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Can I use my Webcam as a Motion Detector and Security Monitor?

Question: I just read about a guy who caught a burglar in his house by having his webcam turn on when it detected motion, and having it take pictures and email the pictures somewhere. How can i set this up myself?

The email part is a little unusual, but webcams are inexpensive these days and so is the software to monitor them. Several software packages support motion detection as well as publishing the results in different ways.

Let’s review the pieces you need.

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First, of course, you need a webcam. That’s nothing more than a video camera attached to your computer. Many digital video cameras, for example, can be used as webcams. More realistically, webcams from popular manufacturers like Logitech are not only inexpensive, but often come complete with the drivers and software required to do everything you need.

Once you have a webcam, the next step is software. Most will actually come with software that will allow you some sort of webcam functionality, but possibly not motion detection. It’s often an option – the default might be the more common behavior of taking a picture every so many seconds. Look for options under surveillance or motion detection to see if the accompanying software has this feature. If it does, you’re almost done.

If not, there are some very good packages out there. One I’ve used in the past is ISpy. A quick search also turns up WebCam Monitor – while I’ve not used this product, it promises to do pretty much everything you might want. In fact, quick search for “webcam motion detection software” turns up many possibilities. If you’re on a budget, “free webcam motion detection software” also has several hits, but I’m always very cautious downloading so-called “free” software.

Finally, there’s what to do with the motion captured images. Realize, of course, that your computer needs to be on and connected to the internet in order for you to be able to view your web cam remotely. The most common approach is to have the webcam take a snapshot every few seconds and automatically upload that to a website. With motion detection involved, the cam might only upload the snapshot if, or when, motion has been detected. You would then simply visit the website periodically to see what your cam’s been looking at. (If you don’t already have a website of your own, check with your ISP. You may already have space available from them that you can use for things like this.)

The scenario mentioned in the original question is an interesting one: once motion is detected, take a snapshot and immediately email them to you. Not all webcam software supports this, so make sure to check for the feature as you evaluate what package to use. The aforementioned WebCam Monitor, for example, lists email as one of its options.

All in all, using a webcam for some simple surveillance is fairly inexpensive, quite possible, and quite popular.

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40 comments on “Can I use my Webcam as a Motion Detector and Security Monitor?”

  1. A good friend of mine set up an Apple isight at his work for this very reason. The first night after he set it up, the office was ransacked by two fellas who had come across a master key. The camera recorded them the whole time, recording the video to the hard drive. They didn’t notice it at all. Turns out, these two guys had been robbing all over the university for two years.

  2. i have a logitech webcam i need the software for the motion deter logitech put out on one of there drivers that i lost plse help?

  3. I was wondering if anyone had any updates on good webcam motion detection software (Leo’s article was posted almost a year ago). I am tryng WebCam Monitor and am relatively please with it – but, I don’t want to miss another good one if it is out there. This program with a Logitech WebCam was just responsible for notifiying me (by PC email & phone email) of a breakin at a friend’s house. The police were notified and the perp was arrested within 15 minutes of the breakin and WebCam Monitor’s notification to me. Any new thoughts?

  4. Iam vikas we are running a company where i need to keep track of the guys working out there so iam planning to keep a web camera in that workstation.
    here is my doubt, Can i have the web camera access simultaneously to more than one computer where my computers are in lan?
    Please help me to sort out my problem.

  5. All Logitech cameras have a limitation of being able to record videos only 30 minutes in length maximum. Will this software help break that barrier and allow long videos to be recorded onto my hard drive?

  6. I have been testing webcam Motion Sensor
    software about a week. I used about 6 or 7
    Easy Web Cam is a very good program and it’s
    FREE.You can get from here(
    Active WebCam by PY Software is the best one I used IT IS NOT FREE,But very very good

  7. New to posting, but wanted to share a tip for Vista/XPusers, looking for comprehensive webcam monitoring freeware…

    I’m certain there is no such animal. (for me, atleast)I spent the better part of yesterday developing this opinion. I find that most of the freeware out there, lacks the stealthiness I need. Still, aside from a few bells and whistles, there are some great apps to be found. I finally settled on Deskshare WebCam Monitor. It’s trialware with a “record” time restriction, but is Vista compat & will give me 12hrs/day for the next 30. I only need it 6-8hrs/day of monitoring, giving me time to purchase the program or shop for another.

    With Vista/XP(I only now discovered this feature-unsure about 2K, ME, etc), I’m able to hide a program’s icon in Taskbar Properties. Though less than stealthy, Webcam Monitor does have an option to open minimized. With this option enabled, sounds disabled and icons hidden, I’m as stealthy as the next guy.

    I went a few steps further with Folder Property Settings, User Settings, etc, but this may not be necessary for everyone.

    I can now utilize some great freeware, without a huge risk of accidental detection. I may be the only guy alive who’d never considered this. Still, I hope it helps someone!

  8. I want to set up several webcams in our chicken coop and chicken run so they can be monitored inside the house on my computer. We already have one webcam working on our computer. How many webcams can be used on one computer? Is it possible to hook up a few webcams outside? Would I need extension cables?

  9. I`ve downloaded a program from a company called NCH. The motion detection software is free and you can connect 100+ Webcams to it. (Not tested that out yet ) THE DETECTION SOFTWARE IS CALLED EYELINE

  10. I’ve tried just about every motion detection software out there. One of my favorites is They’re a recent a startup that does webcam motion detection. Its different from most of the programs out there in that the pictures are stored online in your account, so you can view them from anywhere.

  11. please help for technical support.. can i put up web cams onto a room and monitor it about 50 meters from the computer…
    do i need to be connected to the internet to record the movements seen on the web cams….
    please need urgent reply..tnaks

  12. I have a Netrome system that came pre-installed on Vista operating system that also has Internet Explorer. I have been using the internet just as I believed anyone would do. Netrome has told me that I have corrupted the system and have to re-image. Is it true that I should not be using the internet as usual?

    I have no experience with Netrome, but I wouldn’t expect just using the internet normally (whatever that might mean) shouldn’t corrupt anything. I’d ask for more details as to why and what they mean specifically.


  13. excellent ! I looked and looked and everything i downloaded got uninstalled immediatly till i got the one above by noel. Exactly as smarkies said “best and simplest motion detector software”. It recods and save any motion in a video file and stops recording as soon as motion is stopped. so even if there are 100 clips after a day of motion detecting you end up with one video file with all events on it. Super simple to use. I had it working in seconds and totally figured it out in about 2 minutes. Fantastic, thanks !!!

  14. As to mt review above, forget what i said. I have nothing against paying for software if i like it, but this fake freeware doesn’t tell you that it is limited to 1 hour then shuts off. I had it all set up for a day when i suspected something would happen and when i checked my PC later that day it has a message sayi ng it stopped after 1 hour because the app hasn’t been registerd. (payed for) Well, i would have bought it because i loved the simplicity and it did just what i needed. But i wouldn’t pay a cent for it now because the lie about it being freeware ruined a chance for me to catch someone who i supected in the act. I suggest those who write software be up front about it. Don’t call it freeware if it is not, and make it obvious that if it’s limited you have to register it. I will look elsewhere for another motion detection amp. this guy lost my business. I HATE shareware disguised as freeware,. Don’t even use the word “freeware” if it’s not !!!!!

  15. Dear Sir,

    i am using Boss linux in which i am developing application in Java (JMF) using Netbeans 6.5
    for Motion Detection through webcam of logitech quickcam connect model.

    (clone reference of camorama tool which u have developed).

    my jar files are compiled successfully but my device is not being detected programmatically even if the webcam is detected through terminal.

    i have sent my code and screenshot of error.
    i have much less of the time as i have to submit my work on monday. so please try to solve my error or else guide me.

    waiting for ur kind responsive reply asap.
    OS: BOSS and Fedora10

    Thanks & Best Regards,
    Yagnesh Vyas

  16. I purchased a Logitech webcam, connected it to my Ubuntu 8.10 server. I downloaded the MOTION pkg and had it recording and saving pictures in about half an hour. A link between my jpg’s and web server allows me to see what is recorded from any internet access computer. …Denis

  17. We just got laptops from our school with web cams on them. Does that mean that they could be recording everything we do on the web cams? I haven’t done anything inappropriate but that’s a little much isn’t it?

  18. Hello all,

    i want to develop basic application on motion detection in java , but in that also i want to add some features like motion detect play a sound file
    as well as use id & password for unauthorized access

    well its complicated , but i know you will give me right direction , as well as some baisic code so i can start that , plz help its very urgent

  19. Hi

    I have a different need , I have a basci web camera and although I require motion detection I also need the software to mail me 2min clips of the event

  20. Hi , i would like to basically find a way to go to a website for live feed with my webcam . I have 2 houses in greece and i am away for 5 months during the winter , i would like to visit a website to keep up with the protection of my homes , i have a spot on my land i can put the camera which is protected from any rain or bad weather showing me full access to both houses . Can you help me in setting up somnething like this ? TY

  21. Dear sir, can you please let me know how to record video from webcam to any other cheap and best device without turning on pc because Im using webcam as a spy cam and have to sit for a long time before the computer to record and watch video. But I want to record video without turning on pc. Is it possible. Can you please help in this regard. Any reply shall be highly appreciated.
    With Regards!


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