Embedded solution for uploading webcam pictures to the cloud

carambola-webcam-uploader

We have friends watch the cats when we go out-of-town. But we always leave a server running with a webcam (motion activated using the Linux “motion” software) so we can check in on them ourselves. But this project may inspire a change. It leverages the features of a Carambola2 to capture images and upload them to Dropbox.

In the picture above the green PCB is a development board for the tiny yellow PCB which is the actual Carambola2. It is soldered on the dev board using the same technique as those HC-05 Bluetooth modules. That shielded board includes a Qualcomm SoC running Linux and a WiFi radio. The dev board feeds it power and allows it connect to the USB webcam.

There’s a bit of command line kung-fu to get everything running but it shouldn’t be out of reach for beginners. Linux veterans will know that taking snapshots from a webcam at regular intervals is a simple task. Uploading to a secure cloud storage site is not. A Bash script handles the heavy lifting. It’s using the Dropbox Application API so this will not violate their TOS and you don’t have to figure out your own method of authenticating from the command line.

Comments

  1. Alex Rossie says:

    Don’t really see why uploading to a cloud storage site need be difficult but whatever I have a set up similar to this to watch my cat and rabbit when I’m at work.

  2. nachbauer says:

    Agreed. Though it’s a nice setup, it’s no black magic.

    I prefer my setup oft having a WR703n doing a live vid feed.

  3. Truth says:

    Why upload data to a storage company at all ? Why not port forward to a minimal webserver (less bells and whistles = less possible security flaws e.g. lighthttpd), even running on the embedded device ?

    Maybe if it was monitoring the house for robbers I could understand uploading data to an external company (most of which have pretty aggressive Terms and conditions – we own your data, even if you delete it, and in perpetuity can do anything we want with our data)

  4. Arnie Stang says:

    Ok, so I’ve been using a remote wifi enabled camera to put videos and photos of the dog online for years. What, exactly, is new about this?

  5. Alan says:

    I did something similar to this a few years ago. I went on vacation to Mexico, and had my sister watch my cats. They are indoor/outdoor animals, So she needed to let them in and out. The problem was: were they waiting to get in or not? Was a trip wasted?

    So I used a twitter account, some python, and dropbox.

    When she sent a private message to the twitter account, the python script grabbed a snap shot and placed it in my dropbox public folder. She declines to install dropbox, so I then had the script private message her back with an url to the photo. She could do it from any device she choose: no special log-ins were needed on her end.

    There was no public visibility for the communications. The script was hard coded to only send to her, even if someone else knew the pass phrase.

  6. Erik Johnson says:

    I’m doing something similar with those WR-703N boxes. I wired in a 1S LiPo+mini charge controller in case of power outage and it’s quite happy with the ~3.7V… Serves as my security surveillance system.

  7. ron says:

    That bash script is very useful! I might set this up using raspi and the raspi camera module.

  8. Greg says:

    The real hacker’s hack here is the shell script. I haven’ seen (or written) one that long and complicated for a long time.

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