Using an iPhone as a CCTV Security Camera

Most Mac users have an old iPhone or two lying unused in a drawer. One great way to repurpose these devices is to turn them into security cameras – all you need is an app that does a good job of capturing and streaming video from the iPhone’s camera. In this blog post we review a few such apps, which work with our Mac NVR software SecuritySpy. To turn an iPhone into an effective CCTV surveillance camera it should be permanently connected to a power supply, and have access to a good WiFi signal for reliable transmission.


wireless-camera-small1. Wireless Camera

This is a well-designed app that has some nice features, such as control over the camera’s flash LED, a range of resolution options, and the ability to switch between front-facing and rear-facing cameras. It’s very easy to configure and provides good video quality – from 640×480 at 10fps to 1920×1080 at 5fps.

Pros

  • Inexpensive ($1.99)
  • High resolution
  • Reasonably good performance

Cons

  • JPEG only (no H.264 encoding)
  • No audio


live-reporter-small2. Live-Reporter

This app encodes and streams in H.264 format, which has the advantages of a much lower data rate than JPEG streaming; SecuritySpy will be able to capture this H.264 video directly to captured movie files for efficient storage. This also allows the app to stream video with impressive performance – up to 30fps in 1920×1080 mode. There are also some nice features such as authentication, date/time overlay and fine control over the video encoding parameters. There is a free version, or a paid-for version that removes advertisements and adds a few extra features such as configuration of settings via the app’s web interface.

Pros

  • Inexpensive (free or $1.99)
  • Great feature set, including date/time overlay
  • Efficient H.264 streaming
  • High resolution
  • Good performance

Cons

  • Audio is one of this app’s features, but we couldn’t get it to work in our testing


ipcamera-small3. iPCamera

This is a simple app that streams JPEG video with good performance. Its maximum resolution is 1280×720, which is not as high as the above two apps, but it is still reasonably good for general-purpose video surveillance. At this resolution it can manage around 25fps streaming performance. A useful feature of this app is the ability to configure settings via its web interface, with options such as focus/exposure lock, which balance, flipping and orientation control.

Pros

  • Inexpensive ($0.99)
  • Good performance
  • Useful settings available via web interface

Cons

  • JPEG only (no H.264 encoding)
  • No audio


iphcam-small4. iphCAM

This is an inexpensive and simple app that streams JPEG video over the local network. Unfortunately its resolution is limited (maximum size 320×420) and in our testing we wouldn’t coax more than 1 frame per second from it, despite a strong WiFi signal and fast network. Due to the poor performance of this app, we wouldn’t recommend it.

Pros

  • Inexpensive ($0.99)
  • Easy to configure

Cons

  • Poor resolution and frame rate
  • JPEG only (no H.264 encoding)
  • No audio

 

12 thoughts on “Using an iPhone as a CCTV Security Camera

  1. Live Reporter Audio

    Audio definitely works…doesn’t work in your app, and doesn’t work in Quicktime7…but VLC plays the audio perfectly, and indicates its MPEG AAC Audio (mp4a) stereo @ 44.1khz.

    Will you add support for that?

    Reply
    1. Ben Software Post author

      Thanks for your comment, SecuritySpy does already support this format. We’ll have another look at why we couldn’t get this to work, and will contact you if we need any further info.

      Reply
    2. gordon

      I can’t seem to get Live Reporter to work, keep getting authentication errors, can someone help with the settings? Thanks
      Gordon

      Reply
  2. Robert Spivack

    “ipCam – Mobile IP Camera” by “SKJM, LLC” – I had this working with Blue Iris, but cannot get it to work with SecuritySpy. (This is FYI only; the app is ok, but UI is very old school and I could never get audio to work.)

    “IP Camera – turning your device into IP Camera” by “Yao Shen” – This is working nicely with SecuritySpy, including audio. I believe it uses H.264 encoding. UI is straightforward.

    (Note: I think you should link to this post in the SecuritySpy install/help documents. I didn’t find this until I searched the forums, but this is useful info, especially if someone wants to evaluate SecuritySpy before buying any dedicated cameras.)

    Reply
    1. PAguy

      Total longshot question to Robert Spivak (or Ben if he might have a suggestion). On a whim I decided to try this on an old iPhone and the IP Camera app by Yao Shen does work great (and, unlike the others in this Blog, has been updated within the last year). Here’s the question: what Profile did you select in the Device setup tab for this app? I can use manual configuration and get the video to work just fine, but it won’t engage the audio. According to the app, the audio is in MP3 format. Is there a Profile that will enable MP3 audio along with either H.264 or MPEG-1 video format? Thanks!

      Reply
      1. Ben Software Post author

        Hi PAguy, SecuritySpy doesn’t support MP3 format audio, because virtually no IP camera uses this format. Supported formats are G.711, G.723, G.726, PCM, AMR, and AAC. I’d also be interested to hear from Robert what settings he used to get the audio and video working for this app!

        Reply
        1. PAguy

          Thanks Ben–that’s what I thought too. Never seen MP3 as an option in any other camera’s profile. Maybe Robert will eventually see this and respond. That app is a cool one and the video works great with SS.

          Reply
  3. Stephen

    I tried the LiveReporter App and no matter what I tried, it was always very choppy. I have other other network cameras working fine so I know it is not the network. I then purchased the IP Camera mentioned above by Yao Shen and I can not get it to connect. I have tried both manual and selecting IPCamera iPhone app for the profile. I am leaving RTSP port blank. What has worked for others to make SS see the iPhone running IP Camera

    Reply
    1. Sumpples610

      On a 2.4GHZ cored2duo Macbook 2010 High Sierra OS

      iPhone4S> Live Reporter > SS > smooth video. Manual setup Format >RTSP UDP (Video and Audio. SS’s LR profile is unstable.
      4s > LR> VLC got it to connect just a couple of times once then it never wanted to reconnect again. Was smooth when it connected.

      Iphone 6SE >LR >SS, is choppy, (go figure). Manual setup Format >RTSP UDP (video an audio)
      SS’s LR profile, hard to connect and and maintain connection.

      IPhone 6SE> LR> VLC, is smooth video. easy to connect.(RTSP:// …)

      I like Live-Reporter because it has good low light performance and the video files are small due to the H264 streaming codec. It is very hard to reconnect to a (4S) remote Iphone if the connection drops. I had to restart the phone to re-establish a connection.
      I’m using LR’s free version for this test so I don’t know if the paid version will be better at handling this.

      Hope that helps

      Reply
  4. IF

    I came across another H.264/RTSP iPhone app called Larix…
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/larix-broadcaster/id1042474385?mt=8
    It’s free, and it seems similar to Live-Reporter but possibly better overall. Unfortunately I can’t figure out how to connect it to SecuritySpy. It requires the user to manually enter a URL (within the Larix app) for the server it will be broadcasting to (I think that’s how it works). It’s probably really simple, but for some reason I can’t come up with the right string. If someone has a minute to check it out, it might be good option for using an iPhone as a security camera.

    Reply
    1. Ben Software Post author

      I’ve had a look at Larix and I don’t think it can be used with SecuritySpy. It does support RTSP, but it seems to only work with “Nimble Streamer” unfortunately.

      Reply

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