg-streamer provides a great web-based interface that supports mjpeg video streaming (it can even be run on several embedded systems that support USB--I currently have it installed on an NSLU2 with a usb camera plugged into it). It's quite possible that when you add up the per-camera cost of this system (including time and aggravation) you won't do much better than the per-camera cost of IP cameras.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:16 AM on January 27, 2012


Have you looked at Gotocamera? I have used the free version with 1 camera & seems to work well. Software installs on the pc connected to the camera then you can check on it with any device with a web browser.
posted by canoehead at 10:26 AM on January 29, 2012


Nice cheap easy solution:

iCam is a $5 iOs app that allows you to monitor up to 12 of your webcams (both USB and IP) remotely (list of compatible cams). It optionally supports motion detection, and remote control of cameras that are able to tilt and pan (compatibility list)

they also have software for Android

They also offer a freeware, IP Cam Config, which allows you to easily configure IP cams (none of which advertise as being Mac compatible) on a Mac. Including nice cheap IP cameras such as the $57 TRENDnet SecurView
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cheaper still:

This $30 IP camera seems to work with iCam, since this very similar one from the same company seems to.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2012


iCam seems to be software that must always be running on your several hundred dollar iPhone. Better would be to spend a bit more on the camera and get alerts.
posted by devnull at 7:04 AM on February 14, 2012


« Older Is it possible to walk on top ...   |  This quote is driving me batty... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post