You love your pets. I know I sure do. My dog is a very important part of my family and I hate having to leave him alone all day while I’m at work. That is why I installed what I call the ‘PetCam’ – a web enabled IP camera that allows me to check in on my dog from any location via the world wide web. And guess what, it turns out that Fido is quite busy while I’m away – and he has an incredible internal clock – he gets very agitated about an hour before I return home from work – who knew!
Installation of a web enabled Pet Cam is actually quite easy to do. The first thing you need is high speed Internet. Sending video over the web requires both speed and a healthy bandwidth allocation from your internet service provider, so make sure to check with your ISP on any existing bandwidth caps. Both Cable and DSL Internet services are idea for this application.
Next, you will need a router to which you will connect your internet camera. If you want the freedom of a wireless IP camera (recommended), a wireless router will be required. Most IP cameras come with a CAT5 Ethernet connection, but who wants cables running all over the house! This article assumes that you already have a router installed and functioning with a high speed Internet service.
Now comes the fun part – selecting the right camera for the job. Because we are looking at transmitting video over the Internet, the best choice is an Internet IP camera. Do not confuse these cameras with a webcam. Although they might look similar, Internet cameras are a small computers with a built in web server. Unlike a webcam, they are independent entities that do not require an external computer to function. They are the ultimate independent contractor!
Keep in mind that most Internet IP cameras work with CMOS video sensors, therefore even if night vision is offered, it probably won’t work very well – these cameras are meant for daytime applications.
I strongly recommend the Linksys WVC54GCA and DLINK DCS950G Internet Cameras – both are great entry level IP cameras that will get the job done and can be purchased at a reasonable cost (between $100 to $150 US dollars). More advanced (and expensive) models add features such as Pan and Zoom – nice to have features, but not must haves.
If you already have a DLINK or Linksys router, it may be a good idea to stick with the same manufacturer for your Internet Camera as the included documentation will provide more specific router configuration information.
OK, so how do we get this remarkable little device to broadcast video to the Internet. The first thing we need to do is configure the new internet camera. This usually involves establishing a wired connection to the camera from your router. You then load the configuration software onto your computer and proceed with the setup as specified by the documentation.
The first thing the software will do is detect the new camera and have you specify a unique IP address for the device – try to avoid using DHCP, as a static IP address is preferable. If you are using a wireless camera, you will need to configure the wireless settings for the camera, including any security passwords for WEP or WPA. Additionally, you will need to identify and document the port number used by the camera to communicate with the outside world (some cameras let you choose the port).
If your internet service does not provide a static IP address, you will need to open an account with a dynamic DNS service provider such as DynDNS.com. This service provides you with a free domain name which will automatically detect any changes to your home IP address. Most cameras will have a configuration page where you can enter your dynamic DNS settings.
All that is left is to do is open a port on your router, a process referred to as port forwarding. This will allow the camera to communicate with the outside world in a secure fashion.
This may all sound a bit complex, but it is actually quite easy to do if you are even mildly tech savvy. If you need assistance, a quick call to your local Nerds on Wheels service should have you up and running in no time at all.