Stealth peephole camera watches your front door

In this week’s links post we mentioned an over-powered DSLR peephole that purportedly cost $4000. So when we saw this tip regarding a relatively inexpensive digital peephole, we thought some of you might be a bit more interested.

The hardware is quite simple; a decent webcam, a Raspberry Pi, and a powered USB hub. The camera gets stripped down to its PCB and hidden inside the door itself. Even if you see this from the inside it’s just a suspicious-looking wire which wouldn’t make most people think a camera was in use.

On the software side of things, [Alex] set up his Raspberry Pi as a 24/7 webcam server to stream the video online. Unlike using a cheap wireless CCTV camera, his video signals are secure. He then runs Motion, a free software motion detector to allow the camera to trigger events when someone comes sneaking by. It can be setup to send you a text, call you, play an alarm, take a picture, record a video… the list goes on. His blog has a full DIY guide if you want to replicate this system. We just hope you have a stronger door!

We covered a similar project back in 2011, but it had made use of real server instead of an inexpensive Raspberry Pi.

[Thanks Alex!]

34 thoughts on “Stealth peephole camera watches your front door

  1. The software part of the hack is pretty cool, especially the motion detection part. But hardware? I don’t think it makes any sense to mess with an existing camera. Spend 5 seconds on eBay and you’ll find a $20 endoscope USB camera that comes with a long cable attached (30+ feet in some cases), very small (less than Ø10 mm , some even Ø5mm) and show up in Linux as a Web camera right away. Even has an LED light although you might want to disable that if this is a “stealth” camera.

    1. If one is shooting for “hackaday” and one can choose between pulling something from your junk box and ordering from ebay, perhaps one should pull from the junk box.

      But it IS funny when you say “I don’t think it makes any sense to mess with an existing camera” and then you say “Even has an LED light although you might want to disable that if this is a “stealth” camera”

      1. Well, sure. I meant disable in software, like any self-respecting hacker would :) As far as pulling stuff from junk box – I’m all for it, it’s just that the endoscope camera is so well suited for the purpose and so cheap that it would be my strong preference to use it (for example, it’s hermetically sealed which is important since it’s facing outside). Its form factor (slim bullet shape) is also very suitable for the task.

    2. Endoscope USB camera sounds like a perfect fit for a peephole. I’m gonna get one and try to mod it so the sensor is rotated 90 degrees.
      Thanks for the tip polytechchick!

      1. Just get a Raspberry Pi and the camera board. install both inside the door easily and connect via wifi. all you need is power and that is easily done with a battery pack or running a very thin wire for the +5V. The story is more of a proof of concept and not a hack. fitting it all inside the door invisibly is a hack. Heck you could easily fir a 9000ah battery in there as well if you wanted it completely invisible.

        1. May I? You could finish it off with a wireless (inductive) charging rig so you never have to pull the battery out for charging (nor do you need to run a thin wire for +5V), just place (or tape) the primary coil over the secondary (which is stealthily located inside the door, that also means the charger has to be located within the door too) and take it off when its done, for extra stealth you can do that at night so that it charges while you sleep or when you are alone and take it off (the primary coil that is) when expecting visitors so that nothing smells fishy to any (other) hacker or EE.

          1. Why not just have the primary coil sit in the door jamb, and the secondary coil in the door itself, then it can charge while the door is closed…

    3. Good tip, but the problem is that some of the USB endoscopes have an in focus range of 2.5 to 30 cm (circa 1 to 12 inches). The out of focus images will be enough to make out the difference between a human and an animal, but I can see some advantages to a stripped webcam.

      1. Truth, you make a good point. I didn’t think about the far side of the focus distance. I assumed it’s from 1inch to infinity and it isn’t, at least not on my camera. It may still be useful (just checked) but it will not be the crispiest image anyone has ever seen. perhaps it may be corrected with some optics but that may defeat the purpose of having a concealed camera in the first place. Hmm…

    4. That’s odd. USB max cable length is 5 meters (~16 feet). Do these cameras include some sort of extender, or are they just successfully running out of spec?

    1. That’s harsh! I, for example, have a perfectly valid non-paranoia-induced use for such camera: UPS and Fedex routinely drop packages in a spot at my door where I cannot see them, especially if I leave home in a car and don’t use the front door. I did get stuff rained over, including pretty darn expensive electronics that I would rather keep dry. If I could see them (or, better yet, get reminded to look if there was movement that the camera has detected), plenty of soggy wet boxes would have been saved :)

      1. Or even better, instant alerts that the UPS guy was at your door for when they don’t knock and just leave a note saying nobody was home.

      2. Or when UPS says they left a package at your house and they didn’t. UPS lost a package that was about $5000 and they didn’t want to cover it saying it was taken off my porch since I didn’t answer. I didn’t answer because they didn’t knock. (I took off to wait for it.) Showed UPS the video feed of my door for the entire day before they changed their story. I would have been out the item/money had I not had cameras.

        1. I know an oddly large number of UPS employees. Part of the reason that UPS is more expensive is, at some level, all shipments are insured. You can pay more for the dollar limit to be increased. Anyway, if they do not have proof through a signature that you received a package (which is why they all carry around diad boards), whomever paid UPS can get money up to the insurance amount. This is the huge reason why they would rather put a sticker on your door than leave something there. However, the hitch is that this process can take many months, paperwork, claims process ambiguities and there is a very long waiting period before you can even file a claim.

          1. It was insured. They said it was delivered so my claim was dismissed until I showed them the video. I have a UPS business account for the fact that they are great most of the time. This time, even insured, it would have bitten me in the rear.

          2. Also, to save you some headache. It is NOT insurance even though that is the phrase they use. It is DECLARED VALUE and no obligation to cover that price.

  2. “…just a suspicious-looking wire which wouldn’t make most people think a camera was in use”

    When I see a suspicious-looking wire I _always_ assume there’s a camera on the other end. Especially when said wire attaches to a USB extension cord and appears to terminate inside the front door.

    1. Now it’s because of guys like you I suggested
      adding an inductive charging system to fartface’s
      wirless system suggestion above. It seems i’m
      already seeing the benefits even before leaving
      HaD :)

    2. I was going to leave the same comment. A wire leading into a door… Hmmm what could that be. Oh it must be a deathray of some sort. No really, what the hell else would it be if not a camera?

  3. “…just a suspicious-looking wire which wouldn’t make most people think a camera was in use.”

    He’s never met anyone with IED defusing experience… to them, suspicious looking wires shout *kaboom*.

  4. Please note that having a peephole camera in a block of flats is illegal in some countries – or at least a bit in the gray area. In Finland the stairway is considered to be a private place and therefore it is illegal to use a device to monitor it.

    1. Interesting… But who’s private area? You mean, if it’s a rented apartment, then common places like stairwells are private property of the landlord? Can landlord put a camera there himself?

      By the same token, you cannot record sound with that video here in US if it’s a public place. But I think noone will think twice about this requirement if you public sidewalk is two steps away. Gives you plausible deniability :) If you door opens right into the public space – I would not record that sound. Anyhow, private property of the landlord is not the same as “public”, so it may still be possible in a rented apartment. I think…

  5. Now it’s because of guys like you I suggested adding an inductive charging system to fartface’s wirless system suggestion above. It seems i’m already seeing the benefits even before leaving HaD :)

  6. I actually had this idea a while back, though for my idea I was going to use a busted tablet still trying to get some stuff for it since the touch on the poor fella is dead. Nice hack, just get them wires properly concealed and its heavenly.

  7. Could this be used to retrofit one of those old peephole/chime combos that have the old metal cover on the back side? I’d like to set up a cam, but I can’t afford the neighbors to notice I’ve done anything different from the outside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s