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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

7 Creative Ways to Use a Wi-Fi Camera in Your Home

Written by Jennifer Tuohy Posted On Tuesday, 27 October 2015 13:21

Cameras in our homes have gone from the exclusive preserve of those with Picassos and Monets hanging in the hallway to an inexpensive option for anybody to build a simple DIY home security set up.

The debut of Wi-Fi cameras, known as IP cameras, means you no longer have to hire an electrician to re-wire your home in order to be able to see inside it when you're away. But these handy, easy-to-install devices aren't just useful for keeping your home safe and secure - there are many other ways to put them to work for you to make your life easier, safer and in some cases, more fun.

I recently added a Samsung SmartCam HD Pro to my home's setup, and set about figuring out all the different ways I could use this handy piece of tech in my home.

The SmartCam offers 1080p HD streaming video to a computer and up to 720p on your mobile device. Here are the features I've found most useful so far:

Two-Way Talk allows you to hear what's going on around the camera and talk back through your phone, no matter where you are (you can even enhance the sound quality with external speakers).

Motion and audio detection lets you receive push notifications or emails when your camera detects motion or sound.

Motion Zone Select lets you select up to three motion zones in the camera's field of view so you can be alerted when there is movement in the zone.

Night Vision means even in darkness, the camera provides clear, night-time video up to 16 feet.

Local Video Storage, via a microSD card slot on the camera, lets you store up to 64GB of recorded video locally. This means you can set your camera for continuous recording, record at scheduled times or set up motion and sound activated videos. (Some IP cameras also offer cloud- based video storage, normally for a monthly fee).

With those features in mind, here are seven ways to consider using your IP camera in your home:

1. Vacation Home Monitor

Just as you might use an IP camera as part of a home security system for your primary home, installing an IP camera in a vacation home, gives you the ability to peek in at anytime and make sure everything is safe and sound after a severe weather event or other natural disaster. This is particularly useful if you live far away and don't want to pay a management company monthly fees to go out and check on your property for you.

2. Front Door Bell

Position your IP camera to capture a view of your front door from either inside or outside your home and easily see who is ringing the doorbell without having to get up off the couch! Or, if you are away from home, you can get a motion alert when someone comes up to the front door, so you can see who is there and even talk to them through the camera's Two Way talk capability, without them ever knowing you are not on site. Most IP cameras can be used in sheltered outdoor spaces; the SmartCam HD Pro will operate between 32°F and 104°F and at 20% to 80% RH. If you don't have a sheltered outdoor area, there are waterproof IP cameras available too.

3. Construction Cam

Doing a remodel? Stick a camera in one corner of the room and let it record continuously during the tear down and construction. Then go back and create an awesome time-lapse of your project coming to life like this remodeling company did: Click Here.

4. Room Monitor

With motion zone alerts, you can set your camera to only notify you when motion is detected in a certain area. Use it as a security feature for your front door or to limit access to a certain room—handy when you are leaving the teenagers home alone for the weekend and you want to be sure they steer clear of the wine cellar.

5. Baby Monitor

The traditional audio baby monitor has already been upgraded to a video version, but many people balk at spending $100 for a digital baby monitor that you will likely only use for a year or two. An IP camera uses the same basic technology as video baby monitors, plus the two-way communication can help sooth baby with your voice. And, as long as you change the default password, an IP camera is as secure as a standard non-Wi-Fi baby monitor, with the added advantages of being accessible when you are away from home and someone else is watching over baby, and is a gadget you can easily re-use when your baby no longer needs it. The Samsung SmartCam has actually been pre-loaded with a few lullabies, so you can press the music notes icon in the app for added baby-soothing capabilities.

6. Long Distance Sitter

The two-way talk capabilities of most IP cameras let you communicate with people in a home easily. There are a variety of uses for this, from communicating with the teenage child you left home alone to keeping an eye on grandma who doesn't always hear the telephone.

7. Party Pictures

Take advantage of the on-board storage or a cloud based DVR and use your IP camera as a party camera. Be it a first birthday or a 50th wedding anniversary, pop the camera in a strategic position during festivities and capture all the fun, from the birthday boy blowing out the candle to the toasts to the happy couple, without someone having to be behind a camera the whole time. The combination of Wide Dynamic Range technology—which enhances details in backlit conditions - and a wide angle lens gives you quality, overall video of the day's events.

Bonus: Idiot-Proofing

I'm aware this may be a specific use case scenario for forgetful folks like myself, but I can't count on my fingers how many times I have turned my car back around to go home and make sure I turned the stove off. The first place I put my SmartCam was within easy zoom view of my stove, so next time I can save the gas mileage and simply open up my SmartCam app and check that I'm not in danger of burning my home to the ground because I had fried eggs for breakfast!

Have you come up with innovative ways to use IP cameras in your home or business? Let us know about them in the comments section below.

Jennifer Tuohy is a gadget-lover and mom of two who provides tech advice for The Home Depot. She writes tips about smart home technology and home security systems. To find out more about wireless IP cameras and the Samsung SmartCam Pro, visit homedepot.com.
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