Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Home And Business Security

Free/Cheap video surveillance using old smart phones & computer

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I have put together a video monitoring system for $6. I needed to buy an extra phone charger. Everything else was 'salvaged' stuff.

I use this for watching the kids when they are playing, checking the doors before I answer it & remote monitoring while I am away.

To build such a system, you need 3 categories of things:

* Smartphones
* Old computer to run DVR software
* WiFi[/]
We will assume that you have a wifi network and can configure the phones & computer to use it.

Lets start with the smart phones. I use off contract & damaged Android phones. They don't hold their resale like iphones do, which I suspect would work just fine, I just can't afford them.

With all the smart phones coming off contract now days and people tossing the old ones when they get new ones, we have a great resource for cheap/free miniature computers. These 'junk' smart phones have built in cameras & wifi. Everything that the $100 special purpose cameras have.  Plus, they have a built in battery for when the power goes out.
I put the word out that I am interested in old smartphones that are getting tossed. I also take ones that have been dropped that have a cracked, but functional screen.

I do a factory reset on the phones, and log in with a google account I use just for these phones.
I install an IP webcam app on them Set them up with a good username/password or people nearby can use the cameras themselves.

These phones get set up to look out of windows. I also built a box that I hung from the garage to watch the front door.

This is the tool that allows video capture, storage and monitoring.  This is the hardest part to set up.

I used a software package called zoneminder. It can be found at It runs on Linux.

I install this on an old computer. Mine happened to be an old XEON server running about 2ghz. The software will run on much less hardware, if you use video capture cards, which aren't being used in this case. So a pretty beefy computer will be needed to monitor more than a few IP cameras.

I set up my internet router to forward external requests to the computer running zoneminder. This allows me to monitor the cameras when I am not home using anything with an internet connection, such as my smart phone.

Instructions for setting up zoneminder are on the website. Too much to rehash here.

My Setup

I am using several out of contract phones. 1 was dropped, and has a shattered screen which still otherwise functions. I have 1 phone with a bad charger jack that I am giving power to via the battery case using a custom battery power adapter I printed on my 3d printer. I have 1 phone in good shape. I am also using a cheap tablet that had gotten dropped and has a broken screen. I also am using a webcam on an old laptop with a broken screen that's been delegated to the garage.

In addition to the full time cameras, I have a Google TV android device plugged into my TV and serveral web cameras on various computers that I can turn on the IP webcamera software when I am leaving for extended periods. They stay off while I am home, so there aren't cameras on inside the house.

The Google TV has on the main screen a 'widget' that updates every 5 minutes with views from around the house. A single click on one of these will pull up the live camera feed. This is great for keeping an eye on the kids playing outside, or who's at the front door, etc. I can also do these tasks with the tablet or phones.
You can also pull up the system in a web browser on any regular computer.

I use this app on my phone, tablet, and android TV to monitor the cameras on-network. I have this app set up to talk to the cameras directly. Faster frame rate.

I have another monitoring app that I use to monitor 'remotely'. It has a widget feature that I use to keep a passive eye for major scenery alterations. (missing car, van parked in yard, etc.)

A fairly complex system can be set up for quite cheap using devices that are 'trash' in the eyes of the current owners. Collect these old devices, and keep they out of the landfills, and an eye on your property!

Nice out of the box thinking. Question for you.
How do you install a google app on a phone without a plan?


--- Quote from: nkawtg on April 01, 2013, 01:41:39 PM ---How do you install a google app on a phone without a plan?

--- End quote ---


The plan is only needed for phone calls or data over the cell network. Without a plan, these devices are fully functional 'tablets'. Connect them to a WiFi connection, and they work just the same as they would with a plan.

It's absolutely amazing to me that people throw these awesome little computers away! I have dozens of computers, and ranked on speed, #2-#4 are android devices!

Very nice.  I have an extra Droid Incredible laying around the house.  I think I just found a use for it :)

I like that this keeps the battery charged, conditioned and ready to rock & roll if you need to grab the phone and go.
Or dial 911 which should always work, even when the phone isn't activated.

Usually simply trying to use it as a phone will drop you into the telco's voice prompt system, and a few minutes can get the security phone re-activated against your account.


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