Set Up a Networked Cam
Time: 2 Hours
Cost: $80 and up
Easy | | | | | Hard
Is that guy at my front door delivering the pizza I´ve been dying for, or is it one of those religious proselytizers who won´t take â€noâ€ for an answer? With an audio-equipped networked camera, I can sit at the other end of the house and beg the delivery guy to wait-or release the hounds. And if I´m on vacation in Tahiti, I can find an Internet connection or cellphone and keep an eye on the babysitter.
Networked cameras are like webcams, except that they have their own Web server built in, so they send video over the Internet without a computer. An installation suitable for your front door used to run well over a grand. But now you can get a cam online yourself for as little as $80, while $500 will buy a weatherproof, vandal-proof cam that will pan, tilt, and even zoom by remote control. And as long as you have a router that´s no more than a few years old, setup is typically just plug-and-play. Follow the steps [below], and find the best gear for three common scenarios.
1. Front-Door Cam
Why you´d want it: To see and talk to whomever is ringing the doorbell while you´re somewhere at the other end of the house or sunning yourself in the Bahamas. Most of these cameras can also e-mail you when they spot motion so that you don´t have to spend all your time peering at a browser window.
What you need: Get a camera with an enclosure that can stand up to the weather, such as the Panasonic BB-HCM331A (around $600; panasonic.com). Or opt for a cheaper model, like the Sony SNC-M1 ($130 at amazon.com), and build your own enclosure. To chat with visitors, you´ll want two-way audio, but this means you´ll also need a microphone and speakers on your computer. Ironically, audio isn´t usually available when you´re viewing the cam´s feed from your cellphone.
2. Indoor Cam
Why you´d want it: To see if the dog is eating your shoes while you´re at work, if the baby is awake or if the neighbor kid really is watering the plants.
What you need: Since these cameras will be indoors and stationary, you can get by with a much cheaper unit, but unless you want it to be an obvious part of your decor, go for something small and subtle. The Gadspot NC800 (gadspot.com) is a mere $80 and includes an infrared illuminator for watching what happens in the dark.
3. Vacation-Home Cam
Why you´d want it: To keep an eye on the cabin between visits.
What you need: To watch an entire property, look for a model, such as the Panasonic mentioned above, that allows you to network several cams and to view and control them all from one interface. Or go for a single cam with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities, such as Vivotek´s PZ6112 ($650; vivotek.com). Some people even point a single cheap stationary cam at their thermostat to make sure the furnace hasn´t quit.
Key Cam-Buying Decisions
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