How to repurpose an old Android phone as a security or pet camera

How to repurpose an old Android phone as a security or pet camera

Recently, one of my cats had a bit of an incident and wound up having to wear a collar around his neck to prevent him from irritating a nasty wound. We were instructed the collar could come off, so long as we were watching him. Given I work from home, I had no problem with that, but there were times when my face had to be buried in a screen, so I couldn’t always have my eye on the little guy.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. To be able to keep watch over him, and still meet deadlines, I decided to make use of one of the many Android phones I had lying around. With the help of a simple-to-use application, called DroidCam. This app makes it remarkably easy to create a security or webcam that can be used for many applications (security, monitoring, etc.). Let me show you how this is done.

requirements

To make this work you will need the following:

  • An Android phone (running version 5.0 and up).
  • A power cord for the phone (you don’t want your battery to run out).
  • The DroidCam app.
  • A web browser on the same network as the phone.

With those things at the ready, let’s get this up and running.

How to use an old Android phone as a security or pet camera

Step 1: Install DroidCam

Installing the application is simple with these steps:

  1. Open the Play Store on your Android device.
  2. Search for DroidCam.
  3. Tap Install.

Once the app is installed, you’re ready to go.

How to use DroidCam

Make sure your Android device is on the same wireless network as the desktop or laptop you’ll use to view the camera and start the application. Once it starts (Figure 1), it will present you with the address you use to connect from your browser.

Figure 1

The DroidCam app interface.

The DroidCam interface is a bit old-school but works like a charm.

Image: Jack Wallen

The output on the screen displays the IP address and the port you need to use to access the camera. If you point a web browser to http://SERVER:4747/video (Where SERVER is the IP address displayed by DroidCam), you’ll see the video output from the camera (Figure 2).

Figure 2

DroidCam keeping watch over a cat.

My cat is being watched and he doesn’t even know it.

Image: Jack Wallen

The free version of the app only offers 240p or 480p resolutions. To get 720p and 1080p resolutions you must purchase the pro version of the app (DroidCamX $5.49 on the Google Play Store), which adds sound, HD mode, and SmoothFPS for more stable video. However, for very basic security/baby/cat cam usage, the free version does just fine.

Remember to plug that phone into an outlet, as streaming video can eat away at the battery. The good news on that front is that the app will continue streaming, even after your phone is locked and asleep.

That’s the gist of using DroidCam as a web/security cam. I’ve used this setup for a few applications where I needed more eyes than evolution gave me.

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