Webcams and IP cameras let you keep an eye on your property while you’re away.
Is the summer downpour flooding the garage? Did Fido grab the gobbler off the counter again? Is your 50-inch flat-panel TV still in place? Find out! And, find out from absolutely anywhere by using your PC to create an affordable home or business surveillance system that you can access over the Internet – even over your phone.
You can set up an uncomplicated USB-connected Webcam or a wireless camera that can be placed almost anywhere for less than $200, or a complete PC-based monitoring system for under $1000. You can contact professional installers like us, here. But, you can totally do this yourself.
A basic surveillance system requires 3 things: a camera; motion-sensing software to activate the camera and to store video or still images; and software to send the images over the Internet. Adding a wired or wireless network expands your surveillance capabilities.
If you’re on a small budget or you don’t want to deal with installing remote cameras, an inexpensive Webcam can serve as a bare-bones surveillance. Webcams come with motion-sensing and remote-access software, but paying extra for a full-featured program is worthwhile, especially if you want to use several Webcams of different makes.
The biggest drawback of a Webcam is that it’s tethered by a USB cable to your PC. Powered USB hubs and USB active repeater cables allow you to double or triple USB’s 5-meter length limit. Wireless USB products are super convenient, too.
IP cameras, on the other hand, can be placed anywhere there’s a network connection, making them ideal for homes or offices that already have a wireless network. Since they connect directly to your router rather than through your PC, you don’t need to keep the machine on to view the camera’s image in a browser. Prices for cameras with such features as night vision, remote-control positioning (pan-and-tilt controls, for instance), and zoom lenses can quickly escalate past $1000, but less expensive wireless cameras like D-Link’s DCS-5300G (about $500), Linksys’s Compact Wireless G Internet Video Camera (about $100) and 4XEM’s WLPTG Wireless Pan/Tilt IP Network Camera (about $390) have many of these extra features.
Cameras With Swivel
The pan-and-tilt capability of the 4XEM and D-Link units let me monitor my living room, kitchen, and yard (through a window) with one camera whose view I controlled remotely, rather than having to use two or three stationary cameras. If you have pets, attach a speaker to let them hear your voice. They will love it!
So, you can monitor your dog’s water bowl, your front door, and your vegetable garden from your cousin’s house across town.
Of course, your network camera will only be as useful as the surveillance software that runs it. If the software bundled with your camera is hard to use, has limited features, or is difficult to install, ditch it to try one of the many third-party alternatives, like DeskShare’s $50 WebCam Monitor or iCode’s $79 i-Catcher Sentry. Both apps are easier to configure and more useful than the programs that came with several of the cameras I tried out.
Before you buy a camera-controller app, make sure its codec works with your cameras. IP cameras typically support either the MJPEG or the MPEG-4 codec, though some newer cameras support both. MPEG-4 cameras produce smaller video files, but at lower resolutions than MJPEG.
Good luck with your project! If you need help contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org.