Webcam turned security cam with motion detected email notifications

[Sean] used his old webcam to assemble a closed circuit television feed for his home. He already had a server up and running, so this was just a matter of connecting a camera and setting up the software. He wasn’t satisfied by only having a live feed, so he decided to add a few more features to the system.

He started off by hanging a webcam near the front of his house. He mentions that he’s not sure this will last long exposed to the elements, but we think it’d be dead simple to build an enclosure with a resealable container and a nice piece of acrylic as a windows. But we digress…

The camera connects via USB to the server living in the garage. [Sean's] setup uses Yawcam to create a live feed that can be access from the Internet. The software also includes motion detection capabilities. Since he wanted to have push notifications when there was action within the camera’s view he also set up Growl alert him via his iOS devices. You can see [Sean] demonstrate his completed CCTV system in the video below the fold.


  1. addidis says:

    Look up webcamXP , i have used it for this for a few years now. Just plug in an 8$ webcam.

  2. Gary Newman says:

    Not really a hack, there’s plenty of software already available with these features + more.

  3. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    That cam will not last long outside like that. Put it in an enclosure to protect it from the elements.

  4. E_Surge says:

    WebcamXP works well for this purpose. Has multiple notification options

  5. Lex says:

    Any soft of this kind under linux platform ?

  6. pRtkL xLr8r says:

    I’m more interested in getting something like this working with Linux software, being able to run an old pc/laptop/netbook for a server…

  7. adam says:

    Zoneminder for linux would be an even better solution.

  8. I’m more interested in what the Arduino does…

    Hmm going to check his site , maybe some cool home automation stuff :P

  9. MrX says:

    Windows Home Server? That’s a fail : \

  10. Atreyu says:

    I’ve done something like this before. Except my computer was too far away from the locations of the camera. USB wont work after about 12ft or so without a repeater, which is expensive and pointless. So instead I rewired the webcam internals using cat5 cable and did a quick cat5 to USB male connector on the other end and plugged it in. Works pretty well, theoretically dies after about 100ft of cable, but so far has worked in the 20-30ft I have set up at the moment.

  11. MrB says:
  12. mcraze123 says:

    For linux users take a look at motion. It has support for multiple video inputs, a built in webserver to show a live mjpeg feed and motion detection and notification features. You can archive picture or video captures when a motion event is detected. If you have a wireless camera it can also rebroadcast the feed on the camera’s webserver. It supports all V4L devices too so you can use an actual cctv camera on a capture card. Also source code is in C so its fast and good on resources. I have a dedicated Pentium II machine that handles it well, load average is usually below 1.0.

  13. barry99705 says:

    What’s wrong with WHS? It’s easy to set up, plenty of add-ons….

    I had a D-Stink ip cam running in a pvc and acrylic enclosure for over a year, in Fairbanks AK. Worked great, until I rearranged the network rack and plugged in the wrong power injector… Cam didn’t like 24v DC…. I’ve seen other people use those cheap waterproof flashlights for cam enclosures. Run the wires out the push button switch hole so you don’t have to add any new holes in the case.

  14. aztraph says:

    Exact same setup, but i put the camera in a waterproof case and use a laptop. that way all i need a wifi connection and an outlet. set it up at the office, home, anyplace i need to put a security camera up. plus is you use you watch it live without having to stream it.

  15. Jason C says:

    Milestone offers a free product, which will allow you to add IP based along with USB based cameras to the system. it will allow you to keep recorded media for up to 5 days… though I’m sure there is a way around that.

  16. aztraph says:{%22ImageId%22%3A16734576}

    pictures of my camera. hope the link works

  17. Hirudinea says:

    Put the camera in a glass jar.

  18. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Consider adding a desiccant to keep moisture from condensing if it is sealed well enough. Heaters work too but take more energy and can fail.

  19. Todd Grigsby says:

    I’m trying to do something similar, and in my case I’ve figured out what *doesn’t* work.

    I purchased 4 *cheap* USB cameras off eBay. The idea was to have two cameras sitting on each of two corners of my garage. This would give me thorough coverage of the front and side of my house and the street in front.

    I then tried two different software packages: Zoneminder, and WebCam 7. After much struggle I finally got them to start recognizing the cameras. And that’s when the real trouble started.

    Turns out one USB controller can only really handle input from two webcams at a time, tops. And the laptop I’m trying to use as my server has only one USB 1.0 controller.

    So I’m still without the security system I wanted. The solution would appear to be to use IP cameras rather than USB. I have a couple of IP cameras on order now. When I get the entire system set up, I’ll post a how-to.

  20. aztraph says:

    CutThroughStuffGuy has a good point. when i sealed my camera, i did get a little bit of condensation on it, but it eventually went away.

  21. Ethan says:

    I have 2 Microsoft Lifecam Cinema’s coming in tomorrow, and 2 netbooks that will run webcamXP to stream the 720p video to my main computer, which I use to remote view and record my house. ATM i just use it with the 2 webcams on the main computer, but at about 400$ for the webcam+netbook its about 30% of the cost of an IP camera that can work at 720p, and I reeealy like the clarity I get with these cameras. My biggest problem currently is an enclosure. I planned on drilling a 3″ hole through the top corner of my garage door, which faces my house door, and through bolting an acrylic dome to the outside of the hole. Placing the camera inside the dome though the hole and having a small computer fan covering the hole to keep moisture from building up or the camera from freezing. the other camera and netbook will be inside the house so wont need an enclosure.

  22. MarkP says:

    I’ve used a £5 floodlight housing to weatherproof the webcam that I’ve put on the roof of my house with my weather station:

    Works well, is cheap, and is easily adjustable. Been on the roof for about 2 years now without any problems.

  23. bemis says:

    I attempted to do something very similar, the trouble that I had is that most of the current generation of Logitech “HD” webcams (I used the C310) have a focus limit of about 6′ from the lens.

    As a result they are mostly unusable for general viewing unless you start hacking the lens which I’ve had mixed results with at best (and by mixed I mean my only successes were to put the original back together!)

  24. Gunfus says:

    I have had a similar this setup running in linux for years.. I keep no longer than 3 days worth of history.

    In my case I don’t have email notification setup, it can, but it is just too much garbage for me. The idea of sending a few static images is good.

    But I don’t consider this a complicated hack..

  25. Paul says:

    Man uses three pieces of software to do exactly what they are meant to do. Awesome hack.

    Nice writeup on his blog though. Keep up the good work.

  26. Phil says:

    Is this really a hack? I’ve been using an iMac with a smashed screen in the garage to run a USB webcam looking out from the front of the house. I use EvoCam to monitor it for motion, provide a live html stream and send notifications.

  27. Ian bell says:

    I use IP Camera Viewer to watch a combination of USB and IP cameras on the same screen simultaneously. Works well and it is completely free.

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