Raspberry Pi as low-cost HD surveillance camera




This instructable describes how to build a surveillance cam based on a Raspberry Pi micro-computer which records HD video when something moves in the monitored area. Live picture can be viewed from any web browser, even from your mobile while you’re on the road.

Raspberry Pi as low-cost HD surveillance camera

What you will get:

  • See live stream in any web browser from anywhere
  • Record any motion into video file

Usually, such a cam will cost you around US$1.000, but with the result from this instructable, you will get such a cam for only about US$120.

Step 1: Background

Have you ever heard of Raspberry Pi? It’s a low-cost micro-computer that is able to run Linux and has endless extension possibilities. It cost only about US$35 and opens up endless possibilities of what you can build with it. The official website can be found at http://www.raspberrypi.org/

Step 2: Hardware components

We need some hardware for this project. This is a list of the major things we need:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B: This is the larger model of the Raspberry computer system with 700MHz and 512MB Ram. It supports HD video. You can easily order it from i.e. here. Cost: about US$40. You could also use the Raspberry Pi Model A which is slightly cheaper and consumes less energy. Stefan Knight has written an excellent article on how to run this whole project on a model A.
  • A housing for the camera: you don’t need to buy a high-price-housing for your Raspberry. There are loads of very cheap fake security cameras available which perfectly fit our needs here. Search the web for “surveillance camera dummy” and you will find loads of housings for your new camera for only a few dollars. I.e. this one will do the job: http://amzn.to/15XLaAj for only US$9. We have ordered this camera housing for about 20€ in Germany that had enough space for all the components:http://amzn.to/19CTEaN. You can use any camera housing, but only be careful about the size of the housing so that the Rasperry board will fit in there. The dimensions of the Raspberry board are 85.6 x 53.98 x 17 mm (approx 3.37 x 2.13 x 0.67 in).
  • Power supply: The Raspberry computer does not come with any power supply, you have to get one on our own. Any power supply with a micro-USB plug can do the job as long as it supplies at least 1A of power. We have ordered such a power supply which already has a micro-USB plug for about US$10
  • SD card: as the Raspberry Pi does not have any storage on board, you need to add some so that you can install and run the operating system for this device. Any SD or microSDHC should do the job, but we recommend using a Class 10 SD card. It’s only around US$7
  • To connect this cam to your network, you also need some kind of network connection. One possibility is to use a LAN connection, but you would need to put LAN cable to the point where you want to mount the camera. A better alternative is such a WiFi USB adapter for only about US$10

That’s all: for about US$120 we have all the hardware we need to build this HD surveillance cam.

Step 3: Install Raspbian

At first, you should install the OS and software to the Raspberry Pi before mounting it all together. An OS is the basic operating system software that tells the Raspberry hardware what to do. Linux is perfect for this. We have chosen Raspbian, as it’s one of the most advanced OS for the Raspberry with loads of help and tutorials on the internet.
You need to prepare the SD card to be able to run Raspbian on the Raspberry: this excellent tutorial from Adafruit will explain the necessary steps.
Now temporarily connect your Raspberry Pi board to LAN cable, a monitor (HDMI TV works out of the box, but a HDMI-to-DVI cable like this will do the job as well) and a USB keyboard for the basic setup.
Insert the prepared SD card with the Raspbian installer on it and attach the power supply.

Raspberry Pi as low-cost HD surveillance camera
The Raspberry should boot up and guide you through the setup process as explained in this Adafruit tutorial. After this, you should have a basic Raspbian OS running.
Be sure to enable SSH in Raspbian so that you are able to control the Raspberry device also when there is no monitor and keyboard attached. And you should also enable the camera from the Raspbian setup menu so that we can use it for motion detection.
Now make sure your RPI is up to date:

sudo apt-get install rpi-update
sudo rpi-update
And also update all packages:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Parts List:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B: This is the larger model of the Raspberry computer system with 700MHz and 512MB Ram. It supports HD video. You can easily order it from i.e. here. Cost: about US$40. You could also use the Raspberry Pi Model A which is slightly cheaper and consumes less energy. Stefan Knight has written an excellent article on how to run this whole project on a model A.
  • A housing for the camera: you don’t need to buy a high-price-housing for your Raspberry. There are loads of very cheap fake security cameras available which perfectly fit our needs here. Search the web for “surveillance camera dummy” and you will find loads of housings for your new camera for only a few dollars. I.e. this one will do the job: http://amzn.to/15XLaAj for onlyUS$9. We have ordered this camera housing for about 20€ in Germany that had enough space for all the components:http://amzn.to/19CTEaN. You can use any camera housing, but only be careful about the size of the housing so that the Rasperry board will fit in there. The dimensions of the Raspberry board are 85.6 x 53.98 x 17 mm (approx 3.37 x 2.13 x 0.67 in).
  • Power supply: The Raspberry computer does not come with any power supply, you have to get one on our own. Any power supply with a micro-USB plug can do the job as long as it supplies at least 1A of power. We have ordered such a power supply which already has a micro-USB plug for aboutUS$10
  • SD card: as the Raspberry Pi does not have any storage on board, you need to add some so that you can install and run the operating system for this device. Any SD or microSDHC should do the job, but we recommend using aClass 10 SD card. It’s only around US$7
  • To connect this cam to your network, you also need some kind of network connection. One possibility is to use a LAN connection, but you would need to put LAN cable to the point where you want to mount the camera. A better alternative is such a WiFi USB adapter for only about US$10

That’s all: for about US$120 we have all the hardware we need to build this HD surveillance cam.

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