Choosing and Installing Webcams for Home Automation Systems


Webcams these days are so cheap that there’s really no reason not to add one to your home automation system. You can get them at pretty much any computer store, or through a website like Amazon.com

Choosing a Cam

When it comes to choosing a webcam, the location of your home automation server is important. If your server is very near the thing that you want your cam to watch, you can probably get away with a simple USB webcam, like models made by Logitech. If the server is within about 15 feet from your desired webcam location, you can still go with a USB webcam, but you’ll also need a USB extension cord. Sometimes you can even get away with plugging two of these cords into each other, but if your cam location is that far away, you’re probably better off going with a networked cam.

 Networked cams, unlike their USB counterparts, are seperate units that connect to the internet through your wired or wireless home network. They usually act as their own server with an IP address and everything. If you have a home wireless network, you can locate a network cam pretty much anywhere. You won’t necessarely be able to control it with standard home webcam software, but you can always include a link to it on your Powerhome server page. Linksys makes good, if a bit expensive, networked cameras.

The final option is to use a wired or wireless camera in combination with a video capture card. This setup allows you to use a much higher quality camera, or to combine multiple cameras into a single package. Rather than relying on USB cables, which are hard to extend, you can use simple coaxial cables, which can travel over long distances and are relatively cheap to buy. With this option, you can also get cameras from a surveillance camera company–such cameras tend to be waterproof, and some have infrared night vision capabilities. Another video capture card option is to use those ubiquitous X10 cameras that are always advertised in popup windows. They have the advantage of being relativey cheap, and they’re also wireless. Some can even be paned and tiltled remotely. The problem with the capture card option is that you’ll need to invest in a seperate card, which increases the expense.

Setting it Up

Once you have your camera chosen, install the necessary software, then choose a webcam program that will allow you to take still photos at a set interval. Advice about such programs can be found in the Webcam Software section. Many cameras have a tripod base that allows easy mounting. Simply obtain a screw that’s the right diameter, attach it to the wall, and screw the camera in.

If you have a camera that can see infrared light (all night vision cameras can, as well as some others–to test this, point a TV remote at the camera in a dark room, click a button, and see if the light pulse shows up on screen), you may want to invest in an infrared illuminator to increase your camera’s range during the night.

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