Smartphones have become ubiquitous. According to a recent Nielson study earlier this year half of all mobile phones in the US are smartphones. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these small machines in our pockets are essentially miniature computers with GPS, Camera, Microphone, Wifi, Bluetooth, accelerometers and a built in touchscreen.
In the past getting a new phone meant either throwing your old one in a drawer or recycling it because there was no other use for it; however this is no longer the case. For anyone who’s recently upgraded from one smartphone to another the question of what to do with the old phone is full of possibilities. One of the options is to use it as an internet connected camera. There are several programs out there for this purpose but the best one I’ve found is IP Webcam. With this free app your smartphone can become a surveillance camera.
Set a Static IP
I find that setting a static IP on the phone works better than relying on DHCP where the phone’s IP may change over time. Here’s how to get started:
- Go to Settings
- Open Wireless & network settings
- Open Wi-Fi settings
- Hit the menu button and select Advanced
- Check the box for “Use static IP” and fill in the information for your home network.
Install IP Webcam
You can find IP Webcam in the Play store here: IP Webcam
When you first open the app it gives you several options on how you can set up your webcam. These settings will greatly impact how fast the video feed is and the quality. One thing to note is that the higher the quality of the picture is, the lower the frames per second. The performance you get is dependent on the phone you’re using.
Resolution and Quality – These two are going to have the biggest impact to the output pictures. Resolution is the size of the image the camera takes and quality is the level of JPG compression. It’s all about finding a good balance. I prefer larger images of slightly lower quality so I’ve set the resolution to the highest the camera will go and quality at 50%.
Orientation – Landscape is the default and will work well in most instances, however some narrow areas (like a hallway) might be better covered by a portrait shot.
Prevent Going to Sleep – Many phones will slow everything down when the screen is off to preserve the battery, this results in much lower frames per second. I recommend enabling the option to prevent it from going to sleep.
Stream on device Boot – This option sets IP Webcam to start up when the phone turns on.
Login/Password – You can password protect access to the web based GUI and video stream on the phone; this is important if you decide you want to make the feed available from outside your house.
Port – This is the port that the web based GUI uses. By default is it 8080, this should be fine.
Starting and Viewing
Once you have set the options you’d like, go to the bottom of the list and hit “Start Server”. This will enable the camera and the web GUI. The app will display the web address to access it at the bottom of the screen. When you open this website in a browser it gives you many options to access both the video and audio streams as well as the option to take a full sized picture.
It’s possible to view your camera remotely if you setup your router to port forward 8080 to your smartphone’s IP address. If you choose to do this I would highly recommend enabling the login/password setting.
If you want to take it a step further, setting up ZoneMinder is a great way to add features and functionality. ZoneMinder is a Linux based program that can capture and monitor video streams from USB or IP based cameras. You can configure it to monitor the video stream from your phone and detect motion detection and recording. It has the option to email you with pictures if a motion event happens and it can even run on the Raspberry Pi.
This is just one of many possible uses for an old smartphone. For more projects like this subscribe to our RSS feeds. If you have any other ideas or have done something similar with your old smartphones please let us know in the comments.