You have broadband Internet access. You bought a wireless gateway to share the Internet with all the other computer users in your house. You have even added a network printer so everybody in the house can easily print documents to a shared printer. Everything’s working so well that you’re ready to consider adding more products to your home network. Well, the same network that connects your computers and blasts web pages into your house can also be used for security purposes. By adding special web-enabled security cameras to the network, you can keep track of the kids or see who’s at the front door conveniently from any computer monitor at home, at work or even from your laptop in a hotel room. Some cameras can also send images to your TV screens.
Just a few years ago, there were only a couple of manufacturers of network cameras for home use. Today the assortment is diverse, which means you’ll need to know a little bit about cameras before selecting one (or two or three) for your house. Most network cameras can communicate either using wires or wireless technology, but beyond that, there are some pretty important differences to note.
Features to Note
At the low end of the price spectrum, network cameras are designed for indoor use only and feature fixed lenses, which means you cannot zoom the camera in for a closer look. Higher-end cameras include pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. You can control the camera movements from a web browser on any computer. Simply type the IP address of the camera you want to access in the browser’s address field, and the camera image and controls appear within the browser window.
Some pan-and-tilt cameras have lenses rated for exterior use and can be mounted underneath your home’s eaves for views of the backyard swimming pool or on a fence post at the front gate. In temperate climates, these outdoor cameras can be mounted with only their off-the-shelf housing for protection. In cold climates, thermostatic-controlled housings should be considered.
The Inside Story
All network cameras have built-in web servers that will display images at speeds of up to 30 frames per second in a computer’s browser window. They serve video images just as Yahoo! serves up web searches. Save the address or addresses of your home’s network cameras just as you would your favorite web sites.
All of the cameras connect to a home network in the same way that your computers and printers are connected. Plug them into an Ethernet jack, or you can purchase wireless versions of network cameras that only need power to operate.
Given the potentially private nature of the images being broadcast to your home’s computers, network cameras give you the option of using logins and password information to see the sites. If you want to view the images from outside your home, an extra layer of protection is available by assigning a port number to the camera.
Put to Good Use
The most popular reason to use network cameras is, of course, to keep tabs on your house and family members. When you hear a mysterious bump in the night, you can grab the laptop on your nightstand (or turn on the bedroom TV) to check out the yard and pop in on the kids’ rooms. Some network cameras also have built-in motion detectors, so if an image crosses the field of view, an email of the image can be sent to your computer or a phone call can be placed to alert you of a potential intruder. Some cameras can even instruct a hard drive to record the image so that you can view it later. This is a particularly useful feature to have when you’re away on vacation. When you get home, you can see for yourself whether the gardener pruned the roses and the neighbor came to feed the cat.
Network-enabled surveillance cameras can provide the peace of mind that today’s busy families need. Even when you’re on the go, a surveillance camera can let you visually check in on the kids and the house. Actually being able to see what’s happening at the house, whether you’re at home or away, is one of the best ways to feel secure. HEI