Sorry this is so long, but I don’t want to steer someone towards this
solution and have blow-back because I didn’t warn them about how far
into the techno world this stuff can suck you.
I have 3 of the old video cameras in my store connected to a small TV
and a VCR. Pain in a butt to change tapes all day,the images are
grainy, and twitchy and to re-aim the cameras means getting on a
ladder, so I went online and bought a Foscam IP camera for around
$90. I was pleasantly surprised at how great this thing is. I
expected a piece of semi-junk. I’ve had loads of fun with this
camera. Of course, there are plenty of better cameras depending on
what you want to pay, and your security alarm service are probably
ready to sell you real good ones at $300+ a pop and maybe not charge
you your first born to set them up. I did mine all by myself.
Here are the features of this camera:
Motion sensor that, when activated, sends email warnings and video
recordings to your email or phone when it’s triggered.
Camera will pan automatically or manually and has different
resolutions and different capture rates in frames per second.
Multiple users can have passworded access.
Infra-red can be turned on or off, so motion detection in very dark
Sound so you can hear what the camera hears and remotely talk to
someone near the camera (this feature doesn’t have good sound quality
unless you hook up a better mike and speakers, but it does work).
Wireless, so you don’t have any cords except the power cord, you
need a wireless router for the wireless feature, but you can just
plug it into a computer without using wireless, but you might need a
pretty long Ethernet cable. If all you want to do is record stuff in
the showroom, either plug the camera directly into the computer or
plug directly into the back of the router.
You can connect and see and hear what the camera does from anywhere
you have Internet access and also control it completely, but you need
to know a bit about computers such as port forwarding and how to do
it and if using a router, you’ll need to know how to set up remote
access allowed through a selected port. This stuff gets pretty
technical, find a local computer geek if you don’t know about port
addresses, firewall exceptions, IP stuff in general, etc. If you’re
not into this stuff and you want to operate the camera from your cell
phone, etc., get ready for a little learning curve.
(Note to semi-savvy computer people) Most Internet providers "lease"
you an external IP address which periodically changes, and this is
not the same IP address you’re seeing that the router hands devices.
If you want to access and control the camera from the Internet,
you’ll need to get a fixed external IP address. You can do this for
free using a site like DynDns.org. Of course, you could struggle with
Windows “remote access” which works like crap or try UltraVNC or some
such program but the computer with the camera would have to be
connected directly to the Internet to avoid having to mess with port
forwarding stuff in the router. Still have firewall exceptions and
privilege settings to deal with in the operating system. If you’re
into LInux like me, everything still works but you know what you’re
up against with Linux. Open a terminal, you nerd.
What I do now is have an old notebook computer sitting on a desk and
connected wirelessly to the router which logs on to the camera and
saves video to avi files. I can see what the camera sees on the
screen and turn on or off the recording feature. I can burn the avi
files to DVDs at my leisure to clear up space on the drive. You could
also just get an external drive to not have to do this so often, but
if I set the camera to record at 5 frames per second, the avi files
aren’t that big and although the video is choppy at that rate, it’s
sufficient to record what’s going on in the showroom without filling
up the drive too fast.
David L. Huffman