Would you like to keep an eye all around your house while at or away from home? When something moves outside your home, you can access an eight-second video of the movement anywhere in the world that you have internet, delayed only for the length of the recording and the automatic upload time. And the best thing is, is that all this is free! You can wow your family with your handy-man (or handy-woman) skill at keeping your home safe without paying a cent, all while you put to use your old smartphones that you spent a fortune on but cannot sell and haven’t used in months or years.
For this project, you will need:
- 1 or more smartphone(s) with chargers and possibly extension cords
- A Windows 7,8, or XP laptop or desktop computer with wireless capability
- The phone(s) and computer will need to be on same WiFi network
- Download iSpy PC for free
- Download the IP Webcam App for free
- Download the Box.com Free account allows 10GB
- Box.com App on your phone for viewing
The mentioned software is only suggested because I know they work through trial and error and experience and they are all free.
Setting Up Your Phone
Step 1. Download the App
Whether you use an Android or an Iphone smartphone, I strongly recommend that the cell phone be used only for a camera and that all apps should be deleted other than the required surveillance app. An old blackberry, windows, or other type may be used if you can download any app that functions as an IP camera. The app I downloaded was IP Webcam for Android, which requires Android 1.4 or later.
Step 2. Start Streaming
Once you have downloaded, open the app and you should see a long list of options, ending with “Start server.” If you want to add security to your stream, you can add an username and password, but if your WiFi connection is already password-protected, you may not need to do this. Check the boxes next to “Stream on device boot” and “Keep phone from going asleep,” then touch “Start server.” A server number should appear that looks something like: 184.108.40.206:8080. Write your phone’s IP address down and remember which camera it goes to.
Step 3. Place Your Phone in a Desired Spot
After you download and set up the app, put your smartphone in a window using tape, a homemade stand, string, or any other way that you can. The main idea is to keep it from falling, pointed the direction you wish, and able to be plugged into an electrical outlet. If you want the phone to be pointed directly outward and the window does not get direct sunlight, you can use an adhesive for hanging pictures on walls and stick it directly to the window.
Caution: If the window gets direct sunlight, make sure phone is in shadow, whether behind a curtain or blind or even a cardboard visor. Otherwise it will be destroyed by the heat!
Also, since the charger will always be plugged in, you can reduce heat by keeping the phone in air conditioning and making sure that you select the option to “Keep phone from falling asleep” when you start streaming and then turn off the screen. Just check to make sure it is still streaming on the laptop after you do… it never hurts to double-check.
Setting up the Computer
Step 1. Download the Freeware
The computer can be one you use frequently, but may want to use a netbook or unused computer to prevent unwanted slowing down if your processor is not powerful enough. You will need to download iSpy and Box Sync. You will need to make a free account at Box here.
Step 2. Linking the Camera
Once iSpy is installed, click “Add” at the top, then on the pop up menu, click “IP Camera With Wizard.” On the list of manufacturers, if you downloaded the IP Webcam app, type in “ip webcam android” and highlight the option of the same name. Click “Next.” When you are prompted to enter a username and password, just click “Next” if you did not create one on your app. For the IP Address, type in the number you wrote down a minute ago, and put the last four numbers in the “port (HTTP)” box. Press “Next.” Once you choose the camera, press “Next” and when the “Edit Camera” window comes open, you can press “Finish” if you do not wish to change any settings.
Step 3. Setting up Box Sync
Once Box Sync is installed, open the program and sign in to your account that you created. The program will have put a shortcut folder on your desktop. Go to iSpy and click “Settings” in the same menu as the “Add” button you clicked on earlier. When the “Settings” window opens, click the “Storage” tab. Then, next to trashcan icon, click the blue and yellow pencil and paper icon that will edit the “Media Directory.” On the next window that opens, click the browse button that looks like “…” Find the folder called “Box Sync” and click on it once to highlight. Click “Select Folder” to proceed.
Now open Box Sync by finding the blue icon that says “Box” on the taskbar. Right-click and select “Preferences.” Make sure “Sync” is on. Close the window.
If you have any other phones that you would like to also connect to, repeat steps under “Setting up Your Computer.”
Accessing Your Recordings Away from Home
Just log in to Box.com from your browser or the Box App from your smartphone.
- If your house is dark and doesn’t have security lights or porch lights or street lights to see at night, you may need to get a motion detecting light that when it turns on, it automatically lights up the yard area which will in effect make the camera start to record.
- You may get lots of false positives when the sun rises or when the wind gale blows, so it doesn’t hurt to routinely delete some older videos from your computer.
- Sometimes the camera will say “Connecting” in red when it loses signal. It is normal for it to do this sometimes, but if it does it and stays off, it may need to have a stronger WiFi signal or the phone may need restarted. Try some basic troubleshooting to make sure it continues to stay connected to the internet and continues to stream.