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wireless home security camera systemsThese days, building a wireless home security camera system isn’t really such a huge deal, especially if you have the right equipment. Wireless IP webcams are ideal of course, because they can be placed anywhere in the house at all, and they don’t need to be connected to a computer. They’re ideal, but they’re also expensive.

We’ve covered a whole boatload of solutions for building a home surveillance system using wired webcams, like James’s article on webcam home surveillance Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools I live in England, the country with the highest number of CCTVs than anywhere else in the world - about 1 camera to every 30 people, it’s estimated. Obviously, that’s not enough (yes, that is... Read More , Matt’s review of iSpy iSpy Turns Your Computer Webcam Into Surveillance Equipment [Windows] iSpy Turns Your Computer Webcam Into Surveillance Equipment [Windows] Read More , and my step-by-step instructions in building a wireless home surveillance system How To Build A WiFi Home Surveillance System With Your PC How To Build A WiFi Home Surveillance System With Your PC Read More using Active Webcam. Again, that solution is based on wireless webcam devices.

What if you don’t want to spend $50 to $200 for each wireless home security camera you want to distribute across your house? Well, there’s another solution that we’ve hinted at a number of times here at MakeUseOf, but have never actually gone through a full-blown exercise in completing the task. That is, creating just such a wireless surveillance network using not wireless webcams, but wireless smartphones. Preferably old, worn out smartphones a few generations back that you left sitting in your bedroom dresser drawer after upgrading to the latest and greatest phone or tablet.

It’s really a waste, isn’t it? Maybe your wife traded in her first generation iPhone for the newest one with Siri If You're Not Using Siri By Now, You Should Be If You're Not Using Siri By Now, You Should Be Most of the commercials, jokes, and media hype about Apple's iOS voice assistant, Siri, have subsided, but I still run into iPhone users who don't take advantage of this powerful feature. Just the other day... Read More . Maybe, like me, you still hung on to that first generation Windows Mobile 5 phone 10 Apps To Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful 10 Apps To Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful The other night, I stumbled upon my old Windows Mobile phone. Why do I have this great device stashed away in a drawer, when it could be put to good use? Even though there's no... Read More from a decade ago. It was pretty cool at the time, but now it’s serving as a dust collector on the top shelf of your closet. Well, I invite you to gather up all of those so-called “useless” smartphones, and consider following through the steps in this article to transform them into wireless webcam devices that you can use to build your own home surveillance network for absolutely free.

Choosing The Right Wireless Webcam App

The hardest part about building your own wireless home security camera system is probably just finding the right app for that old phone.  The bad news is that for most standard phones (dumbphones), you’re not likely to find a good solution even if it’s a camera phone. However, if it’s an old smartphone, the odds are pretty good there’s an old app out there that turns it into an IP camera. So long as the phone also has wi-fi capability, you can transform it into a wireless IP webcam.

One great resource to find an app that will work for your old phone is Saikat’s article on creative ideas to reuse a mobile phone 8 Creative Ideas To Recycle Your Mobile Phone Without Throwing It Out 8 Creative Ideas To Recycle Your Mobile Phone Without Throwing It Out Recycle mobile phones. I wish that should be the catchphrase for all of us to live by. While researching this article, I came across quite a few official mobile industry websites of consumer rich countries... Read More .  At the bottom, he mentions Mobiola, which will actually allow you to transform a whole assortment of older smartphones to IP webcams, including older iPhones, Blackberries, Windows Mobile 5 10 Apps To Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful 10 Apps To Make Your Old Windows Mobile Phone Useful The other night, I stumbled upon my old Windows Mobile phone. Why do I have this great device stashed away in a drawer, when it could be put to good use? Even though there's no... Read More and even your old Symbian smartphones. One of the apps I covered that works on older Android smartphones is the Android Webcam Server 3 Most Effective Cell Phone Surveillance Apps to Monitor Your Kids [Android] 3 Most Effective Cell Phone Surveillance Apps to Monitor Your Kids [Android] Read More .

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For the sake of this article, I decided to use a popular app that works on most older Android devices, called simply, IP Webcam. If you’re turning your old Android smartphone into an IP Webcam, just launch this app, scroll to the bottom, and click on “Start Server”.

wireless home security camera systems

The default settings are already pretty much set up the way you’d need them to be if you want to keep the phone working as an IP webcam 24 hours a day, but you may want to make sure that the option to “prevent going to sleep” is enabled so that the phone continues streaming indefinitely.

Whatever smartphone you’re using, and whatever app you’re using on it to enable the IP webcam feature, upon launching, it will typically give you an IP address for your new wireless webcam right on the screen once it’s streaming. If not on the display itself, you can typically find the broadcast IP address in the settings.

Once you’ve enabled each of your phones and placed them throughout the house to monitor different rooms (or out in your garage), you’re ready to set up your PC-based monitoring station. Don’t forget that for your phones to work like regular wireless security webcams, they will need to be placed somewhere where there’s a power outlet, and the phone should be permanently attached to the charger and plugged in for full, uninterrupted power. In most cases, these apps can be set up to autolaunch and will typically use the same IP address as the last time, but if something else on the network takes the IP first, the address could change. So if any of your “wireless webcams” no longer seem to work after a power outage, just make sure to go back in and set the IP address to what you have set up in the monitoring station (see below).

To set up the monitoring station, I actually like an app called Webcam Watcher because even though it hasn’t been updated in years, the creator now offers the pro-version for absolutely free, giving away the registration code.  The software is really easy to use, fast to set up, and works with far fewer hiccups than most other webcam monitoring programs.

When you first launch Webcam Watcher, you’ll see 6 blank cam icons on the right. Just right-click any of those blank cams and select “Edit current webcam”.

wireless ip security camera

Fill in the IP details from the IP webcam app you’re using on your smartphone. In the case of IP Webcam for Android, it’s a local network IP using port 8080, and ending in “/videofeed”. Selecting streaming is also important and is what works for most smartphone IP webcam apps.

Once my first wireless webcam cam up, I realized I’d already captured an intruder in our bedroom. My youngest daughter had decided to watch TV in our room, and the old Android smartphone I had propped up on my bedside dresser and now serving as a new wireless IP cam, captured her in there.

wireless ip security camera

Another thing I like about Webcam Watcher is that you can enable motion sensing, so that it’ll save snapshots of the scene whenever motion is detected in the room.

wireless ip security camera

This is similar to what I described in my Ghost Hunting article Go Ghost Hunting with Your Internet Browser Go Ghost Hunting with Your Internet Browser Read More  years ago, and it’s exactly why I chose to use Webcam Watcher in that case as well – the setup is nowhere near as sensitive or complicated as all of the other surveillance software tools Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools I live in England, the country with the highest number of CCTVs than anywhere else in the world - about 1 camera to every 30 people, it’s estimated. Obviously, that’s not enough (yes, that is... Read More  out there.

The goal here is to recycle all of your old smartphones and tablets as IP webcams around your house, for constant safety and surveillance 24/7, so you can place your next camera in whatever room you want to monitor (in my case, it’s an old tablet overlooking the dining room), and then click on “Edit” and “Create New Webcam”.

ip security camera

Enter the new IP for the next camera – in this case it’s another Android device so I’m using the same structured link from IP Webcam.

ip security camera

There it is, the second wireless IP webcam is now active, and I have both my bedroom and my dining room under constant surveillance using mobile devices that would otherwise have been gathering dust or packed away in the back of my sock drawer, waiting for the day of the next yard sale when it would get tossed in the junk heap of old, unwanted electronics.

ip security camera

As you can see, you’re well on your way to having a full-home surveillance system, and you didn’t spend a dime. Tape that old Windows Mobile smartphone above the closet door in the upstairs hallway. Strap the first generation iPhone above the entrance door to capture all uninvited guests that knock on your door. What better way is there to make use of these old devices?

The other nice thing about WebCam watcher is that when you enable motion sensing for each, it will save all images captured from the motion sensing into individual folders using the camera name, inside of the Webcam Watcher main folder.

IPCam6

The cat triggered the dining room camera only 5 minutes after I had launched that surveillance camera. That was a good inadvertent test that proved the system works!

IPCam7

This is the start of a brilliant home surveillance network that you can easily maintain by cycling through each “webcam” every time you or any of your family members trade off their “old” smartphone for the latest and greatest one out there. Take that 2-year old smartphone, and replace one of the older “IP webcams” in your home surveillance network. Or, better  yet, add and extend the network using the new smartphone.

And finally, a word of thanks to my very first smartphone that inspired the idea for this article – the awesome Windows Mobile Phone from Cingular, the 8125. It crashed often, was painful to surf the web with it, but that old dog is now serving duty as an IP webcam sitting out in the garage, keeping watch over our two vehicles.

wireless home security camera systems

There’s no end to the creative uses you might put these old devices to. The whole concept of a wireless webcam just makes the whole wireless home security camera system far more flexible and scaleable. You can place your smartphone webcams anywhere at all, and so long as they’re within range of your wi-fi network, you’re good to go. Better yet, you’re avoiding contributing to the ever-increasing pile of harmful consumer waste Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More , and that’s something to be extremely proud of.

Share your creative ideas for this sort of wireless network of old smartphones. What smartphones did you add to your wireless surveillance system, and what apps did you use? Share your own experiences and ideas so that other people can find inspiration for their own surveillance network as well. Share your ideas in the comments section below!

Images: Collection of PDAs via Shutterstock.

  1. Eslam
    August 8, 2016 at 11:45 am

    please can any one give a direct link to where i can download webcam-watcher, i tried open the webcam-watcher's website and i got lost and i did not find the exact software.

    thanks for helping!

  2. alex smith
    July 30, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    my red niko camera is not working today

  3. Turtle
    June 15, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    The link to webcam watcher app is now dead, can you give us the installation file or reccommend an alternative?
    Cheers.

  4. ekushay
    June 11, 2016 at 8:08 am

    How well does this work in the dark? Would you have a nightlight on to be able to see?

    • Ryan Dube
      June 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      Yes, there would definitely need to be some kind of light on for you to see. You could also use some kind of external infrared lighting so that the lights don't actually have to be turned on but the camera would still be able to see.

  5. Glenn_technical
    April 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Hihow to hide smartphone if u just put ur phone in a place that anybody can see..just wondering how to make it as "dead smartphone"

  6. Amir Sanati
    July 29, 2015 at 6:44 am

    Would you please let me know which app did you use to turn your Windows Mobile Phone "Cingular, 8125" to IP webcam.

    • Fik of borg
      July 1, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Second that. I have a similar TyTN II but haven't found a suitable Windows 6.1 app (tried SmartCam but weren't able to make it work)

  7. terryash1957
    July 3, 2015 at 6:38 am

    This is a great idea, but I just have one question. How would you install the cell app onto an old phone that isn't connected or in use any more & you don't have a data cable for it?

    • George
      June 23, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      You just need to have WiFi in your house. You download it from the app store, if you have an android, then download it from google play

  8. Hong
    April 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the great article! There is a new Windows Phone app "Win IP Camera" that turns a Windows Phone into a high end HD IP camera instantly.

    • Sam
      May 14, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      Did you get the Win IP camera working? It does not work for me for some reason. nothing shows up in WebCam Watcher

      • Hong Zhang
        July 14, 2015 at 2:50 am

        Yes, on both of my Lumia 520 and 822. Did you try a browser (e.g. Chrome, Firefox) to test it first?

  9. Victor
    December 12, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    pls i have a blackberry 9380 and i have tried to do the same but it doesn't work. i cant get my cameras ip address to work on the netcam watcher

  10. Victor
    December 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    pls i have a blackberry 9380 and i have tried to do the same but it doesn't work. i cant get my cameras ip address to work on the netcam watcher

  11. Steve Murtie
    November 8, 2013 at 12:07 am

    I'd like to set up an old phone to monitor the wildlife in the woodland next to my office. Which is within range of my office wifi signal.
    Is there a way that I can remotely view this (when away from the office) from my home laptop which is using a different router/wifi signal ?
    Thanks, Steve.

  12. Chris Marcoe
    June 3, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    I just found one of my old phones this weekend and was thinking about tearing it apart to play with the camera. But, I might be doing this instead.

  13. Adly Asraf
    June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Nice. Great idea.

  14. Weyrleader
    May 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    This sounds like a great idea, but I'm a little concerned about the possible security problems with this setup.
    1. Anyone burglar wardriving the neighborhood can now see into your house and know when your away and rob you blind. Once they know your not in the house, they then DDOS your webcams and crash them so that you can't take pictures of them stealing.
    2. What's to stop someone from stalking your webcams and seeing things that you don't want shown like you walking around the house naked?
    3. etc. ...

    These things can obviously be stopped by encrypting the video stream, but I don't see that mentioned anywhere. If encryption was a possibility, I'd strongly consider doing just what this article suggests (I've got a few smartphones hanging around).

    Good article otherwise.

    • Ryan Dube
      June 1, 2013 at 3:12 am

      Good points. Although, the only person that will be able to "see into your house" will be those that can break through your router security (hopefully you've enabled security....), and are able to access devices on your internal network. As you can see all devices are configured on the internal 192.168 subnet. With that said, you do have a good point that it would increase security to use encryption, and I'm pretty sure a lot of the mobile wi-fi webcam apps available do have the option to enable encryption, but it really depends which one you choose for whatever phone platform you're using.

      • Weyrleader
        June 1, 2013 at 5:09 am

        Yes, I have WPA2 on my LAN. I was trying to make the point that when something of this importance is implemented, proper precautions need to be taken. When I look at this type of setup I see someone wanting to be able to see what's going on in their house from elsewhere over the internet. This requires them to open a port and services through their router (which a lot of people don't know how to do properly, including myself even though I was a Sys Admin back in the 90's). A lot of times people leave this portal wide open allowing anyone to see what's going on inside their LAN and house. Also, any network encryption, WPA2 included can be broken given enough time & effort. So a second level of security is always a good idea.

        Please don't misunderstand my tirade above. I'm not critising your article. I just think that a warning or more explanation might be in order to help out those people who might be seriously looking into implementing this.

        • Ryan Dube
          June 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm

          Yes - you bring up some very important points, especially if someone is planning to do as you mentioned and open a hole in the router to access the webcams from the Internet.

        • Benji7
          August 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm

          Most routers if not all come standard with all inbound ports closed.
          So for home users they're probably better off setting up an old laptop (like smart phones i am sure most of us have at least one floating around) used only for checking the cameras.
          Install team viewer and away you go.
          And turn on WPA2 of course.

  15. Mark
    May 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    nice dining you got there...

    great article too...saving this article for future use..

  16. Paul Vi
    May 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Great info, really helpful

  17. Inderpal Shingari
    May 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Ah! right thing I was looking for, Thanks..

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