Security

Using IP cameras to create a security system

Not all security is in software, and Tony McSherry shows how to make a home camera system on the cheap.
The move to web-based email systems and various anti-spam software has cut down on the avalanche of dubious offers and advertising appearing in our mail boxes, but I'm still stuck with their real-world equivalent of electricity, gas, and broadband providers, charities, and religious proselytisers ringing my door bell and interrupting my work and relaxation at home, often requiring long conversations while they take advantage of my desire not to be rude.

New apartments and homes may have a video doorbell to allow you to screen callers, but my house is a two-level Victorian that lacks such modern adornments.

My first thought was video doorbells from eBay. You can acquire both the wired and wireless varieties, some with displays fixed to the wall and others with multiple tablets that can be moved around the home. Since my house is two levels, at least two display stations or tablets would be required, which was beginning to move the price north of AU$500 dollars, and cabling the wired systems might require an electrician, as well.

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As our household has multiple computers and displays, I decided instead to purchase a motorised camera that would be accessible from our wireless intranet. The Neo CoolCam Wireless Wi-Fi IP Camera with two-way audio and IR night vision for around AU$45 delivered was my final choice. This is manufactured in China, and, as I suspected before I opened the box, the documentation is very rudimentary, but it does offer an OCX for Internet Explorer and two apps for the iPhone and Android. Unfortunately, there are no apps for Windows Phone 8 or Windows RT, but there are paid and subscription security apps, such as ISpy on the Windows Store, that support this camera type.

To set up the camera, I plugged it into a PC, installed the software from a mini-CD, and set up the password for my Wi-Fi network. I then navigated to 192.168.1.129 in Internet Explorer, approved the use of the OCX, and the camera view with controls appeared. Two-way audio and video worked immediately both on the set-up PC and other PCs on my home Wi-Fi network, and I could also move the motorised camera. There does not seem to be motorised focus on this model, so making sure the focus and depth of field is correct using the manual focusing ring is a good idea before installing the camera on a wall.

While the camera was working fine, every time I disconnected from the PC, it apparently disappeared from the network. This stumped me for quite a while, until some internet searches turned up the fact that the wireless IP was actually the next IP in sequence, namely 192.168.1.130. Plugging that into the browser gave me access to the camera.

The camera's highest res is 640x480 at 30fps, and you may move the camera remotely through a wide arc, change brightness and contrast, record video or stills, and turn on infrared and audio. The camera also has options to allow for motion detection, automatic recording, alarms, door unlock, and the ability to send snapshots to an email address.

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Mounting the camera was relatively easy, and I was able to run the thin DC power cable through a front window rather than needing to drill masonry.

I'm setting up some old, superfluous XP laptops to provide an always-on view upstairs and downstairs, and I've installed the OCX on various PCs in the house, so a camera window is always available.

While the audio works well, it's generally low quality and the camera speaker is low volume. It's fine for relatively quiet areas, but it may be inaudible in noisy areas.

The software will handle up to nine cameras if you need a video surveillance system, but I was happy with the modest investment to provide a security camera at the front door.

With the camera in place, I've yet to try it for screening calls at the front door, but it has let me locate our missing cat waiting patiently to be let in.

About

Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

12 comments
Susan CHEAH
Susan CHEAH

An IP Cameras captures an image in digital format as opposed to analog cameras which convert an image to digital by the use of an encoder.  As a direct digital image, one captured by an IP camera can be dissected, zoomed in, masked off, and analyzed without distortion. The tools which allow this manipulation of the digital image are generally referred to as video analytics.  While analog system have some capability for analytics, they work within the limitations of the quality of the image that is captured. Vivotek www.iwatchs.com.my

KahLuke
KahLuke

Network camera is also known as Internet protocol camera (IP Camera). Unlike analog closed circuit television camera, IP camera is able to send and receive data via computer network or internet . Network cameras, same as conventional analogue cameras has both indoor and outdoor cameras. various brands of IP cameras, one of the famous, and well known brand is VIVOTEK. 

www.iwatchs.com.my

susanhughes03
susanhughes03

IP cameras are excellent for securing your surroundings, but may fail if good internet connection is not provided. I had such situations and so changed my internet connection to http://www.terago.ca. From then it goes well with good clarity videos.

vicent1980
vicent1980

I have 3 used ip cameras to sell I just used for one month, contact me if if necessary.

mathewwhite
mathewwhite

Installing cameras for surveillance is important but you should also install a alarm system. Alarm systems are helpful if someone breaks into your house. You should also use a mobile app and connect it with your system to remotely access it.

scotth
scotth

Just curious, if someone breaks into your place while you're not personally monitoring the cameras and takes the laptops with them, how will you know who did it?

Shawn Quinn
Shawn Quinn

I bought a wanscam on ebay for 50 bucks ; runs on my wifi ; sits on a mivrophone stand, so I can move it around as needed. It's my sentry. Had I bought a few of them, I could have built the whole thing for a couple hundred bucks, - views over a browser and over the internet with a bit of port forwarding enabled.

jimruby
jimruby

@scotth While I haven't looked at this particular brand of camera, most security cams allow you to e-mail motion activated snaps.  I send mine to a gmail account set up just for this and can view the pictures from just about anywhere in the world.

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