Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cool things to do with IP Cameras

As technology marches forward, things that once cost boatloads of money or that were only used by businesses, find their way into the mainstream consumer arena for a mere pittance. One of those items is IP cameras. In this Tech Tip, we are going to take a quick look at IP camera features as well as take a look at some of the cool things that can be done with IP cameras.


A quick look at features

IP cameras come in all shapes and sizes – with a variety of features. First, what is an IP camera? Very simply, an IP camera is a camera that is designed to send video images over a network or the Internet using an “Internet Protocol” (IP) – which means that wherever you have a web browser (or sometimes, specialized software) you can watch live, streaming video. Some of the more common features are cameras that feature built-in IR (infrared) lights to see in low light situations, PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) features so that the camera can be remotely moved or zoomed in, weatherproofing for outdoor use, built-in wireless for ease of installation, high resolution lenses, high resolution image sensors and also audio (both one-way and two-way). Some will also have specialized software that allows for extra functions (such as sending e-mail alerts when movement is detected by the camera).


Cool uses

Obviously, one of the number one uses for IP cameras is use as real-time, streaming video surveillance of your home or business. Using an IP camera rather than a standard CCTV analog cameras enables you to keep an eye on your property while at home or away. It is an easy, inexpensive way to have an eye at your front door or driveway, for example. No need to even get up from the computer, simply pop in the web address for your camera and see who’s there. Many people also stream the video feed from IP cameras to their SmartPhones using third party apps (apps are available on all the popular platforms such as iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Palm and Symbian). Some of these apps also allow for control of the pan, tilt and zoom features that some cameras include.
Some other uses include:
  • Using it as a night time “baby cam”
  • Using it as a “nanny cam” (though this aspect is can be somewhat controversial)
  • Using during a home remodel
  • Using it to keep an eye on the backyard pool
  • Using it to keeping an eye on your pets.
  • Some people set them up as “vantage point cameras” (for weather; traffic or even as a surf cam).
  • Because IP cameras tend to use better electronics than webcams, they are ideal for such Functions.
The uses are really up to you (obviously within the realms of privacy laws).
When you couple IP cameras with a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or a Network Video Recorder (NVR), you get not only a real time video feed, but the peace of mind that having a home surveillance system with a video log can bring. An example of this was seen in Carlsbad, California (near San Diego) recently where a home burglar not only saw the camera, but conveniently pointed it at his face so that it could be run in the local newspaper. Having a DVR saved the moment for all to see. Often, this type of software or hardware is sold separately from a standalone IP camera (though sometimes, they are offered as part of a surveillance kit).


In Conclusion

IP Cameras come in a wide array of types. From a simple, inexpensive IP camera that only streams live video to high-end, elaborate multi-camera surveillance kits with all the bells and whistles – IP cameras offer just about everything. So if you’re simply looking for a camera to watch your driveway – or a system to keep an eye on your home, IP cameras offer an ideal solution for just about everyone!

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