Setting up a Home Security Camera on a budget Part 1: Perch
Installing an IP camera on your house is one of the cheapest and best solutions to using an old smartphone and keeping track of your house when home and when not home. There are many articles on net about how simple it is to convert an old phone into a security camera and truth is this probably the best utilisation of an older phone, and it certainly beats the expensive of a Foscam set-up any day of the week. Of course this kind of IP camera set-up is not going to be 100% reliable and will suffer moments of downtime, set-up annoyances and tricky methods to store the data.
For some time now we have been using a set-up with Android phones, IP Webcam Pro application alongside the tinyCam Monitor PRO application to view, there are free versions with Ads available too. Including a couple of cheap phone stands/cradles from Amazon or Ebay this set-up costs roughly £10 not including the price of the phones. Primarily this has been used with some budget phones that were lying around taking up space from ZTE and Acer running Android 4.3 Jellybean. Using all phone holders with suction cups for cars to attached the devices to windows is a little spark of ingenuity I was quite proud with. Running power to the phone’s made for some creative decisions rather than having walls lined with USB cables and extension cables running across the floor. There is no one solution for all here.
Once installed an IP camera becomes easily one of the most useful tools in day-to-day life. The obvious one is monitoring your house when you were not there on holiday perhaps or just at work. Other applications allow you to view who is calling at the front door, keep an eye on a car in the front garden, watch animals or your children play in the garden. Many many more other applications will be found and more applications will present themselves once the person gets to grips with the setup.
Right now, I would recommend one of two options.
The first would be the best way to dip your toe in the water. Download an application called Perch to your phone. Perch might be in Beta however it is a great start. It is also free for the time being however I would imagine that there will be a paid model once the application comes out of Beta.
Perch gives you a simple stream from the camera on a phone and presents it on their website or through the app on another device for the user to view. There isn’t too much in the way of options and whilst this could be seen as a good thing for the newbie a seasoned vet of IP cameras may find Perch annoyingly limited.
As a beta Perch is rather well laid out, the stream is quite reliable and footage is quite good. There are some basic features like motion detection with notifications, the ability to record sound from the camera and recording at scheduled times. There isn’t much more than that and the features have not been expanded in the year since I last used their service. They have, however, become more reliable and solid. So work is being done to stabilise the platform before launch. One might suggest that it is pretty much rock solid right now.
Unfortunately there is no way to export the videos from Perch and this is a really off putting for the user. You can check your timeline to see something that happened and this goes back seven days. If a crime has been committed then you might have to go to Perch. Currently there is no information on their website about export the videos.
One problem I have encountered is the motion detection is incredibly sensitive. Some days it looks like the camera has been recording non stop for over 6 hours. Whilst I cannot be certain I believe a shadow of a bush moving on the area I am watching is triggering the record function. This makes Perch more of an indoor camera than outdoor for most.
However, what if you really need more in the way of features and are prepared to make the effort to set up a more robust system? Next week we will be taking a look at a home made camera setup that does not only secure your home, but doesn’t open things up to anyone to potentially hack very easily.