The other day I was away from home and my house alarm went off. I couldn't get home to check it and it was driving me nuts. Thankfully a family member was nearby and was able to go check on the house for me. But this got me thinking, if it happens again, what's the easiest way for me to check on what's going on without waiting for a neighbour or the alarm company to check it out.I had a couple of webcams, a computer, and my iPhone. I thought, surely I can figure out a way to use these to see whats going on at home from wherever I am. Here's what I came up with.
It turns out that there are an absolute ton of apps out there that let the iPhone or iPad view your webcams over WiFi and a smaller amount that will do it over 3G, but there are even fewer that offer a way to view multiple cameras and offer a clean, easy to use interface. The app I settled on is iCam ($6, iTunes). iCam supports regular USB connected cameras as well as Wi-Fi-enabled remote cameras that are on your home network. This makes it flexible so you can place cameras wherever you need them.The app is slick, well designed and easy to configure and I was impressed by the testimonial of a customer in the reviews section that actually caught a burglar and got him arrested with iCam. Grab iCam on the app store and get the server software, iCamSource, to run on the computer your webcams are attached to here.
After you install iCamSource on your computer, you'll need to configure your first camera, so open the iCamSource preferences windows and choose the audio and video device that you'd like to use. If it's a built in camera it will show up automatically. If it's an IP camera just enter the camera's IP address. Once you have the camera set up also enter a username and password to protect your camera streams. On the right side you'll notice controls that will let you set up motion detection. This will detect motion in your camera and automatically record the motion for you on your hard drive if you wish. In a pretty slick move, it will also send you a push notification on your iPhone or iPad letting you know that your camera has detected motion.
If you're behind a router, check the Port Forward Range and configure your router to forward requests to those ports to the computer that iCam is running on. If you need help doing this, check out this site or the iCam support forums.
Once iCamSource is set up, open up iCam on your iPhone or iPad and enter the username and password for your camera, set your options and hit done. You should see the 4-up view with the feed from your camera in the first slot.You're now viewing your camera live!
To view a particular camera larger, just tap on the image and to adjust options for that camera, tap on the feed once it's open. To return to the multiple feed view, just double tap the image.
It's important to note that iCam doesn't just work with regular webcams, you can use it to view any IP enabled security camera that's connected to your home network as well.
There are a couple of ways to use multiple cameras with iCam. First, you can add multiple cameras that are attached to one machine fairly easily with the new version of iCamsource. Just click the plus button on the left side of the preferences panel and choose the video source that you'd like it to pull from on the right. Each camera will show up on its own pane in iCam.
If you want to add multiple cameras attached to other machines all you have to do is make sure that you use the same username and password on each copy of iCamsource that you have running at a time. You will also need to create a port forwarding range on your router for each of the machines that you'll want to access. The normal port forward range for iCam begins at 12000 and ends at 12100, iCam recommends that you continue that pattern, choosing 12200-12300 for your next port forward etc. Once you've added a range for each of them they should pop up on your copy of iCam automatically.
Matthew Panzarino is a writer, photographer, gadget enthusiast and time-travelling dwarf. Currently Matthew is Editor-In-Chief of The iPhone Guru and The iPad Guru. You can read more of his writing here.