Author Topic: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer  (Read 14924 times)

Offline creuzerm

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I have put together a video monitoring system for $6. I needed to buy an extra phone charger. Everything else was 'salvaged' stuff.

I use this for watching the kids when they are playing, checking the doors before I answer it & remote monitoring while I am away.


To build such a system, you need 3 categories of things:
  • Smartphones
  • Old computer to run DVR software
  • WiFi[/]
Wifi
We will assume that you have a wifi network and can configure the phones & computer to use it.

Cameras
Lets start with the smart phones. I use off contract & damaged Android phones. They don't hold their resale like iphones do, which I suspect would work just fine, I just can't afford them.

With all the smart phones coming off contract now days and people tossing the old ones when they get new ones, we have a great resource for cheap/free miniature computers. These 'junk' smart phones have built in cameras & wifi. Everything that the $100 special purpose cameras have.  Plus, they have a built in battery for when the power goes out.
I put the word out that I am interested in old smartphones that are getting tossed. I also take ones that have been dropped that have a cracked, but functional screen.

I do a factory reset on the phones, and log in with a google account I use just for these phones.
I install an IP webcam app on them https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pas.webcam Set them up with a good username/password or people nearby can use the cameras themselves.

These phones get set up to look out of windows. I also built a box that I hung from the garage to watch the front door.

DVR
This is the tool that allows video capture, storage and monitoring.  This is the hardest part to set up.

I used a software package called zoneminder. It can be found at zoneminder.com It runs on Linux.

I install this on an old computer. Mine happened to be an old XEON server running about 2ghz. The software will run on much less hardware, if you use video capture cards, which aren't being used in this case. So a pretty beefy computer will be needed to monitor more than a few IP cameras.

I set up my internet router to forward external requests to the computer running zoneminder. This allows me to monitor the cameras when I am not home using anything with an internet connection, such as my smart phone.

Instructions for setting up zoneminder are on the website. Too much to rehash here.

My Setup

I am using several out of contract phones. 1 was dropped, and has a shattered screen which still otherwise functions. I have 1 phone with a bad charger jack that I am giving power to via the battery case using a custom battery power adapter I printed on my 3d printer. I have 1 phone in good shape. I am also using a cheap tablet that had gotten dropped and has a broken screen. I also am using a webcam on an old laptop with a broken screen that's been delegated to the garage.

In addition to the full time cameras, I have a Google TV android device plugged into my TV and serveral web cameras on various computers that I can turn on the IP webcamera software when I am leaving for extended periods. They stay off while I am home, so there aren't cameras on inside the house.

The Google TV has on the main screen a 'widget' that updates every 5 minutes with views from around the house. A single click on one of these will pull up the live camera feed. This is great for keeping an eye on the kids playing outside, or who's at the front door, etc. I can also do these tasks with the tablet or phones.
You can also pull up the system in a web browser on any regular computer.


I use this app on my phone, tablet, and android TV to monitor the cameras on-network. I have this app set up to talk to the cameras directly. Faster frame rate.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alexvas.dvr&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmFsZXh2YXMuZHZyIl0.

I have another monitoring app that I use to monitor 'remotely'. It has a widget feature that I use to keep a passive eye for major scenery alterations. (missing car, van parked in yard, etc.)
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.safe500.neteyeFree2

A fairly complex system can be set up for quite cheap using devices that are 'trash' in the eyes of the current owners. Collect these old devices, and keep they out of the landfills, and an eye on your property!

nkawtg

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2013, 01:41:39 PM »
Nice out of the box thinking. Question for you.
How do you install a google app on a phone without a plan?


Offline creuzerm

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 02:44:44 PM »
How do you install a google app on a phone without a plan?

WiFi.

The plan is only needed for phone calls or data over the cell network. Without a plan, these devices are fully functional 'tablets'. Connect them to a WiFi connection, and they work just the same as they would with a plan.

It's absolutely amazing to me that people throw these awesome little computers away! I have dozens of computers, and ranked on speed, #2-#4 are android devices!

Offline kckndrgn

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2013, 08:19:43 AM »
Very nice.  I have an extra Droid Incredible laying around the house.  I think I just found a use for it :)

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2013, 09:36:32 AM »
I like that this keeps the battery charged, conditioned and ready to rock & roll if you need to grab the phone and go.
Or dial 911 which should always work, even when the phone isn't activated.

Usually simply trying to use it as a phone will drop you into the telco's voice prompt system, and a few minutes can get the security phone re-activated against your account.

Offline Trimbleman

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2013, 08:37:01 PM »
Is there software that will notify you if there is any movement on the screen?  I am looking for a way to keep an eye on the back doors of my house while I am away at my office.

Kevin

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2013, 09:16:09 PM »
Is there software that will notify you if there is any movement on the screen?

Zoneminder can be configured to do that. There is also windows based monitoring systems out there. I just like using linux, so I picked this solution I described above.

Offline Adam B.

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2013, 09:21:41 AM »
Great idea! +1 to that!

I have 3 old smart phones that have cameras and would work for this, although 2 of them are the Palm Pre — and when you turn them on without being connected to service they seem to be useless bricks. I have heard they can be wiped with an android OS, but honestly I don't have enough free time as it is.

However when they asked me if I wanted to "recycle" my old Android phone I said I would keep it and use it as a "webcam" or something like that. I never thought of using it as a surveillance camera though!

Here's a question... Is there software that will send an alert if movement is detected through a webcam (with a photo / video?)

The one "cool" thing about my internet at home is that it is completely wireless and has battery backup so there are no "cords to cut" — however I do take the hotspot with me when I travel so it is not a 100% solution.

Offline Adam B.

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2013, 09:25:09 AM »
Nevermind about the question I asked... LOL...

Maybe if I would read a little bit into the thread I would have seen someone already asked and was answered!

Offline archer

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2013, 09:44:57 AM »
very interesting idea. thanks for the tip. i am thinking about a small security system and this mght work well.

Offline Erigorn

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2013, 02:39:54 PM »
very nice. i have a few such smart phones lying around and have been looking into some home cameras.

Offline LibertyBelle

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2013, 04:49:28 PM »
Oldest DS is getting ready to upgrade his smart phone, and if he's planning on just tossing it in the drawer like he's done with the rest of his old phones, I may talk him into doing this. ;)

Offline Adam B.

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #12 on: June 05, 2013, 09:09:29 AM »
The best part about it is that there are no wires to run, and you can just prop up your "security camera" somewhere, run the app and have it connected to your network.

I do like the idea of being able to check on the house through a smartphone when traveling (I am assuming that is possible and that you wouldn't need a laptop to check the cameras).

My only downfall is that my internet travels with me when I am away for an extended period of time (mobile hotspot), but if I were crafty enough and had a high gain antenna I could route it through a neighbor's open wifi router or use Kismet to crack anyone using a WEP encryption and let them monitor my house for me HAHA. It could probably be done with a couple of old routers I have laying around set up as repeaters.

Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #13 on: June 05, 2013, 09:20:51 AM »
Wow this is a really awesome idea, I'm going to have to set one of these up.

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2013, 07:47:06 PM »
this is a great idea,  i have been wanting to get some video software... i have two phones that i could use right now... now i need to scrounge up a DVR or find one on the cheap.

Offline justanotherjoe

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #15 on: August 04, 2013, 07:42:21 PM »
consider also a raspberry pi with a webcam. What phone model have you had success with? This may not work with any old android phone some of the cheaper ones may not last very long since they are not really meant to record video and transmit data 24/7.  As far as the motion notifications, zoneminder is great and there are other similar programs. There are cameras that can do that as well, some ip cameras have the ability to send an email when there is motion but that of course requires internet. There are also cameras that have triggered outputs which is basically a dry contact relay that can be set to open or close when the camera sees motion.

Offline archer

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2013, 12:57:34 PM »
Zoneminder  @ http://www.zoneminder.com/
(trying to bump the thread)

Offline justanotherjoe

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2013, 01:10:31 PM »
Zoneminder  @ http://www.zoneminder.com/
(trying to bump the thread)

I 2nd that zoneminder is probably the best you are going to get for cheap to free, if your only doing one camera https://www.exacq.com/ will allow one camera before you have to buy there license just make sure your camera is on there compatible camera list there is also milestone http://www.milestonesys.com/ double check but at one point they had a limit use version that was free I think it capped the recording time to 5 days.

Offline archer

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2013, 01:53:32 PM »
I 2nd that zoneminder is probably the best you are going to get for cheap to free, if your only doing one camera https://www.exacq.com/ will allow one camera before you have to buy there license just make sure your camera is on there compatible camera list there is also milestone http://www.milestonesys.com/ double check but at one point they had a limit use version that was free I think it capped the recording time to 5 days.

XProtect® Go free download
XProtect Go is free video surveillance software designed for small businesses and private residences that is quick to install and easy to use. It supports up to eight cameras, one user and retains video for five days. (System requirements: A computer running Microsoft® Windows®.)

Offline justanotherjoe

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2013, 02:03:17 PM »
I really wish they would put milestone out on linux, thats the only edge exacq has over them right now.

Offline MaddoginMass

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2013, 07:10:23 AM »
This is a great thread.  I've been looking at adding security cameras to my house and this is perfect.  I've got two old android phones not being used and this summer I'll be upgrading and will have two more. 

I've been meaning to setup a linux system anyway, no time like the present.


Offline justanotherjoe

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #21 on: November 15, 2013, 05:06:01 PM »
This is a great thread.  I've been looking at adding security cameras to my house and this is perfect.  I've got two old android phones not being used and this summer I'll be upgrading and will have two more. 

I've been meaning to setup a linux system anyway, no time like the present.

Unless someone can vouch for this working good on the phone models you have in question, please go into this project understanding you may have to buy some ip cameras if the phones dont perform well as as cameras

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2013, 02:00:32 PM »
Unless someone can vouch for this working good on the phone models you have in question, please go into this project understanding you may have to buy some ip cameras if the phones dont perform well as as cameras

i just bought to IP cameras for my work and i will say i am very impressed with them. they were $80 each, night vision and pan/tilt and they pictures look great. i can run them from my computer and android. my boss has them on his iphone and we could use tablets if we wanted.

i liked them so much that instead of dropping $250 on a video baby monitor with a proprietary screen that only works in my house i'm going with one of these for that job. i am really impressed with IP cameras.

Offline Roamer

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #23 on: December 12, 2013, 05:32:37 PM »
i just bought to IP cameras for my work and i will say i am very impressed with them. they were $80 each, night vision and pan/tilt and they pictures look great. i can run them from my computer and android. my boss has them on his iphone and we could use tablets if we wanted.

i liked them so much that instead of dropping $250 on a video baby monitor with a proprietary screen that only works in my house i'm going with one of these for that job. i am really impressed with IP cameras.

What band and model did you buy? Do you still like them?

Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2013, 03:33:47 PM »
What band and model did you buy? Do you still like them?

they are Foscam 8910W: http://www.amazon.com/Foscam-FI8910W-Network-Camera-Two-Way/dp/B006ZP8UOW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387232748&sr=8-1&keywords=foscam+8910w

when finding the link i also saw a twin pack here that apparently has a better antenna: http://www.amazon.com/Foscam-FI8910W-2-pack-Wireless-Antennas/dp/B007027IVA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1387232748&sr=8-3&keywords=foscam+8910w

just the upgraded antenna (mixed reviews from amazon customers): http://www.amazon.com/Foscam-Wireless-Antenna-Expander-Camera/dp/B007TPS9PC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387232874&sr=8-1&keywords=foscam+9dbi+antenna

i do still like the cameras and i find myself logging on from my phone and tablet regularly just to check them out. i got a tablet since my initial post and they work great on that as well (android OS).

the only fault i have found (and why i posted the link with the upgraded antenna) is that one of the cameras seems to lose connection every now and then. one is on the other side of the wall from the modem and has never had an issue. the other one is on the other end of the house, about as far from the modem as i could possibly get. there are several walls between the modem and the camera. while i have never lost signal when viewing the camera, i think it does drop at times because the camera will sometimes be pointing at the ceiling (the position it goes to when it is reset). a simple adjustment and i'm back on target, so not a real big issue, and the upgraded antenna may fix that problem.

two notes if you buy these: the power cord is pretty long, i thought i would need the extensions and didn't actually need them at all. also the mounting bracket that comes with them is pretty sufficient. i also bought some mounting accessory bracket thing because i thought i would need it but that wasn't the case. you will most likely be fine with just the cameras and no accessories.