If you aren’t already protected by a home surveillance network, you should look into it. The peace of mind is well worth the cost, and the cost of getting one set up is almost negligible these days.
Don’t believe me? Then check out our guide to building a security camera network using old smartphones. If you don’t have any lying around, you can always buy some that are several generations old. Or, you could go simpler and just use a webcam for home surveillance.
But security cameras are useful for more than just surveillance. With a dash of creativity and some elbow grease, you can kick your quality of life up a notch with these atypical ideas for your security cameras.
Motion Sensor Notifications
The obvious way to make use of your surveillance network is to review the recordings on a regular basis. The second most obvious way is to tap into the live video stream using a remote computer or mobile device. Unfortunately, both of these methods are high maintenance.
What if you could tweak your surveillance in such a way that it notifies you when it detects something unusual? Rather than checking in every day, you can forget about it until the network sends you an alert. Far more convenient, I’d say.
There are free programs out there, like YawCam, that allow you to use your webcam for motion detection. Combined with Growl, you can then send out text or email alerts when motion is detected. If you want to take it to the next level, you could even build your own motion detection system with Raspberry Pi.
Automating Home Devices
The above section is great, but motion sensing can do much more than send out alerts if you incorporate smart home technology into your household; specifically speaking, you’ll need a smart home hub that supports a camera with motion detection.
For example, maybe you’re already using the Dropcam Pro security camera as a standalone product. Not long ago, Dropcam became compatible with the SmartThings Hub, and the SmartThings Hub has an array of peripheral products that can all be controlled and automated by the Hub.
What does this mean for you? With the right setup, you could arrive at home – thus triggering the Dropcam with your motion – and have that act set off a bunch of events: flip on the lights, change the thermostat setting, boot up your computer, turn on the TV, etc.
If you don’t have a security camera (and you were thinking about getting one), you should know that you can accomplish the same thing by purchasing a SmartThings-compatible motion sensor, which is significantly cheaper than something like the Dropcam.
Then again, you’ll miss out on all of the other cool things you can do in the rest of this article.
Live Stream Social Experiments
Anyone remember JenniCam from 1996? The premise was simple: a 24/7 webcam that allowed anybody to tune in and peek at Jennifer Ringley’s private life, including everything from the mundane (e.g. dinner, homework) to the intimate (e.g. sleeping, dressing).
JenniCam is now defunct, but the premise is still alive. For example, the International Space Station has an always-on live stream of its interior. But more relevant is RealLifeCam.com, where real people have 24/7 streams of their homes that anyone can watch.
If you’re looking for a thrilling bit of exhibitionism, this is certainly a viable way to put your security camera to use.
But if that’s a little too extreme for you, you can tone it down by leaving it off except when you’re hosting a social event or have guests over. Those who can’t make it can still tune in over the Web and see what they’re missing out on.
And now that YouTube can live stream, all of this has never been easier.
Documenting Your Life Details
Most security cameras are used for security. (Shocking, I know.) But just because it’s dubbed “security camera” doesn’t mean you have to use it for security. There’s a lot you can do with an always-on camera besides catching thieves.
For example, use it to record your every meal. Review the footage once a day to see what you’re eating for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. How many snacks are you sneaking? Are you actually eating as little – or as much – as you think you are?
Use your security camera to document your posture throughout the day. When you’re at the computer, are you adhering to proper computer posture guidelines? Do you have bad laptop posture when you’re on the couch?
Or even better: leave it on through the night to record your sleeping habits and see if there are any issues worth looking into.
Other not-so-practical ideas include time lapse shots as the seasons and weather change outside, or even to document the evolution of decor as you live in your home.
Supervising Babies, Children, and Pets
Rather than security, why not use your surveillance for supervision instead?
One common use case would be for newborns and toddlers. You could go out and buy a dedicated baby monitor, but they don’t really offer anything special other than a few convenience features. If you have a security camera that allows remote viewing, that’s really all you need.
The same holds true if you want to supervise activity out on your lawn, out by your backyard pool, or anywhere else. (Although in the case of a pool, make sure an adult is present to aid in any potential accidents.)
But you can also use it to supervise off-limit areas. Let’s say you’ve established a computer curfew for your kids. You could implement an automatic shutdown schedule or disable the Internet at certain times…
…or you could use a security camera with night vision to catch them in the act. Combine it with motion detection notifications as mentioned above and you’ll always be on top. (Is it okay to spy on your kids? Arguably, yes.)
Locating Bugs and Pests
I’m fascinated by gardening. I don’t have enough space or time to manage one of my own, but I will one day. The one thing that troubles me, however, is that gardeners sometimes lose all of their hard work to squirrels, raccoons, human thieves, and other pests.
And while a security camera won’t be enough to prevent such nuisances, it can definitely help you to diagnose the problem — and thus save you from yanking out all your hair as you wonder what’s eating all of your tomatoes. Or, using a camera with motion detection, you could set off a sound alarm that would scare off those critters.
Insects are another big pest worth worrying about. I once woke up to a massive infestation of carpenter ants in my living room. The immediate cleanup was easy, but over the next few weeks there was a constant trickle of ant after ant after ant, and they usually came out at night.
Frustrating, to say the least, especially because I didn’t know where they were coming from. If I had a night vision security camera, I would’ve set it up as I slept – in a new location every night – to track down the source of those bugs.
More Uses For Your Surveillance Camera
This is by no means an exhaustive list. We’ve already covered several other ways to unlock your webcam’s potential, including using it to play interactive games, log into your computer using facial recognition, and control software input.
And I’m sure there are even more creative ideas out there. Tell us! Do you use your security cameras for any unusual purposes? We’d love to hear about it! The comments are right down there, so don’t be shy.
Image Credits: Camera Overlooks Living Room Via Shutterstock, Webcam On Computer Via Shutterstock, Smart Home Options Via Shutterstock, Ceiling-Mounted Camera Via Shutterstock, Baby Monitor Camera Via Shutterstock, Raccoon Garden Thief Via Shutterstock