How To Turn Your Phones Into WiFi Security Cameras
Our old smartphones sometimes hold an intrinsic value and you don’t always sell them off. You just keep them in a drawer and one day rediscover them.
But, what if you could put these old, and sometimes new, devices to work and secure your home at the same time? Today, we’re gonna show you how to take an old iPhone or Android phone and turn it into a security camera for your home. We checked out lots of apps and found. Presence, AtHome and Alfred to be the game winners. However, AtHome stopped working when we tested it on an iPhone 4, so for this, we’re scrapping it in favor of wider support. Now, turning on an old phone comes with its own headaches. You’re probably quite a few updates behind and you probably don’t even remember your access pin.
But, once you get past those bumps, load up your app store and type in Presence or Alfred. You can make a decision on which you want after this, as they both have strengths and weaknesses. The apps function the same in the sense that any device you have can be used as a camera or a viewer. You can also use your computer to tap into the camera feeds, so you have plenty of options. Let’s start with the most common place that people wanna keep tabs on, the front door.
Now, there’s a million different ways to make a phone stand, so I simply checked my toolbox for anything that might work and found some mini clamps that looked good enough for this task. Just put one clamp on each end of the phone, making sure that there’s some padding or rubber between the glass and the clamp. It should stand right up and it’s ready to go. I’ll be placing this camera on my media center, as it has a direct line of sight to the front door. The best way to position your cameras or phones is to have your main phone set up as a viewer, and then use that to properly position the camera phone.
Once you’re happy with the location, make sure you plug your device into the wall so you have a constant stream you can tap into. We’ll get into routing cables for phones mounted in trickier spots just a bit later, but now your phone will let you see what’s going on in your living room at any time, whether you’re at work, on vacation, or just going grocery shopping. Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, “but I can’t monitor my camera 24/7, “so how will I know if someone gets in my house?” Simple, motion detection. Both Presence and Alfred have motion detection, but you need to turn it on first. Let’s take a look at Presence, I’ll show you how it’s done.
First, set the phone to be used as a camera. While we’re here, let me note that there is a Dim Screen feature if you wanna run the camera as stealth as possible, but to enable motion detection, first hit the Options button, then go to Motion Detection Options. In this menu, you can set how long before detection starts, how sensitive it is, if an alarm sounds, or even how long you want it to record. Once you have your options set to your liking, go back and toggle on Motion Detection. Now, in the event that there is movement caught on camera while you aren’t watching, the app will send you a push notification and let you know that something isn’t quite right at home.
This is probably the most useful feature on both apps and you can tweak how often you get notified But, this works great in other scenarios as well. Take your bedroom, for example Maybe you live with roommates or a snooping sibling and your room is their target. Motion detection and a camera would certainly help out in this situation.
Enter, The Box Cam Just grab an ordinary-looking box that can fit a phone in it, horizontally. Measure out where the phone’s camera lens will be and mark it with a pen or a marker. When that’s done, just punch a hole in the box with some scissors, and then verify that the lens is lined up with the glorious hole. Make sure you leave a little room at the end so you can plug your power cord in later.
Go ahead and remove as much excess cardboard as you can and clean up that area a bit. After that, punch another hole in the back and run your power cord out if you plan on keeping it charged while you run your covert op. Mounting the phone in the box is pretty simple. You just need some double-sided tape or some sort of removable adhesive to stick the phone to the side of the box I used a little mounting tape, as it doesn’t harm anything and can be peeled off without any issues.
When you’re all done, the outside of your box should look something like this. You may think that even this is too obvious, but we’ll conceal it a bit more, later the first thing you wanna do at this point is assess you room and figure out the best place to stow away your box. While your box is still open, fire up the app of your choice and get your box into a position that can see who’s coming in and where they might be going. Then, close up the top and grab a bunch of other boxes or junk to better conceal the hole.
Just stack things on and around it until it appears more stealth. Load up your viewer and make sure everything looks good. If your angle’s off, now’s the time to adjust things a bit. Otherwise, make sure you’re plugged in and go about your day If anyone sneaks into your room while you’re away, you’ll get notified, and then you can deal with them later because you’ll have evidence on hand.
Also, it’s important to note that even if the person found the phone and took it, the motion detection would kick in, so the footage would be uploaded to cloud storage before they could do anything about it. That makes getting your potentially stolen phone back much easier. So, our front door is covered and the bedroom’s under surveillance. This is a good time to note that if you wanna mount a camera higher up and happen to have an old car mount laying around, you can use that to attach the phone to any surface smooth enough to handle it. Alternatively, you can use those plastic things you get in a pizza box.
They’re actually called pizza savers. If you want your phone’s camera pointing at an upward angle, then you don’t need to make any modifications at all, just plop it in there. If you’re looking to straighten the phone out a bit, then all you need to do is shorten one of the prongs using some scissors, and then bend it inwards a bit. Once you have that one done, bend in the two remaining longer prongs until you have something that kinda looks like this I decided it would be a good idea to keep tabs on my backyard, so I picked a window near a power outlet, raised the blinds, and put down a small bowl to raise the phone up a bit when utilizing the pizza mount.
I’ll go ahead and use the Alfred app for this one Just move your phone around until you get the view that suits your needs. When you have it positioned, make sure you plug it in, hit Power Saver Mode or Dim Screen, and drop your blinds back down As I mentioned earlier, both apps let you view your cameras on a computer, so let’s give that a quick test. This is where you might notice one of the shortcomings of Alfred.
It’s absolutely riddled with ads .Well, this looks pretty good to me. Can easily tell if someone was snooping around out back and as long as there’s some light, you can see exactly who it is. Alright, we’re winding down, so let me give you a few tips about running your cables if you decide to mount a phone in an odd place. Using my viewer to help with positioning, I took some more double-sided mounting tape and secured my iPhone 7 on the crown molding near my work station.
This stuff can hold up to 10 pounds of weight, so I’m not worried. The next step is to grab some clear command hooks and run the charging cable along the edges. Always place one right near the phone, and then another wherever there’s a corner or too much slack. Go around the area that you’re working with until you either reach the outlet or run out of cable. If you’re out of cable, you’re gonna need a USB extender, which can be picked up for a few bucks almost anywhere.
Attach that and continue working your way around the surface, all the way to the plug. You’ll definitely want a hook above the outlet so you can keep everything snug and secure Pop in the USB connector, and if you have a bunch of excess wire, just loop it around a bit and hold it together with a zip tie or some tape. That’s all there is to it. Depending on how clean you want it to look, you could spend a hefty amount of time routing your wires.
Since this is just an example, I went quick and simple, but effective. The final view from my mounted camera covers my work area so that I’ll know if anyone’s messing around with my important video-making tools. The peace of mind that you get out of this simplistic setup we just ran through can’t be fully expressed in words. And the truth is, it’s way cheaper than buying a brand new security camera system if you already have old phones laying around, or if you can find some for pennies on the dollar online. We hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and have fun securing your home