The other day I was way from home and my house alarm went off. I couldn’t get home to check it and it was driving me nuts. Thankfully a family member was nearby and was able to go check on the house for me. But this got me thinking, if it happens again, what’s the easiest way for me to check on what’s going on without waiting for a neighbor or the alarm company to check it out. I had a couple of webcams, a computer and my iPhone and I thought surely I can figure out a way to use these to see whats going at home from wherever I am. Here’s what I came up with…
It turns out that there are an absolute ton of apps out there that let the iPhone or iPad view your webcams over WiFi and a smaller amount that will do it over 3G, but there are even fewer that offer a way to view multiple cameras and offer a clean, easy to use interface. The app I settled on is iCam [$4.99,iTunes] . iCam supports regular USB connected cameras as well as WiFi enabled remote cameras that are on your home network. This makes it flexible so you can place cameras wherever you need them.The app is slick, well designed and easy to configure and I was impressed by the testimonial of a customer in the reviews section that actually caught a burglar and got him arrested with iCam. Grab iCam on the app store and the server software, iCamSource, to run on the computer your webcams are attached to here.
After you install iCamSource on your computer, you’ll need to configure your first camera, so open the iCamSource preferences windows and choose the audio and video device that you’d like to use. If it’s a built in camera it will show up automatically. If it’s an IP camera just enter the cameras IP address. Once you have the camera set up also enter a username and password to protect your camera streams. On the right side you’ll notice controls that will let you set up motion detection. This will detect motion in your camera and automatically record the motion for you on your hard drive if you wish. In a pretty slick move, it will also send you a push notification on your iPhone or iPad letting you know that your camera has detected motion.
If you’re behind a router, check the Port Forward Range and configure your router to forward requests to those ports to the computer that iCam is running on. If you need help doing this, check out this site.
Once iCamSource is set up, open up iCam on your iPhone or iPad and enter the username and password for your camera, set your options and hit done. You should see the 4-up view with the feed from your camera in the first slot.You’re now viewing your camera live!
To view a particular camera larger, just tap on the image and to adjust options for that camera, tap on the feed once it’s open. To return to the multiple feed view, just double tap the image.
So now you’ve got one camera going… here’s how to add more cams:
You have to use a windows batch file to run multiple copies of iCamSource for each camera you’d like to monitor. A batch file that runs commands on your computer at startup. Here is a template batch file to download. Then replace the text with the following.
cd C:Program FilesiCamSource
start iCamSource.exe -url=http://192.168.0.100:8201/cgi-bin/video.jpg -cu=MyLogin -cp=MyPassword
start iCamSource.exe -url=http://192.168.0.99:8202/cgi-bin/video.jpg -cu=MyLogin -cp=MyPassword
start iCamSource.exe -v=0 -a=0
The first 3 lines simply prepare to run the iCamSources from the Program Files iCamSource folder. The next lines start two instances of the iCamSource using two camera URLs. You’ll need to change the template to reflect your situation. If iCamSource is installed in a different directory, you’ll need to change the first line to point to that directory.
You’ll also need to change the iCamSource setup lines, so that there are three of them, one for each camera. For the IP cameras, you’ll need to replace the URL arguments to be the URLs for your cameras.
The -cu and -cp arguments are for the camera’s login and password. For the USB camera, you’ll need to replace the -url, -cu, and -cp arguments with -v and -a arguments that have the index of the video/audio source from the Video/Audio drop down list in iCamSource. For example, if you want to select the first video source in the Video drop down and the second audio source in the Audio drop down, you’d use the command “start iCamSource.exe -v=0 -a=1″.
Once that is done, save the RuniCamSource.bat file, and then double-click it and you should see three iCamSources start automatically with the correct settings for each camera. Then place the bat file in your Windows Startup folder and it should run all of your cams each time you start your computer.
On a Mac
It’s actually much easier on a Mac, all you have to do is make multiple copies of the iCamSource application in your Applications folder and every copy will keep the same settings, so just adjust the camera sources for each copy. After that, just add the System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items, then the iCamSources will be launched and started every time you login.