Home Surveillance via Skype

So, you are going away for a while and you want to setup a home surveillance system but don’t have the money to spend on the expensive cameras. Well, you can hack your own home monitoring system. All you need is a spare computer with Skype software installed and a webcam connected to the computer. Here is how you do it.

First of all, you will need to have 2 skype accounts. One account will be used for the location where you want to monitor. i.e. HomeCamera. The second account will be used to get the live feed off the camera. So, it can be your personal Skype account. i.e. prabak.

Connect the webcam to the computer and point it to the location you want to monitor. Remember, while you are away you will have to keep this computer running contiously with Skype in the background.

On the computer where the webcam is connected, log into Skype using the HomeCamera account and enable automatic call answering with video. Here is how you do it for Skype version 5.8 installed on Mac OS X. Similar settings exist for Skype on Windows and other platforms.

Open the prefererences in the top menu bar (Skype -> Preferences). Select the “Calls” tab. Under the “Incoming Calls” section, select the radio buton that has the option “Answer automatically“. Then, clcick on the “Configure …” button, and make sure “Answer automatically with video” is selected.

Step 1

Skype -> Preferences -> Calls

Setup 2

Skype -> Preferences -> Calls -> Configure

Once the above step is done, add both accounts to each others contact list. This is very important: HomeCamera account should only have one contact which is your own account. Otherwise, anyone who is on HomeCamera contact list will be able to see the video feed of the webcam.

Thats it. you are now setup. If you call HomeCamera via Skype from anywhere in the world (including your smart phone) using prabak skype account, you will get an automatic live feed off the webcam..

Side Note: The reason that lead me to write this blog was the idea of having a web app perform home surveillance. In my next post, I hope to have a working rails app doing the above.

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One Response to Home Surveillance via Skype

  1. John says:

    This isn’t a bad little trick, but you’d be surprised how affordable an IP camera can be (not to mention how much energy costs you’d save by just using an IP camera rather than a constantly-running computer!). Netcam Shop has fixed position IP cameras, pan/tilt cameras and even outdoor cameras, most of which come with infra-red night vision (something a standard webcam is lacking). Their support is free too, and fantastic.

    In a pinch, this may be helpful, but when you consider the energy costs associated with running a computer so much, it’s not very sustainable.

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