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Protecting Your Home with a Camera System

There's been a rash of burglaries in town. And you're getting ready for an around-the-world trip. Yikes! Your home and all your possessions are going to need some protection.

How about a big dog? Nope. He'll get hungry in your absence. You need something that doesn't eat or need a bath. Something like surveillance cameras.

With today's cameras, all you need is an Internet connection. They'll send alerts to your computer or phone if anything moves. You can also see and hear what's going on back home. Costs are reasonable, setup is easy, and they never have to see the vet.

Closed-circuit TV systems...

CCTV systems are complete monitoring solutions. They include the cameras and a means to record video (using a DVR) in digital format. Some also include monitors for home viewing. This way, you can see who's at the front door from your family room.

If you opt for a CCTV system, take your time and plan carefully. The DVRs usually have limited connections. You'll see ones that accept four, eight or 16 wired cameras. So, make sure you can connect enough cameras.

You definitely want a system that works with your cell phone or the Internet. This way, you can respond to threats immediately. Swann, SVAT and Q-See make decent reasonably-priced CCTV systems.

For example, Costco sells Q-See's QSDR744KRTS-320 for $400 after a $300 rebate. It includes four color cameras and a seven-inch monitor.

The unit's DVR connects to your network via Ethernet. It holds 10 to 17.5 hours of video, depending on video quality.

It can record continuously, on a schedule, or when motion is detected. You can also opt to receive e-mail alerts when motion is detected.

The indoor/outdoor cameras can see up to 30 feet using night vision. They record video only. But the DVR can accommodate audio cameras.

You must use Internet Explorer under Windows to view the cameras. You can also connect via Windows Mobile Pro or Symbian (Nokia) phones. IPhone owners can watch via the free SuperCam app. A password is required.

Remote access requires a static IP address. IP addresses identify gadgets online. Your provider may use dynamic IP addresses. Q-See will give you a free domain name to access your cameras.

Most CCTV systems are not compatible with Macs. MCM is an exception, selling a Mac-compatible DVR for $340. You'll need to add cameras. Expect to pay about $200 for four.

Network cameras...

Network cameras are more expensive than CCTV systems. They connect directly to your home's router wirelessly or via Ethernet for remote monitoring. D-Link, Linksys, Panasonic and others make them.

Some network cameras feature pan/zoom/tilt and two-way audio. Shop carefully for affordable models; prices often approach $1,000.

Astak's Mole ($300) is an innovative stand-alone camera that connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. The camera pans 270 degrees and tilts 150 degrees. It's night-vision abilities are much more than you might expect from a camera at this price.

The Mole's built-in DVR records to SD cards. One gigabyte of memory holds about 36 hours of video at the lowest setting. It features two-way audio, so it can be used as an intercom, too.

Footage can be uploaded automatically to YouTube when motion is detected. The Mole also sends motion alerts via e-mail or Twitter.

The Mole can be controlled via a Windows or Mac Web browser. It even works with the iPhone's browser. Access is password-protected.


Standard webcams can double as surveillance cameras. They connect to computers via USB port, so placement is limited. However, webcams are suitable for monitoring a work area.

Specialty webcams are designed for video phone calls, but they often include monitoring tools. If not, Windows users should consider Active Webcam ($29) and Webcam Monitor ($70). SecuritySpy (about $50) works on Macs. My Webcam Broadcaster (free) works on Windows and Macs.

ICam ($5) lets you monitor webcams from a Java-enabled browser, iPhone or iPod Touch. You must have the free iCamSource installed on your Mac or PC.


Finally, WowWee's Rovio ($230) is a Wi-Fi-enabled robotic webcam. It'll wander around your home sending video and audio back to a phone, browser or gaming console. You can even interact with people in Rovio's view. You see and hear exactly what Rovio sees. And no need to worry about battery life. Rovio self-docks when it needs to be recharged.

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