Remote Home Monitoring

I’ve been asked recently about how to set up a wireless camera so that the home could be monitored remotely. Fortunately, I have quite a bit of experience setting up cameras so that we could monitor “premises” (mainly business). When we first started doing this 10+ years ago there wasn’t a lot of choice but in main the idea was that we set up a camera which was attached to a PC and this, in turn, squirted pictures up to a “Web Site” (using FTP) on a regular basis. This enabled us to monitor remote sites by accessing the webpage and the latest picture. It wasn’t particularly brilliant and the cameras initially were only monochrome and didn’t have fancy night vision etc. How things have changed over the past few years! Now we have colour and night vision and remote pan and tilt and even wireless cameras that can be connected to a Wireless Router.

For whatever reasons you want to remotely monitor your home, the best thing to do is to decide what it is you want to do! Do you want to use just one camera to let you view, say an entrance. Do you want the camera to only become active when it detects motion in a certain area? If the latter in the case, do you want to be alerted by email and a picture sent to you or do you just want the picture (or video clip) uploaded to a website so that you can check periodically or even have a browser window open so that you can give an occasional glance?

There are quite a few possibilities and the kit available these days is not outrageously expensive. Say you decide that you want to monitor when there is any activity in a certain room. The easiest and lowest cost option (if you already have a USB Web Cam and a computer in that room) is to use the software that came with the camera and set it to “motion detection” and then enter your email address (in the settings) and it will then just send you an email and/or a picture to alert you when the camera detects any motion.

If you are happy to not receive an email alert and just want to monitor occasionally, you can even use Skype – easy peasy.

If you only want to use one camera and decide to go for a wireless camera, again you can use the “motion detection” option and opt for an email alert when it detects any motion. Unfortunately, some wireless cameras are a bit of a pain to set up and need a bit of knowledge bordering on the geeky stuff and you might need to talk to someone like me 🙂

Generally speaking, if you are happy to use “motion detection” and to get an email alert when any motion is detected this is probably the easiest and maybe the lowest cost option. The use of a wireless camera can complicate things a little but is sometimes the better solution. If you are looking for constant monitoring, things can become a little more involved. You are going to need some sort of “website” facility to automatically upload the pictures or video clips. You would then also need to decide if a snapshot taken every x minutes and shows you the “Still” image or do you want a “live” video.

The “website” facility could be your own PC and you would need to be able to access your PC remotely which is not the most secure of options but if you want to remote control the camera this is often the easiest. Often the the better solution is to use your existing website and use the camera software to upload images on a regular basis. However, this option often only gives the option of seeing the latest uploaded image as a “Still”. If you are looking for live video “on-demand”, things can get a little involved and more costly but whatever you want, there is a solution.

There are many options and I’m going to attempt to do some “How-To”s but there are so many different cameras, it will be practically impossible to cover everything. Where possible, I will post some links to other websites that have good info to avoid the need for me to “re-invent the wheel”.

Happy monitoring 🙂