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iCam brings video from home to the iPhone

I was intrigued by Lauren's post the other day where she briefly talked about using the iCam phone app [App Store] to do some baby monitoring. I wondered what else I could do with this US$4.99 app, so I gave it a try with great results.

One nice thing about iCam is it can integrate up to 4 live video streams on your iPhone, even if the cameras are stand alone webcams or cams attached to different computers. In my case, I had a D-link webcam, a desktop mac with a Logitech webcam, and my MacBook Pro with a built in iSight camera.

I was able to bring all 3 onto a single screen on my iPhone and keep an eye on my house and parrot while I was out for dinner.

Here is the setup. You have to download an app called iCamSource to run on each computer that hosts a camera. It's free. If your computer is hosting 2 cameras, you make a duplicate of the app and run it in a second instance. In my case, my desktop machine had the attached USB webcam, and I was also linking to the D-Link camera that has a built in web-server and a device specific IP address.

With the USB webcam, it was easy to find in the software by name. You enter a unique user name and password. For the second webcam, the D-link, I had to specify an IP address, followed by the required code to bring that camera up. Each webcam does it a bit differently. I asked the iCam support people, and after a few tries we found the right combo for that particular camera. Support responses were very quick, by the way.
I then downloaded yet another version of the iCamSource software for my laptop. It found the internal iSight right away, and I entered my username and password again.

I tried it all in the house using my wireless network, and all 3 cameras popped up in the app. Cool. I then switched WiFi off, sauntered outside and saw the same 3 cameras using the 3G network.

As if that wasn't enough, for an extra dollar you can add the feature of motion detection to any and all of the cameras. You can turn it off and on remotely from your iPhone, and also change the sensitivity. If motion is detected, you get a push notification from your iPhone. You don't have to have the program running to be notified. It's one of the benefits of the iPhone 3.0 OS.

What's not to like? For most people, the hookup just works, without any firewall adjustments. Some may have special circumstances that require support, but the iCam developers, as I noted, are very responsive. The app supports audio, but not from IP webcams. You can also monitor your cameras from any Java enabled browser. I couldn't get it to work at first, then realized I had Java turned off in the Safari preferences.

Doing a demo of this really knocked some people out. It's a low end security system for not very much money. It's worth a look, and it really demonstrates how the iPhone/developer ecosystem is thriving. Of course, it would be even better if AT&T and Apple could get the App Store approval process together.

Other apps with similar capabilities (except for multi-camera screens) are AtHome Camera, $7.99 at the app store, and My Webcam, $4.99 and IP Vision, $7.99. You can also lash up a VNC solution for free. I think for ease of use and versatility though, iCam is the strongest option.

Screen grabs below:

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