You do not need expensive equipment or software to set up a simple video surveillance system at your home or office. Any standard web cam and a computer will suffice for the basic surveillance setups outlined below. There are two scenarios under consideration, one that stores data locally, for set-ups without internet access, and another to stream the video over the internet onto various platforms. If you don’t already have a web cam, look for one with a long cord, and something small and discreet, as well as a mount, if you need to locate the web cam against the walls. Many web cams come with clip-mounts, which can be used to place the web cam at strategic locations. If you’re using devices such as netbooks with inbuilt 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 the power cable only, to lengthen the life of your battery.
Using Yawcam for offline surveillance
Yawcam stands for Yet Another Webcam application, and is a small software that can be downloaded from www.yawcam.com. It is a small program that packs in plenty of features. The software also has motion detection, a feature that can be used to trigger recording as and when there is any activity in the area under surveillance.
Step 1: On first start after the application is installed, you will have to select a source for the video. An inbuilt camera on the system, a video camera attached through USB, or a web cam 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.
Step 2: In the main Control Panel tab of Yawcam, are five basic toggles. File, FTP, HTTP, Stream and Motion. Click on File. This will start saving the stream onto 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. The Image quality option allows you to reduce the fi le size of the stored images if you are conservative about disk space. The Type option has a few fi le formats, JPG is an ideal format. The interval option specifies a number of seconds after which an image will be saved.
Step 3: 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.
Step 4: Yawcam also allows you to save the 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 in the details of your FTP account. You will need an IP address, a password, and the authentication details. While Yawcam also allows you to stream content online, there is a better software for doing that, known as Eyespyfx.
Using Eyespyfx for online surveillance
While Eyespyfx does not have motion detection, it has a very simple approach for streaming video from a camera online. The 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. There is a dedicated mobile app available also, which comes at a price.
Step 1: 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. On first run, you will be asked for an e-mail id and a registration key. This is free, and is a method to tie in your video stream to you, and allow for secure access. You will be directed to the web site for sign up, which just requires a name and email id. A registration key will be supplied to you immediately, which you have to copy paste into the software, along with the email ID you provided. Along with the registration key, you will get a secure pin number, which can be used to access and identify the camera.
Step 2: 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 possible. Once you enter in a chosen name, the camera goes live, and starts streaming the video online. At this stage, the video stream can be viewed by anyone lurking on the Eyespyfx site, so proceed to the next step quickly. There are various streams of video to browse through on the site, so your stream is likely to be buried somewhere in the list, however, it is a good idea to make the video stream private.
Step 3: Click on Camera Settings and go to the Password tab. Check the Password protection On / Off checkbox and enter in a password. This screenshot shows a line of asterisks, but the software does not hide the password, so be careful of this if someone is watching over your shoulder. 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 in Step 2 will still be listed on the site. This is presumably for easy access to you as a user.
Step 4: You can try out the live stream right away. Go to easyspyfx.com and search for a camera using the pin number that you received in Step 1. A page will open which will give you code for embedding the stream from the video cam on any web site or blog and a tinyurl link to directly access the video stream online, or your mobile phone if it supports viewing video on a web site 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.
Step 5: You can archive snapshots of the video stream as image fi les. The images will be stored on the Easyspyfx server. This feature is there to keep a 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. Unfortunately, there is no motion detection mechanism for this feature.