Set up your own home sur­veil­lance sys­tem


GET­TING A PRO­FES­SIONAL home sur­veil­lance sys­tem in­stalled and mon­i­tored is a very ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion. Thank­fully, it’s easy enough to cre­ate your own on a tight bud­get. IP cam­eras can be used for se­cu­rity, for child or pet mon­i­tor­ing, or sim­ply if you want to be able to check in on some part of your house.

An IP cam­era, for those un­fa­mil­iar with them, are like we­b­cams but in­stead of con­nect­ing to a PC, they con­nect to your net­work. Then with the right soft­ware, you can check on the cam­era’s feeds from any de­vice or computer con­nected to the net­work. Some soft­ware also lets you mon­i­tor feeds from over the in­ter­net.

Most IP cam­eras do come with some kind of soft­ware, but it is gen­er­ally very ba­sic, used only for check­ing and set­ting event-based cap­tures (such as “cap­ture 15 sec­onds of video if mo­tion is de­tected”). If you want some­thing more ca­pa­ble — per­haps ca­pa­ble of con­tin­u­ous record­ing from mul­ti­ple cam­eras, as well as com­plex record­ing and cap­ture op­tions — you need a proper sur­veil­lance so­lu­tion.

This month, we’re go­ing to take a very quick look at iSpy, a free and very pow­er­ful sur­veil­lance so­lu­tion. There is a paid ver­sion of iSpy (iSpy Con­nect, that grants re­mote ac­cess to feeds, as well as other fea­tures like email alerts, but we’ll focus on just get­ting the free ver­sion up and run­ning.


The first thing you need to do is set up your IP cam­eras. You should use the soft­ware supplied with the cam­era to get the ini­tial setup done — it’s much eas­ier than try­ing to fig­ure out web ad­min con­soles.

Once you have the cam­era set up, pass­word pro­tected and con­nected to your LAN, how­ever you can switch over to iSpy for cam­era mon­i­tor­ing and cap­ture. Just fol­low th­ese steps: * Head to www.ispy­con­ and down­load iSpy for your sys­tem. In­stall and run it. What you’ll see ini­tially is the iSpy Sur­face, a blank can­vas onto which you’ll place one or more cam­era feeds for mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol. Click on ‘Add’, then se­lect ‘IP Cam­era with Wiz­ard’. In the Make field, start typ­ing the model of your IP cam­era — a list will ap­pear that’s fil­tered by what you type. If your cam­era is listed, se­lect it. If your cam­era is not listed, se­lect­ing a sim­i­lar model name might work — oth­er­wise you’ll have to check the ‘Notlisted’ ra­dio but­ton and type in a make and model and hope it can still be sup­ported. En­ter your cam­era’s user­name and pass­word (if you don’t know the de­fault user­name, you might have to do a search — though it’s usu­ally ‘ad­min’). You now have to do a net­work scan. Click on ‘Scan Lo­cal Net­work’. A list of all the de­vices with web servers run­ning will ap­pear (IP cam­eras run an in­ter­nal web server). Hope­fully, you can find your cam­era in the list, then click on it to se­lect it and click ‘Next’. You’ll now have the op­tion to choose one of the feed types. You’ll see ‘Try th­ese URLs’ with a list of dif­fer­ent op­tions, like H264, JPEG or MJPEG. Pick one — if you don’t know which one is best, you can al­ways just go through again and pick a dif­fer­ent op­tion next time (in this case, you would pick MJPEG over JPEG and H264 over both). If you en­tered ‘Not-listed’ in Step 3, iSpy might take a minute as it tries to scan the web pages for feeds. If it finds none, you may be out of luck. If it suc­cess­fully grabs the feed, you should see it ap­pear on the iSpy Sur­face, and the Edit win­dow for that feed should ap­pear. For the mo­ment, just close the Edit win­dow by click­ing on Fin­ish. You can con­trol the po­si­tion and size of the feed on your screen by drag­ging the win­dow and grab­bing the re­size tab on the bot­tom left. There are other things in the feed you might no­tice. A blue bar just be­low it is a mo­tion

in­di­ca­tor, with a small red bar in­di­cat­ing the alert/record­ing thresh­old for that cam­era. If you mouse over the feed, you’ll see the op­tions for it, in­clud­ing lis­ten­ing, talk (for cam­eras with two-way au­dio) and record now. Note that talk and au­dio are not en­abled for all cam­era mod­els.

* You can, of course, add other cam­eras to your Sur­face us­ing the same process. You can have pretty much as many cam­era feeds run­ning as your PC and net­work can han­dle.


Now that you have at least one feed en­abled, you can start set­ting how you want it to record and cap­ture events. Mouse over the cam­era feed, and click on the gear icon to en­ter the Edit win­dow for that feed.

Now there’s a lot you can do here, and we can’t cover them all, but some things you can look at in­clude:

Click on the Stor­age tab — this is where you con­trol where record­ings are stored on your PC. Change the Me­dia lo­ca­tion to the directory where you’d like video to be stored. En­abling ‘Stor­age Man­age­ment’ can be used to put a cap on how much it stores in total. The old­est record­ings will be deleted first.

In the Cam­era tab, you can set the max­i­mum fram­er­ate for both the on-screen dis­play and the record­ing. Click­ing on Op­tions also lets you cor­rect fish eye for wide-an­gle cam­eras.

If you have a cam­era with mechanical pan and tilt, click on the PTZ tab to con­trol it. You can even set up mo­tion track­ing so that it fol­lows mov­ing peo­ple and ob­jects.

Click on the Record­ing tab to set up record­ing rules. For ex­am­ple, you can set it to record on move­ment de­tec­tion, with a min­i­mum record and max­i­mum record time. If you want to record con­tin­u­ously or ac­cord­ing to a sched­ule, click in­stead on the Schedul­ing tab. Then you click on ‘Sched­ule Cam­era’, then ‘Add and set a time’ and choose an ac­tion for that time. For in­stance, if you want your cam­era to record be­tween 8am and 10am Monday to Fri­day, you would cre­ate two sched­ules: once at 8am on those days with ‘Record­ing:Start’ set as the ac­tion, and an­other at 10am on those days with ‘Record­ing:Stop’ as the Ac­tion.

Click­ing on the Mo­tion De­tec­tion tab lets you set both the sen­si­tiv­ity of mo­tion de­tec­tion and to spec­ify zones for which the mo­tion de­tec­tion does not ap­ply. The lat­ter is use­ful if, for in­stance, your cam­era is look­ing at a win­dow and you don’t want it to trig­ger every time a car drives by.

The Alerts tab lets you set trig­gers and ac­tions. For in­stance, you can cre­ate an alert on mo­tion de­tec­tion that sends a net­work mes­sage. Un­for­tu­nately, email and SMS alerts are not avail­able to free users.

Those op­tions re­ally are just a taster of what is pos­si­ble with iSpy. It’s an im­mensely ca­pa­ble and com­plex so­lu­tion, es­pe­cially when you add mul­ti­ple cam­eras. Ex­plore it — you may be sur­prised as to what you and your cam­era sol­diers can do.

The iSpy Sur­face starts as a blank can­vas.

Us­ing the wiz­ard will work for most IP cam­eras.

The Edit win­dow is where you con­trol all the be­hav­iour for that cam­era.

All the web servers on the net­work will ap­pear in a list. Find your cam­era’s IP.

Feed ac­com­plished.

You can set record­ing ac­cord­ing to a sched­ule.

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