Everyone wants their home to be safe and secure, yet only 17 % of house owners have a security system. Statistics say that every 13 seconds a home intrusion is committed and 2,000,000 home burglaries are reported each year in the United States.

Why is that? Because traditional systems cost hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars to install and many people simply don’t know that all they need is a little time and little money to build their own surveillance system.

Project steps

1. Install the camera

You might need three to four cameras for a competitive surveillance system. After purchasing the cameras (which you can do on a budget of less than 40 dollars each) you’ll want do decide where they go. You can mount one on the front porch, a second camera looking down on the driveway, a third looking over the pond or garden and a fourth camera giving a view of the front yard.

The Harbor Freight security cameras have a 6′ cord that terminates in a 6-conductor RJ11 (basically a RJ 25 telephone jack). You can also connect the audio from the front door camera to an old pair of computer speakers. As for the technical part, it’s not that much of a rocket science! The camera video cables will plug into a homemade video switcher, which connects to a PC via the composite video-to-USB adapter.

Using the camera cable wiring (in the schematic in Step 2), you can easily shorten the cables for cameras installed closer to the switcher. You can also lengthen a cable, but the video quality may suffer.


2. Build a Video Switcher and Don’t Panic!

A video switcher takes inputs from multiple cameras and cycles through them at a user-settable interval (between 1 to about 30 seconds), routing each of them in turn to its single video out. It’s not a complex device, and it contains just 2 chips: a 4066 quad analog switch and a Picaxe-14M or a PIC16F684 microcontroller (either one works). The 4066 routes the video inputs to the single output.

The following schematic shows the Picaxe-14M switcher. The 4 camera inputs run to switcher input pins 1, 11, 8, and 4, and microcontroller output pins 2–5 (IC pins 8–11) determine which one routes to the shared video out. On the input side of the controller, input pins 0–5 (IC pins 3–7) read from the toggles and potentiometer.


3. You Can Do It!

To build the switcher, first solder the onboard components as marked on the PCB, with 14-pin sockets in place for the switcher and microcontroller chips. You can connect the LEDs sticking up on their untrimmed leads, to poke through the enclosure with the board mounted upside down, but you can also connect them off board with wire, as MAKE Labs did in the Step 1 picture.

You can use a small onboard potentiometer as shown here (first picture), or a longer one for making adjustments without opening the enclosure. For ground, run wires connecting the outer contacts of the RCA jacks and the unconnected legs of the switches. Don’t connect the DC power jack or video out cable yet.


4. Drill Holes in the Project

a. Drill holes in the project box for the PCB mounting screws, LEDs, switches, RCA jacks, power jack, and video out cable, marking positions for proper PCB alignment.

b. Then, cut the RCA cable, thread the cut end through a hole drilled in the enclosure, tie a knot for strain relief, and solder it to Video Out on the board, center contact to (+) and outer shield wire to (–).

c. Mount everything. You can mount the PCB and controls inside the lid. If you’re using DIP switches, which aren’t designed for panel mounting, you can thread the wires through small holes and glue the switches to the outside. You can also supply them all with a larger supply rated at 2A at 12V DC by cutting the plugs off the included adapters and wire them in parallel to the DC power jack. Then wire another parallel pair of leads from the DC power jack to (+) and (–) as shown bellow.



5. Program, Connect and Configure

Download the project software for the Picaxe or PIC microcontroller at makeprojects.com/ v/30, and just follow the directions there if you haven’t programmed the microcontroller before. Download and install Yawcam (yawcam.com), then launch it and select Settings → Detect Web Cam.

From the main menu, select Settings → Edit Settings, then choose Startup and Start Stream Output. Click on Stream — the default port number should be 8081. Select File → Enable Stream-output. To see the webcam image, enter your local IPv4 address followed by “:8081” into a web browser.

You can determine this address by entering ipconfig in the Windows command window (cmd.exe) and looking for the IP Address value. You should see the cam server screen with your live webcam image!


6. Router Configuration

By now, you should view the streaming video from Yawcam from within your home network. But to access it remotely via the web, you must configure your router or firewall to permit the Yawcam computer to be seen. This usually involves setting Port Forwarding so that the computer’s IP address can be accessed from outside the firewall. You’re done! And with less than 250 dollars! Give it a try and let me know how your project goes.


What are your thoughts in regards to the importance of home security?
Share your experience in the comments section below.

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