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Can I use webcams for home security?

These days, with the near ubiquity of built in webcams in devices such as laptops and tablets, customers sometimes ask whether it’s possible to use webcams for home security? If you already have a camera built into your computer, is there really a need to invest in a separate security system to keep watch over your room or office? After all, the features of a webcam seem very similar to how IP security cameras work. The answer is that it is indeed possible to piece together a basic monitoring system using a webcam and software. However, whilst they seem similar on the surface, webcams and IP cameras have some very important differences that can have a big impact on potential uses.

Using webcams for home security
It is possible to set up a basic home CCTV system with a webcam- image by Mike burns via Flickr

Using Webcams for Security

If you want to use a basic webcam to monitor your room, the recording will be entirely controlled by software on the computer to which it is connected. Most webcams will come with some software already- or it will be preinstalled if your camera is built-in- however this will almost certainly not be designed for the type of recording that you need. CCTV software requires features such as motion detection to capture intruders, and scheduled recording. Many software solutions also have a feature that sends you an email every time the motion detection is triggered, giving you a prompt to check the camera if you are not in the area. There are quite a few options on the market, examples include EvoCam and CAMWizard. One important thing to note is that by their nature webcams need to be connected to a working computer in order for the software to record footage. This means they can only work in situations where a PC can be left on 24 hours a day without going on standby. This essentially means they are not suitable for any situation where you will be away from the property for extended periods of time.

Webcam vs IP camera

Megapixel WiFi IP Camera CCTV MicroSD with Night Vision, PIR Recording
IP cameras allow much more flexibility than webcams

Whilst home monitoring can be achieved with a webcam, there are some vital advantages to using a fully fledged IP camera

  • IP essentially have a built in web server. This means that, once they have been initially set up, they do no need to be connected to a computer in order to run, whilst still being able to be viewed over the internet.
  • Because they don’t have to be connected to a computer, you have far more freedom when installing and placing an IP camera. For example, you could have one situated on a high bookshelf.
  • Many models of IP camera can also access a network via WiFi, so don’t need to be plugged in with an Ethernet cable.
  • Generally speaking, IP cameras have options for more advanced features usually associated with CCTV cameras. Examples include IR night vision, PIR sensors or replaceable lenses
  • Certain models feature Power-Over-Ethernet (POE) meaning they draw their power from the network cable, and don’t require a mains power supply

All this means that IP cameras are a more reliable and versatile way of setting up a monitoring system. Whilst they have traditionally been expensive specialist items, the newest generation are far more competitively priced, making them a great basic home security solution. If you want a way to casually check on a room when out, then a webcam could suit your needs, but for any kind of serious application we would always recommend the IP camera.

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