Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

feat cctv   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These ToolsI 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 sarcasm), so today I’m doing a round-up review of useful tools for adding CCTV to your own home.

In all seriousness, having your own home surveillance system can be a powerful deterrent to would-be intruders or office workers who tend to pinch your stapler, but I don’t suggest using it to spy on your own family members.

A note About UK Law: It is perfectly legal to use CCTV for personal and home security, though you’d be advised not to point it at a neighbour’s property. There is no law against taking pictures or video in a public place including roads and pathways, and the Data Protection Act 1998 or Human Rights Act does not cover domestic usage of CCTV. However, there are exceptions to this rule if your camera is capable of remote-controlled movement. This isn’t relevant for most webcams, but many IP cameras can perform pan and tilt.

A Note About US Law: There are generally no restrictions on private use of security cameras. However there are exceptions in places where people might otherwise have an expectation of privacy – such as bathrooms.

Active Webcam (Windows $29)

Ryan reviewed this back in 2009, and while it has a reasonable level of complexity, it looks like it hasn’t been updated since, so the interface and website are atrocious. Functional then, but better options below – keep reading.

active webcam   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

VitaminD Video (Mac and Windows)

Free for 1 camera, but at low resolution. $200 gets unlimited feeds at hi-resolution. At this price, I would have expected something amazing; though the interface is easy to understand – rules that look for objects – the actions available are severely limited to either recording a clip locally, playing a sound, or emailing you. Pathetic, forget this one.

vitamind   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

iSpy (Windows – Free/Premium)

Matt did a full review of iSpy last year, so I won’t repeat him here. It’s functional, but not nearly as advanced as some other apps. The software is free, but you’ll need to subscribe for $8/month for online access to view your feeds anywhere in the world (a function which many cameras and other apps provide for free).

One of the top benefits listed for subscribers is “reduced ads”! Probably best to stay away from this one.

ispy connect   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

SecureCam (Open Source, Windows only)

Mark highlighted this back in 2009 – but for a completely free setup, SecureCam is still a good option today. With support for 4 cameras (unlimited if you donate) and a built-in webserver to view the motion captured images and videos, it’s a fully functional and comprehensive solution, though lacking some of the shine of premium apps.

securecam   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

Yawcam (Windows, Free)

I wrote a full tutorial on using YawCam as a surveillance camera last year and even set up notifications on my iPhone, so read that for a full review. It’s not nearly as advanced as some of the other apps here, but it is free.

iphone yawcam   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

Xeoma (Mac/Windows/Linux $30)

Xeoma is a comprehensive, cross-platform premium surveillance solution at an affordable price. Functionality is added by the use of modules. For instance, you can add an email module to email you if motion is detected, or an alarm module to sound an alarm, or you could run a random application that triggers your arduino fog machine, laser cannon and strobe, scaring away the intruder.

It’s infinitely expandable, and can even emulate an IP camera to send its own output to another remote copy of itself. Genius.

xeoma modules   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

The software does come with a limited free mode or 30 day full evaluation period, a $30 license is enough for up to 4 cameras.

xeoma   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

Although the interface is custom, I found Xeoma to be a reliable solution and easy to set up chains of custom events. This is one of the most powerful packages I’ve looked at, and is highly recommended.

Security Spy (OSX; ÂŁ30-ÂŁ80)

Quite pricey, at £30 for a single camera, £80 for 4. While I would love to have thoroughly tested this, unfortunately the app launched with the main windows far too large and wouldn’t allow me to resize; adding additional cameras was also buggy. Options seem quite limited, especially considering the price. Stay away from this one, there are far better ones out there.

securityspy   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

EvoCam (OSX, $30)

EvoCam is an interesting solution but not particularly user-friendly; however it does contain more modular functionality similar to Xeoma. Actions sets are created which can act on one or more cameras – these consist of an active time (if you only want recording at night, for instance), a condition (including sound triggers), and an action to perform (speak text, email an image, save a video).

It takes a while to get used to the control flow, but EvoCam is probably the most powerful of all these surveillance apps if you’re okay with it being OSX only. Do be sure to check functionality with your IP cam first though.

evocam   Use Your Webcam For Home Surveillance With These Tools

My personal choice is Xeoma, which is both affordable and very customizable. On the free side, you can’t really go wrong with YawCam or SecureCam, but don’t expect as many features. I think that’s all of them, but do let me know if I missed your favourite surveillance software, free or otherwise.

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33 Comments -

Hoku Sarroca

I like the concept but wouldn’t it rely on your computer to be on at all times? I had to set up a camera after having our cars broken into but I did it through a smaller tv .. so when someone comes in our property it turns on the lights also.

Paula Tonks

Here at Topical TV we have been commissioned by BBC1 to produce a series which highlights the many ways in which the police / local authorities / businesses and individuals are keeping one step ahead of the bad guys through the use of things like cctv / surveillance operations / tracking devices etc. Consequently I read with interest this article and would be keen to know if any readers have used this type of kit to catch out a someone who was up to no good. Please contact me at paula.tonks@topical.co.uk if you have footage of your succesful stings! Many thanks. Paula

Muo TechGuy

These solutions will rely on your TV being on all the time, yes. If you have a networked IP camera though, you can use some cloud solutions that don’t need a local PC anywhere.

Andrea Bonini

exactally what i need :D tnx my angel!

Martin Etcheverri

Hey you forgot Zoneminder !!!

Fik-of-borg

I was PgDn-ing too looking for the Zoneminder section… how could it be not included?

Muo TechGuy

Thanks for the tip. If it weren’t linux only, I would have totally included it. It is linux only right? Or am I reading the site wrong?

Fik-of-borg

I THINK it is linux only (for a while that put me off too), but it is not very difficult to set up (It is not user friendly either).
I use Geovision cards and software at work, but these are not free and more important, are mostly ActiveX / Internet Explorer only (they have Android, Blackberry and I believe iOS clients, but those are somewhat buggy). I use Zoneminder at home, and can check on my cat using almost any browser I want.

Giggity Goebbels

Why do you discriminate linux?Thats bad

Muo TechGuy

Less than 1% of our readers use linux; the same reason I’m not going to cover apps that are solely for BeOS, or DOS.

Zunba

Yeah, but 100% surveillance equipment use linux under various names…

Ronz

From all you’ve mentioned its quite interesting but some are quite pricey as you mentioned, I use Youcam4 it does the trick an the interface is much more better an user friendly. Not sure if it can handle more then one camera as for I only have 1 installed on the system for demonstrating purposes only. Thanks wonderful article.

ha14

Cool article, handy for boss to check working place, did you had any chance to try 1AVMonitor
http://www.pcwinsoft.com/1avmonitor/index.asp
does it work same.

Roystan Ang

We need more freewares! >.<

Jon Smith

YES! FREEWARE!

Muo TechGuy

Urgh, I hate freeware. = bad quality.

Achraf Almouloudi

Open source does it well and free .

Ken Gaming

Not necessarily

Boni Oloff

I use my laptop webcam to do this thing. I let the application to capture the picture when there is movement so it will not record all the nothing happen situation. Saves much disk space i think.

Sensr.net

If you want to skip the PC software all together, you can use Sensr.net. It’s a cloud service that works with almost all network cameras. The cameras push images to our service. No PC to keep running. We also make it easy to see what has happened in the past with a nice viewer.

You also get email and SMS alerts, mobile access, etc.

We have a free trial but will charge a monthly fee after that. Try it for free and see if you like it.

Achraf Almouloudi

I was thinking about you, but here we’re about “webcam” surveillance while I guess you work with IP cameras (network) only. Am I wrong ?

Debra Beshears

Thank you for this article. In this day and age, you need all the help you can.

Anonymous

I personally use Witness for Mac OS from Orbicule – a bit pricey, but works like a champ!

infmom

Oh, perfect timing! I was wondering if I could set up a webcam to find out how the coyotes are getting into our back yard. (I know how they get out, but not how they get in.) It wouldn’t need to be anything spectacular–just enough to see the motion of mangy varmints out back. Thanks!

Tan Nguyen Nhat

I’m interested but I have no any camera :))

John

Terafall

I never know I can do that

Ken Gaming

Craig Snyder

Oh man. I remember years ago using an open and unused netbook for this purpose entirely, just to make sure the little brothers aren’t sneaking in and grabbing at things while I’m away.

Gary Mundy

Sounds like fun

Jim Spencer

Well, why not the bathroom? (just kidding) Great article on a relatively easy way to supplement home security. I think some small businesses could use this as well. As to leaving your computer on all of the time, they run just fine with all of the advances in power management.

Roehl Curioso

Cool stuff!!

L O

Never could understand protecting your hard earned assets on the cheap. It’s like buying a 5.00 lock for a 500.00 bike.