The other day, while spending a couple hours in line to get the new iPhone 4, my friend Mike showed me something pretty impressive on his iPhone: his entire house via remote web cameras. Using a $5 iPhone app called iCam and some cheap webcams scattered around his house, he was able to setup a great remote security system that we could view over wifi or 3G.
We happened to be waiting to get our iPhones at a Rogers video store that carried videogame gear….turns out the Xbox 360 camera that comes with the In The Movies game kit (I got it on clearance for $24 but have been spotted cheaper) works perfectly on a Mac…in my case, my new Mac Mini Server that I picked up a little while back.
So I bought the camera and the app and as soon as I got home, I set it up…well, I may have played with the new iPhone a little bit first.
To make it all work, you need to download some software for your computer (Mac or PC). It’s a free download from the makers of the iPhone app:
It’s pretty straightforward to setup, just ensure that a camera of some kind (built in iSights work fine) before running the software and ideally, the computer will be on all the time. In my case, my Mini is a file/web server so it’s on all the time.
You choose your video/audio sources, create a username and password that is unique to you. You can give your camera a name and set the motion sensitivity settings…you can leave these at the defaults to start. The rest of the shots are screenshots taken from my iPhone. The great thing about this app is that you can easily configure it remotely on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. The computer based software can also be accessed from any java capable browser, but that’s not a cool as from your phone.
Once you’ve downloaded and installed the iPhone/iPad app, you simply enter the username/password from your Mac/PC setup and it should just find it and start up the camera – no firewall or proxy settings necessary. By default, it launches with four windows (as it supports up to four cameras) so just tap on the window that has your camera source in it and it should go full screen.
Tap the screen and you’ll be able to adjust a number of settings, including the motion sensitivity and push notifications. If you have pets or lots of outdoor light in the room that you have the camera setup in, you’ll need to adjust this. The motion button will light up green when it detects motion.
I love the notifications that pop up on my iPhone. I simply swipe to unlock my phone, and it takes me straight into the webcam view without doing anything else.
If you choose to record motion events, you’ll be able to view them remotely as well:
The motion events are basically stills capturing the motion and you can play them back like a timelapse movie directly off your iPhone remotely.
All in all, it’s a pretty simple, yet effective security camera system for about $30 for the camera and app…and you may already have a camera so it’s only a $5 investment.