Convert your old Cell Phone into a Home/Travel Security Camera

Ever wondered what the hotel maid does in your room when you are not there, want to know if the kids made it home from school okay or you just want to watch the house while on a long trip? I wanted to do the same while on a weekend trip leaving a mischievous senior citizen and a teen alone. I know about all the paid options, but I needed an alternative to the quick and easy $200 options. I also did not want the networked security system. 

My first thought was a dash cam, (we have several installed for the above teen driver), but that would require removing the cameras from the car, but it is a viable options depending on your monitoring goals. My next thought, phones. There just has to be an app that will let me turn old phones into a security system. As luck would have it, there are several free or low cost options. 

But in looking for a low cost, (free), option, I checked and most free aps should have the following basic options:

  • Uses the phone/tablet’s camera to detect motion and record full video/audio.
  • Instantly upload photos to a free cloud storage account if connected to a network of WI-FI. 
  • Notifies you via email, text that recording has started or alarm has been triggered.
  • Options to start an alarm after a period of time,with or without sound. For example, if you are using this while traveling, you may want to opt for a silent alarm in order to not alert the hotel staff. This would just let you know they are in your room.  
To get started 

You will need a smart phone running Windows, iOS or Android. If you do not have an old off contract smart phone, buy a prepaid Android or Windows phones off eBay, or through your local big box store. Most phones will run $20 - $30; with a few sales that can place basic smart phones as low as $10. Just skip the network activation.

What are you goals

The following are considered the best security camera apps by the operating system with free basic service with some type of paid option. This is a good start, but you should do your own research to determine what will work best for your situation:

Salient Eye (Android) 
  • Captures pictures on motion detection
  • SMS and email alerts (optional)
  • Push notification alerts (optional, requires registration and remote control app:
  • Sounds alarm (optional) - Example, you want to monitor activity in a hotel room, or to use as baby monitor
  • Scheduler - pre set the days and hours in which the system will start and stop automatically
  • Auto active of led light (=Flash) on low light conditions
  • Photos are available immediately online (optional)
  • Start/Stop/Take picture remotely (optional, requires subscription on the remote control app:
  • Keeps working when screen is turned off
  • Password Protection
  • Works up to 10 hours with no power supply (on battery)
  • Very easy to setup and use

Manythings (iOS 6.0 or later)
  • Rasy set-up - simply install the app on both phones. 
  • Live video streaming - CCTV functionality to see what’s going on in real time. 
  • Motion activation - camera will automatically record on movement.
  • Cloud-based DVR - past events are automatically backed up to the cloud. 
  • iPhone, iPad and web viewers - gives access from anywhere. 
  • Motion activated alerts - receive alerts on movement use as a driveway or burglar alarm. 
  • Talk functionality - for two-way audio communication.  
  • Facebook Live Broadcast (optional) - choose to share your live feed with others over Facebook.
  • Secure - private feed, share or download important clips from the app. 
  • Adjustable motion sensitivity - ensure you only capture significant events.  
  • Motion detection zones - only monitor the areas you need to. 
  • IFTTT integration - for home automation and enhanced alerts. 
  • Connectivity - use over wifi or your spare phone’s data connection. 
  • Stills only mode - for time lapse and still capture. 
  • Clip chart - share and view the best clips from manythingers around the world.  

Security Camera (Windows 8.1  & 10)
The app is free with limited cloud storage, but offers a paid subscriptions starting at $1.50 a month.
  • Use your Windows Phone as a Cloud Security Camera.
  • Record image snapshots to the cloud.
  • Set image resolution and upload frequency.
  • Continuous recording or motion-triggered recording.
  • Offers paid Cloud Surveillance service.
  • Live view or playback from any devices or web browsers.