If you’ve ever played with a webcam then you know they’re pretty cool little toys. Most people think of them as a device that they can use with their favorite IM tool to have a video conference but times have changed and these little guys can do much more than they used to.
Years ago I set a camera up that would take a photo every few minutes and upload it to a web-site. This can be a pretty cool way to see what the weather is like at your lake house or maybe a way to make sure the dogs are okay or just a way to see your kiddos during the day. Poking around the internet, I noticed that many dog kennels now use these cameras to allow owners to see Scruffy while they’re away on vacation and similarly, more and more day-care companies are using them so parents can check-in on Junior during the day.
I hadn’t looked at webcams in ages and then recently I had a need to set one up in my home. I began looking around to see what was on the market and I learned that the old style webcam is still around, and very cheap too, but there are a new breed of camera out there too that are labeled Internet cameras and what’s cool about these camera’s is that they are stand-alone self contained units that don’t need a computer to operate. What this means is that, when setup correctly, you can connect directly to your camera from a remote location –with nothing more than a browser– and get a live video feed or set them up to upload images or movies to a web server at predefined intervals. Some models can be setup to record only when they detect motion or body heat.
As I started looking around for something that would work for me, I found lots and lots of choices. At first I was going to go with a fixed camera (one that you can’t use software to move the lens around to get different views) but decided it might be nice to find a camera that would allow me to be the “roving eye”. I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money but I didn’t want to compromise on capability either so I finally chose a Panasonic model (BL-C131A) that I was able to pickup at my local Best Buy. Since I wanted to put my camera in an area that didn’t have a network connection I needed to go with the wireless version that cost me about a $100 more but it was worth every extra dollar.
Having completed the setup of my camera I am now able to connect from any computer (or smart phone) to get a live feed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I also set the system up to take timed images every minute and and to record an MPEG movie if it sees movement.
If you’ve ever wanted a do-it-yourself surveillance system, it’s never been cheaper and certainly never easier to take such a project on.