Recycle your old phone into security cam

The cat, we once monitored in our shed on a web cam, watches the Alfred Camera app's live feed. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.

March 11, 2021

A few months ago, my husband and I were feeding a stray cat that we intended to capture and adopt. He was sleeping in our tool shed, decked out with a pet bed and heater. But we never knew when he was in there until we opened the door and spooked him. So we wanted to know when the cat was “in” without chasing him away. 

My husband researched inexpensive security cams when he remembered reading about an app that offered a low-budget solution. The one we found - The Alfred Camera - enables you to use two smart phones to create a web camera. 

One phone serves as the camera, the other the viewer. 

Note, this would not work for a long-term outdoor setting but it worked for monitoring our shed, which had an electrical outlet so the phone could be plugged in and stay charged. The indoor setting also kept the phone safe from the weather. 

You can turn almost any smartphone or tablet devices into viewer devices as long as they run on systems above Android 5 or iOS 8, according to the Alfred website. 

The minimum system requirements for the recording devices are Android 4.4 or iOS8.

Alfred Camera web camAn old iPhone serves as the recording device for the web cam system using the Alfred Camera app. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.

In our case, we used one of our old iPhones as the video camera. (See how to set up phones.)

The system is motion sensitive. The camera phone records events while the viewer phone receives alerts when motion is detected. Using the Alfred Camera dashboard, you can review the events, which are from five to 30 seconds, as well as observe live video feed. The recordings are stored for 7 days. 

The app has some nifty features including two-way talk, so you can speak to your pet or whoever is on the other end or make an intruder jump. You can also turn the phone flashlight on and off as well as sound an alarm. It also has some night vision capabilities.

You can add as many devices to your account as you want, enabling you to have multiple cameras and viewers. Although, only one viewer can be logged into the same account at a time.

If you want to get fancy, you can upgrade for $3.99/month to get HD viewing/recording, longer recordings, a zoom feature and cloud storage for 30 days.

We eventually did purchase a security camera for recording wildlife but this guerrilla web cam system is a fun and green option in a pinch. Old smart phones can also be used as extra clocks, timers, calculators, cameras and even TV remotes.

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