Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Remote Web Cam using Skype (Windows/Linux/MAC)

So many of us are already proficient web cam users. We use web cams for video chat, video streaming, recording video greetings and email, and some of us also use web cams as security devices.

This blog entry will focus on the latter item - video security/monitoring. There are many programs available to utilize your web cam for security purposes.

They allow you to use your web cam to monitor a designated area. Some allow you to record by frame steps so you can collect a video log of the monitored area for later review. Some allow you to monitor an area and trigger email or file transfer of captured images in real time.

Many web cam suppliers include such software with their web cam products. But, what if you just want to be able to remotely view a web cam from anywhere at anytime without purchasing security web cam software?

You may just want to check up on your office cam, maybe check on the backyard, or maybe a bird feeder. The possibilities are endless.

Well, if you are a SKYPE user, you already know that video has been a feature of Windows based SKYPE for a long time. And very recently, the folks at SKYPE have added video capability to the Linux derivatives of SKYPE. Most of the popular Linux distros (distributions) are supported.

And, as a SKYPE user, you probably know that you can have your SKYPE configured to automatically activate your video web cam when a call is answered. But --- did you know that you can also configure SKYPE to automatically answer all calls? That means unattended receipt of incoming calls!

Here's a possible scenario. You have your laptop or desktop in your apartment setup with a web cam and you configure SKYPE to (1) activate video for all calls and (2) answer all incoming calls automatically.

Now, what do you need to complete the remote access of this web cam? At a minimum, you need (2) SKYPE accounts. Remember, they are free! Account number (1) will be assigned to your remote web cam computer SKYPE log-in. And the second will be the account you use when you are away from your apartment.

I would suggest that you setup an account that will be easy to remember but not so easy for someone to guess. For example, let's say I create a SKYPE account name from my initials and web cam identifier - e.g. jas_cam1_office. I would sign in to that SKYPE account on the computer in my apartment. I would then use my original SKYPE account to sign in on a remote laptop or friend's computer. The last setup item is to allow each account to accept the other so they are in each other's SKYPE contact lists.

Now you are ready. Leave SKYPE running on your apartment computer with web cam functioning. Then, while you are away at some other location and computer, use SKYPE to call the SKYPE account at your apartment. After a ring or two, the apartment computer will automatically answer your call and it will then stream the web cam video to you! If you have an active microphone on that computer, you will also hear everything.

That's all there is to it. And with SKYPE's recently announced support of high resolution cameras, you will see a very nice picture. Another interesting item, your audio does not have to be limited to the microphone. I sometimes feed the audio from a police scanner or my ham radio to the computer. So when I SKYPE my office cam remotely, I see the activity just outside my office window plus I can hear the radio activity.

A few notes about SKYPE security - you can configure SKYPE to allow only calls from your contact list and you can further decide who gets video. I strongly recommend that you limit who can call your SKYPE enabled web cam for obvious reasons.

I should also mention that if you have not found SKYPE yet, you are in for a treat. It is used by millions of people everyday for pc-to-pc communications - for free! You can also SKYPE to regular telephones by purchasing minutes and the rates are very, very reasonable. Many folks also use it as their main business telephony service since it is very reliable and there are plenty of utilities and third-party programs for recording, PBX, help desk, etc.

Visit SKYPE for more information and your free download.

I hope you enjoyed this installment and hope to read your comments.

Cheers - Joe (My SKYPE name is "ToolsNTipsByJoe)

11 comments:

Vince said...

Great article! Works for me! I never thought of using the audio for other than the microphone. Now I can use my line in to monitor my favorite local Ham repeater whem I am at a remote location!

Joe said...

Exactly! Or monitor a different room - the possibilities are endless. Glad you liked the article and thanks for your comments. Joe

Vince said...

Joe,

Has the Auto Answer option been removed in Skype Latest Version 3.6.0.248?
I cannot seem to find it any longer!

Thanks,

Vince

Joe said...

To find the "Autoanswer" switch in the latest SKYPE versions:

Select:

"Tools", then
"Options", then
"Calls", then
"Call Settings", then select
"Show Advanced Options" on the right side of the screen

You will find the item near the bottom of the advanced screen.

Regards, Joe

Vince said...

Thanks Joe! Somedays you can't find the forest through the trees.

Vince

Anonymous said...

What would happen if both my wife and i were to call in at the same time? Is there a way to make a conference call answer?

Joe said...

Hi, thanks for the question.

If more than one call takes place, the second caller would be told that the called Skype user was not available.

And no, I know of know way to make it a conference call. The intent of this article was to show a very simple way for one person to achieve a little security via webcam remotely.

If you are interested in having a webcam enabled for more than one person to view, then you need to setup a streaming webcam service. Check out Ustream at www.ustream.com. Ustream offers free streaming webcam services. You could also run a special application that will allow you to stream directly from your own PC at home. YAWCAM is a good example of such a program. You will need to know how to setup computer ports in your router. Regards, Joe

Joe said...

Here's an example of my home office webcam streaming directly using YAWCAM:

http://joeoffice.no-ip.info:8081

Ricky said...

I think that business telephony will eventually be a way that people can subsitute webcams to do video conferencing at any place with either a cell phone or computer!

Ricky said...

I think that business telephony will eventually be a way that people can subsitute webcams to do video conferencing at any place with either a cell phone or computer!

Joe said...

You may be right, Ricky ---

I am a big proponent of Voip telephony and video telecommunications.

Thanks for commenting.....