You do not need expensive equipment or software to set up a simple video surveillance system at your home or office. Any standard webcam and a computer will suffice for the basic surveillance set-ups outlined here.
There are two scenarios under consideration: One that stores data locally, for set-ups without Internet access, and another that streams the video over the Internet on to various platforms. If you don’t have a webcam already, look for something small and discreet, with a long cord as well as a mount, if you need to locate the webcam on the wall. Many webcams come with clip-mounts, which can be used to place it at strategic locations.
If you’re using devices such as netbooks with in-built cameras, be sure to change the battery settings in a way that the machine does not go into sleep mode on inactivity. If you are using a laptop or a netbook for long periods of surveillance, which is not advisable, remove the battery from the casing and use only the power cable, to lengthen the life of your battery.
For online surveillance, try EyespyFx
EyespyFx has a very simple approach for streaming video from a camera online. Its client for broadcasting the video is free to download and use. Once a stream is set up, a browser window from any location can be used to keep an eye on the streaming video, including WAP-enabled mobile phones.
Download and install the EyespyFx broadcaster client. The client automatically picks up a video stream from any connected camera and displays it on the desktop. Once you register, you will be given a password key. Copy-paste it into the software, along with your email ID. You will now get a secure Pin number. You will be asked to choose a name for the camera. This is to identify the camera, in case you are using multiple cameras on the same account, which is also an option. Once you enter a chosen name, the camera goes live and starts online streaming of the video.
At this stage, the video stream can be viewed by anyone lurking on the EyespyFx site, so proceed to the next step quickly. You need to make the video stream private. Click on Camera Settings and go to the Password tab. Check the Password protection On/Off checkbox and enter a password. This screenshot shows a line of asterisks, but the software does not hide the password. Click on Save and Sync. Now your stream cannot be accessed without a password, but a stream with the name of your camera that you specified earlier will still be listed.
You can try out the live stream right away. Go to www.easyspyfx.com and search for a camera using the Pin number that you received during Step 1. A page will open which will give you the code for embedding the stream from the video cam on any website or blog and a Tinyurl link to directly access the video stream online, or your mobile phone, if it supports viewing video on a website over GPRS. If you entered a password in Step 3, you will be asked to key in this password before you can start viewing the video.
You can archive snapshots of the video stream as image files. The images will be stored on the EasyspyFx server. This feature is there to keep track of what is going on in the area under surveillance if you are not constantly monitoring the video stream. Go to Camera Settings > Archive, and check the Archive On/Off checkbox. There are a number of interval options available, but you cannot specify your own.
For offline monitoring, try www.yawcam.com
Yawcam stands for Yet Another Webcam application, and is a small software that can be downloaded from www.yawcam.com. It has motion detection, a feature that can be used to trigger recording as and when there is any activity in the area under surveillance
First, select a source for the video. An in-built camera on the system, a video camera attached through a USB, or a webcam can all be detected by Yawcam. Go to Settings > Device(None) > Change to and select the source of the video. If there is no option here, make sure that a camera is connected, and all the relevant drivers installed. Once selected, the video window will immediately start showing a live stream.
There are five basic toggles in the main Control Panel tab of Yawcam: File, FTP, Http, Stream and Motion. Click on File. This will start saving the stream on to the local hard disk, in a temporary directory. Go to Settings > Edit Settings > Output > File. Click on Browse to change a path to a suitable location on your hard disk.
Enabling motion detection saves a photo every time there is some change in the image on the webcam. Unfortunately, there is a “click” sound when the image is saved. There is no easy way to turn this off, and reducing the system volume is the only alternative. Be sure to select this option at the very last moment, before the surveillance begins, as there will be a few images saved as and when you move around after enabling it.
You can save images on a remote location, such as an FTP server. For online surveillance, a better option would be to stream live video, but if you do want to save to a remote location, enable the FTP toggle, go to Settings > Edit Settings > Output > FTP and enter the details of your FTP account. You will need an IP address, a password and the authentication details.
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