I’ve recently written 5 posts about "do it yourself home security". Another piece of the puzzle I wanted to solve involved home automation, both for security and convenience. I’ve had some X10 lighting controls here for a while, but X10 is not 100% reliable and integration with a home network involves expensive third party software.
So I started looking around and doing some research on the other technologies like Z-Wave, UPB, Insteon, etc. One of the biggest issues I had with X10 (and Homeplug) was that I reside in a multi electric phase home where it was nearly impossible to send signals through home wiring (even when filtering power strips and UPS units were removed). Insteon had some interesting capabilities with dual band (RF and home wiring), phase coupler/access points and had some reasonably priced hardware. Another plus was that there are a few iPxxx free apps available to control Insteon enabled devices, both while at home and while away from home. I spent a fair amount of time at the Smarthome website deciding which components to order.
I ended up with an Insteon system that included a network control module, two access point/phase couplers, and several lamp/appliance control modules. I have web browser access for complete control from anywhere in the world, and I can set a schedule to turn lights on and off for security or convenience. I can dim lights for home theater use, and I can turn devices on and off from my iPxx devices from anywhere.
That comes in handy when I arrive home after dark, have armfuls of groceries and no spare hands or light switches. I simply turn on some lights from the car.
I’ll be adding a couple of posts his week with the details of the equipment and configuration.
I mentioned viewing my cameras in Smartvue for iPxxx devices in a previous post. I actually posted some details on how to do this and determine the right syntax for your particular camera some time ago. Here is a link to the iCam web app that interactively helps you determine the syntax. Thought it was worth mentioning in this series on DIY Home Security. I also wrote about viewing my cameras from inside WMC.
The components I used for displaying the output of my cameras in the Windows Media Center interface are:
- an MCL file
- a PNG file for the Extras Tile
- an HTML file
- a background image file for the HTML file (I used a PNG file)
I’ve updated the MCL file and the PNG for the camera and authored an HTML file that I’ve copied to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\Media Center\Media Center Programs. For the background color, I added a PNG file that I created. Now I can see the output of my four cameras on a single screen inside the Windows Media Center interface. You’ll find sample source code at the end of this post.
My Cameras on the main level Extras Menu is shown in the following screen shot:
In Part 3, I wrote about setting up dynamic DNS and port forwarding for my cameras and desktop controller as well as authentication for all exposed web servers. Once this is set up properly, camera output can be viewed in real time, any time I want to check in on what’s happening chez moi. If I were to get a motion detection email alert, I could immediately recheck camera output from all my cameras.
The Blue Iris web controller Windows software that I selected is viewable from any web browser. It detects mobile use and presents an iPxxx interface when I access it from my iPhone or iPad. I’ve added the URL to my bookmarks and to my Home screen on my iPxxx devices. Here is what I see from my iPad after I enter the proper credentials (since authentication was set up):
I can select an individual camera from the drop down menu or just tap a camera to see a larger view.
I added a bookmark for the Blue Iris web server and also added it to my iPad and iPhone Home Screens for easy and fast access.
As I mentioned in Part 1, setting up the D-Link IP cameras (and IP camera in general most likely) is easy if you have a simple network. This means you
1. Only have 1 camera
2. Don’t need to access the camera either directly or through any software from outside your own home network
3. Don’t already have a web server running on the default port 80 (if your provider does not block this port)
If you are serious about DIY Home Security/Surveillance, you will need to configure multiple cameras on multiple ports, set up dynamic DNS (if you don’t have his setup already) and forward ports on your router. On your router, you should set up DNS reservations for your cameras, and if using a desktop software controller, a reservation for that computer and port forwarding for the port you are using for the desktop controller software web server. You can get free dynamic DNS from the folks at dyndns.com and if you have a decent router, there should be a place to enter your dyndns host name and password and the router will do the work of ensuring that if your Internet DHCP IP changes, updates are made seamlessly. D-Link actually offers a private branded dynamic DNS set up service from inside their admin interface. It should be ok to use this (last time I checked they were using the services of dyndns.com).
The heart of my home security system is motion detection and alerts. As I mentioned in the first post, I selected Blue Iris software as a desktop controller. It more than compensates for the shortcomings of the surveillance alert features that are missing from the D-Link camera and for the poor D-Link (free) Windows software supplied with the cameras (D-Cam View). For reasons I don’t understand, the more expensive DCS-942L camera does not have an email motion alert function. The less expensive DCS-932L does, but it is pretty limited.
The image above show the D-Link email setup.