As surveillance technologies like remote control systems and cameras become smaller, cheaper and more sophisticated, people have grown understandably wary, but the evolution of these technologies has its positive sides, too.
With cheap, high-quality cameras and software comes the ability to set up your own camera systems to keep track of your home and keep an eye out for your children and loved ones. Whether you're setting up a surveillance system as a deterrent or to provide evidence against burglars, petty thieves and other criminals, the following apps will help you do it.
First up is a simple, all-in-one camera and software solution called Dropcam ($149), an excellent starting point for keeping track of the house and your loved ones.
The package contains a high quality Wi-Fi camera with two-way audio, a mounting system and a micro USB cable for setup and charging. It's quick to setup, with versatile features including motion and sound detection, night vision, task scheduling and activity alerts through email or mobile apps.
Dropcam is used for everything from baby and nanny cams to home and office surveillance cameras, pet cameras and more. Additional Cloud Video Recording enables cloud backups. Pricing for that starts at $9.99/month for 7-day recording backups.
iSpy is a first-rate open-source program for managing your webcams and IP cams locally and remotely (with a paid account). As standard, the program lets you manage numerous web and IP cams, with support for motion detection and alerts, customizable detection zones, scheduled tasks, PTZ controls, time-lapse recording, and more.
To truly unlock the best features, you need to subscribe an iSpy premium account (starting at $7.95 AUS/month), which allows you to stream material to the web and adds provisions for mobile alerts. It's the remote access that makes this a great tool for viewing your camera setup whether you're just out at work or on a long vacation.
Yawcam is a feature-packed Java-based webcam streamer that lets you set up and manage a webcam stream.
Yawcam is easy to set up, with a pretty impressive feature set to boot. The software packs motion detection, task scheduling, snapshot capture and archiving, and motion detection events. Webcams can be viewed online through just about any browser by inputting a URL. You can also protect your feed via username and password.
Yawcam would be quite impressive, but for one deal-breaking limitation: It only supports single camera recording and streaming to the Internet. Running multiple instances of Yawcam is a workaround but it's a clunky solution that holds back an otherwise excellent free program.
iCam Viewer lets you monitor your cameras via remote desktop access from your smartphone. The desktop camera manager, iCam Source, has audio/video support for USB, FireWire and built-in cameras, as well as video support for a range of MJPEG WiFi and Ethernet IP cameras. iCam can be configured for motion detection with settings for sending mobile notifications or automatically recording events when there is movement. There's even a web viewer for viewing your camera streams over a browser.
While the iCam Source desktop control software is free, the iCam viewer apps on Android and iOS carry a one-time cost of $4.99.
iChano's AtHome Camera and AtHome Video Streamer let you turn your webcam or spare Android or iOS devices into home surveillance cameras that can be viewed and controlled remotely. It's a two-part solution, with a video streaming server installed on your PC (or a spare, camera-equipped Android or iOS device) and a remote viewer and control app installed on your smartphone.
AtHome Camera, the remote viewing and control app, lets you set automatic recording based triggered by motion (with variable sensitivity), as well as recording on scheduled time periods. You can also configure video quality and frame rate remotely and can set email or push notifications.However, AtHome Camera doesn't support IP-based cameras and lacks some controls such as pan, track and zoom.
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TinyCam Monitor is a highly rated IP camera viewer and control app for Android that supports numerous models of popular IP cameras. It functions as a great free viewer both for your own private IP camera systems and for numerous public cameras. The free version of the app lets you save up to 16 cameras and view any four simultaneously with support for Pan/Tilt/Zoom controls, digital zoom, snapshot functionality. Did we mention that it's add-free, too?
If all you want is a quick look at what's going on at home, this (in combination with a few well-placed IP cameras) it is more than enough. The real gold is in the $3.99 Pro version, though. TinyCam Monitor Pro includes audio playback, video recording and motion detection (with auto recording options).
IP Cam Viewer Basic by Robert Chou is another free camera viewer app with some very interesting extra features. IP Cam Viewer's free app supports a whole host of IP camera models as well as view modes, PTZ controls, home screen widgets and all the usual features of a good IP camera viewer.
What's intriguing is that the ($3.99) Pro version includes a Record Mode, allowing you to turn your Android device into your own security recorder, bypassing the need for a pricy DVR.
The Pro version also features Background audio mode, which will play sound even when app is just running the background, as well as Motion Detection with alerts and automatic recording.
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