You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

How To Use Your iPhone To Spy On People

by Ian
August 13, 2009

picture-19

Stefan Kaczmarek, developer of iCam, is one of the first people to truly step out of the box and implement Push Notifications in a really cool way. His app, iCam, can stream up to four webcams simultaneously to your iPhone and you even outfit the system to notify you via Push Notification when motion is detected. The app doesn't have all the features one might look for in a security of spycam system but it is easily the best option available on iPhone right now, so let me show you how everything works and you decide if you have a use for iCam. I, for one, know plenty of people who would squee at the chance to be notified via Push Notification when their pet moved around the house.

Set Up

Like many iPhone apps which communicate with a computer, you have to install a free companion program. In this case it's iCamSource. The Mac version can be downloaded here. The Windows version can be downloaded here. In case those links don't work for some reason, look for the downloads on the iCam support page here. This is what it looks like: icamwindow

Once you've downloaded iCamSource just open it up and type in a username and password in the bottom left hand corner of the window. When you purchase iCam ($4.99) you simply enter the same username and password you did on the computer. There's no registration process and, in my experience, it really does "just work." The one catch here is that Push Notifications cost an extra $0.99 via In App Purchase. The price seems fair to me because the app is delivering its core functionality for the cost of the app and if you want motion detection it costs just a little bit more. Once you get the Push Notifications In App Purchase in iCam (it's on the right side of the screen), then go to iCamSource and look at the Motion Detection part of the window. This is probably the most complicated part of the entire set up. You need to adjust the Motion Detection slider on the right-hand side of the window so it's just right. If you want to be notified of all motion you should take it way up, but if you want to catch occasional deliberate motion, like an animal when it walks by, you'll need to do some trial and error. Grab your poor kitty and position him to walk in front of the camera and see if the motion box lights up. If so, you're set. Hit the check box and you're good to go. There's a good run through of how it works in this video too:

Details

I talked to Kaczmarek about the software and hit him with some specific questions about how it functions. In particular, I wanted to know how many frames per second you get. Over wifi you can get 10-15 FPS, but over carrier networks the speed drops way down. Over 3G you can only get one frame every 2-3 seconds and EDGE is one frame every 3-5 seconds. As I suspected, Kaczmarek said those "speeds are limited due to bandwidth usage constraints imposed by Apple." Unfortunately, there are no recording features in the current release of iCam, so it doesn't work perfectly as a security camera. Kaczmarek said he's considering recording for the next major release, though he doesn't know whether it'll be free or offered as an In App Purchase. I also wanted to know what would happen if there is motion constantly being detected on the camera. He said Push Notifications "are sent by the iCamSource at most once a minute. In other words, if...iCamSource is constantly detecting motion, there will be a minute between notifications." The app supports built-in, FireWire, USB, DV Cameras and "select MJPEG-compatible Network IP Cameras," according to the iCam support page.

Conclusion

Thought not as robust as many people would require from a security camera, I know this app is easily useful to lots of people. Many people have an old computer and webcam lying around and you could easily set up as a makeshift camera ready to notify you of anything. How would you use iCam?

Mentioned apps

Related articles