Android DIY

How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones

Ryan Dube 12-07-2017

These 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, because they can be placed anywhere in the house and they don’t need to be connected to a computer, where there may be additional dangers like hackers. But if you don’t have any wireless cameras, old smartphones work just as well. Remember though, any home security system, whether DIY or commercial may not be as secure as you think.


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 model with a better camera. Maybe, like me, you still hung on to that old Android you bought 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.

How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones wifi smartphone camera1

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 How to Use an Android Phone as a Webcam Need to record video on your PC but don't have a webcam? Use your Android phone as a webcam with these nifty apps! Read More that you can use to build your own home surveillance network for free.

Choosing The Right Wireless Webcam App

The hardest part about building your own home security system Build Your Own DIY Home Security System with Text Messaging Building a DIY security system with an Arduino is a great way to learn more about technology, so why not create a security system that sends a text message when it detects motion? Read More 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 running Android or iOS and has Wi-Fi capability, the odds are pretty good there’s an old app out there that can turn it into an IP camera.


For the sake of this article, I decided to use a popular free app that works on most older Android devices, called BL IP-Camera.  Any app that turns your phone into an IP camera will work fine though.

With BL IP-Camera, just launch the app, scroll to the bottom, and click on Start camera.

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You may want to give it a descriptive name. For example since this phone was pointed out the window at the back yard, I called it “Back Yard”.


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 How to Use Your iPhone as a Webcam: A Step-by-Step Guide Did you know it's possible to use your iPhone as a webcam? Here's a step-by-step guide to setting it up. Read More 24 hours a day, but you may want to make sure that the option to Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep -> Always is enabled so that the phone continues streaming indefinitely.

Whatever smartphone you’re using, and whatever app you’re using to enable the IP webcam feature, it will give you an IP address and port 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.

Placing Your Smartphones

Placement matters. Since these are smartphones, you’re going to need to be sure the location where you set it up is near a wall outlet. Usually windows are, so if you prop the camera on a window sill like I’ve done here, it works out pretty well.

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If you don’t have a window with a nice place to wedge the phone while pointed toward the area you want to monitor, other options are using 3M mounting strips to firmly hold your phone against the window. Another solution is to purchase a suction-cup based car smartphone holder Buying a New Smartphone? All The Accessories You'll (Probably) Need Your new phone has arrived. It is shiny, precious, and packed with possibilities. It sits alone, accompanied by a common charger, and little else — but this isn't fair on your new smartphone. Read More , and use that to affix your phone to the window. These work great because you can angle the camera in any direction you like.

Once you’ve enabled each of your phones and placed them throughout the house to monitor different windows (outside) or rooms (inside), you’re ready to set up your PC-based monitoring station.

Set Up the IP Camera Monitoring Station

To set up the monitoring station, I actually like an app called ContaCam because it’s been around for a while and is updated frequently. The creator offers the app and all updates for absolutely free, so please help keep it running by at least offering a donation.  The software is really easy to use, fast to set up, and works with far fewer limitations than most other “free” versions of premium webcam monitoring programs Log Your Home Activity With Google Sheets and USB Cameras If you have a USB camera and a computer, you already have everything you need to set up an inexpensive motion detection system. Read More .

When you first launch ContaCam, just click on the Capture menu item, and choose Network.


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Fill in the IP details from the IP webcam app you’re using on your smartphone. The “Other Camera (HTTP motion jpeg)” option is what works for most smartphone IP webcam apps, although some may use snapshots, so you may need to try either and see which works.

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Once I’ve added all three smartphones to my home security system, here’s what the desktop application looks like.

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The website for ContaCam doesn’t mention any camera limits, so I assume you’re limited only by your system resources and screen space Too Much Screen Space? 6 Ways To Use Your Multiple Monitor Mac Setup So you set your Mac up with a second monitor, which was really exciting – but now you've no idea what to do with all that space. Read More .

ContaCam Features

I like IP camera monitoring software where the setup is nowhere near as sensitive or complicated as all of the other surveillance software tools out there. It’s wonderfully easy to set up, and once you do there are a lot of available tools for capturing snapshots, live video, motion detection, and more.

All you have to do is click on the “Snapshot” icon at the bottom of any of the live video feeds to capture a photo snapshot of the video.

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You can also click on the Settings icon for any of the cameras and click on the Snapshot tab to see some of the features available for taking live image snapshots.

For example you can space apart multiple snapshots one or more seconds, you can schedule a series of snapshots to automatically get captured during a specific timeframe, and you can even set up a connection to any FTP server where you may want to offload those files and access them remotely.

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You also have motion detection features 10 Clever Ways Motion Detectors Can Improve Your Life The motion sensor is one of the most important parts into making your home smart. Here's a brief glance at various ways in which motion detectors will make your life far easier. Read More available on the Movement Detection tab. Here you can define how many seconds before and after the motion is detected to capture video, you can only have motion detection active during a fixed time period, and like with snapshots you have the option to automatically upload those videos to an FTP server 3 Great Ways to Automatically Backup and Sync Your Data on Android Don't lose your data! Make sure you're keeping it all backed up. For that, let us help you out. Read More .

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You can easily configure only certain sections of the camera window to serve as a motion sensor. Just click on the blue grid boxes to add or remove blue grid boxes, which removes motion sensing for that area of the screen.

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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. Why throw them out The Truth About e-Waste Recycling and Its Effectiveness The world is producing more e-waste than ever before. We should be recycling it, but there are some problems there that you may not be aware of. Read More ? 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 that old smartphone.

Create Your Surveillance System

There’s no end to the creative uses you might put these old devices to. The whole concept of using any old smartphone as a wireless webcam just makes the whole wireless home security camera system The 5 Best Wireless Security Cameras for Your Home Frustrated by wired home security systems? These completely wireless security cameras are just what you need to cut the cord. Read More 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, and that’s something to be proud of.

And, did you know that you can use your current phone to detect hidden surveillance cameras at home How to Find Hidden Surveillance Cameras Using Your Phone Concerned about surveillance? Smartphone apps can detect spy gear and we show you how to scan for hidden cameras using your phone. Read More ?

Image Credit: giggsy25 via

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  1. Cindy
    October 3, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    I am sure this is very good information.
    But like many sites, on MANY
    subjects, it is assumed the reader has some technical knowledge.
    Please remember, the fastest growing population and consumers - are seniors! I am 67 years old, and I am just learning to use a smart phone.
    I have no idea what you are talking about. What the Hell is a FTP SERVER?!
    I looked at some of the screen shots of the program and I have no idea what they are for, or how to set them up and you do not adequately explain.
    So, overwhelmed, I left the site!
    You would do better to "dunb it down", than try to impress yourself - with your knowledge.
    You are not going to market anything others can't easily understand. Your audience will find something easier, like "Salient Eye", for example.
    I have a background in marketing and advertising, so there is free advise for you. Use it!
    Senior, not stupid!
    in California

  2. Abu Bakarr Daramy
    June 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Do i need internet connection to do all this

    • Ryan Dube
      June 4, 2018 at 3:06 am

      Hi Abu Bakarr - no you don't. This setup assumes you're only using a LAN to connect everything.

  3. William
    February 19, 2018 at 1:15 am

    Very cool concept. I'm curious though, I'm finding that my old phone (a Samsung Galaxy S3) will get too hot to charge, and eventually die. (Like, withing about 4-6 hours.) Any ideas? If I can't keep them running, it limits the usefulness of a system like this.

    • Ryan Dube
      February 19, 2018 at 7:44 pm

      Hi William. Have you looked into to the Coolify app?

  4. Elisabeth Morales
    January 27, 2018 at 11:56 am

    @RyanD IPhone apps suggestions please! I know you say any Ip eebcam gonna work but one you recommend us.

  5. Jo Ma
    December 2, 2017 at 7:06 am

    Great tutorial. Only problem to solve with this system is night vision; most older phone cameras don't work well under poor light. If ability to do surveillance under poor lighting is required, then this may be an issue.

    • Jimh
      June 14, 2019 at 10:43 pm

      I leave a light on indoors. You can also get apps to enhance low light conditions, although not as good as true IR night vision, they may be good enough to identify a perp who gets close enough to the camera.

  6. Jim
    July 13, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Just curious, can I view these remotely or do I have to be on the same network as the phones/cameras? If I can view them remotely, how do I do that?

    • Yogesh sundar
      September 18, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      yeah u can view those by remotely by using the same network ! :)

      • jimh
        June 14, 2019 at 10:27 pm

        try a remote desktop app. I use Chrome Remote Desktop from my phone to my laptop and then access Contacam