Great Video Security Made Simple & Cheap

Intro to Video Security

This is the first article in this series. Look for additional articles in the coming days.

I live in a rural area and I have been looking for a good security system that would not break my bank. I want motion detection and video surveillance. Remote access to the video and audio is essential. The all-in-one setups (e.g., 4 cameras & a recorder) sound ideal but the video quality is less than desired. So, I decided to “roll my own.”

My basic video surveillance system

I am still working on the system and adding additional cameras but the basic system is already working. Here is a screen shot of one of my HD cameras in action – not the outdoor IP camera that I describe later. (Don’t get blinded by that glare on the back of my head!)

Video Security

Video Security Example

Here are the elements of a basic system:

1. IP Webcam I used a Foscam 640×480 outdoor camera. But I recommend that others get an HD camera. Cost of my (reconditioned outdoor waterproof) FI8905W was around $70 at Amazon. (In a later article, I will explain how to use an old smart phone as a great HD security camera.) If your budget allows, you may want to consider a camera with PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) controls. For this basic system, common USB webcams will not suffice since they require a computer to run full-time in order to support them. IP cameras have a webserver built in and do not need a computer to operate.

2. Local network with Internet access. You could use an Ethernet (wired) connection to the camera but Wifi access provides much more flexibility for locating the camera(s). To access the initial camera setup on the Foscam, you have to use a Cat5 cable between the camera and the network. But, after the initial setup, you can switch to Wifi and move the camera to any location within range (assuming you can get electical power at that location).

3. Viewer / Monitor. You can use your computer browser to do the setup and (afterward) to view the output of the camera. However, for effective remote access, you will want to add an app to your smart phone. There are many WebCam viewer apps available but my favorites are “TinyCam Monitor” and “IP Cam Viewer” by Robert Chou.

Part 2 in this series is the Camera Setup article.

See the “Series Navigation” below to visit the other articles in this series.
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