Associate Editor John Wagley reviews an inexpensive surveillance application with a breadth of features and controls.
Though there are a growing number of free and inexpensive surveillance applications, one program, iSpy, from iSpyconnect, may stand apart for its breadth of features and controls. Relatively simple to set up, the open source program can provide footage on a local computer or remotely online and works with a wide range of Internet Protocol (IP) cameras. And its functions include motion detection, e-mail alerts, and automatic video recording and playback.
To use iSpy, the first step is to download software onto a Windows computer (the setup software isn’t currently available for Macintosh). Once downloaded, the program opens automatically and detects any cameras that may be attached to the computer or the local network. After a user clicks on a detected camera, footage appears in a corner of the program’s screen.
Users are then presented with a settings configuration box. From here, users can customize viewing modes. Those wanting to implement motion detection can choose from a few types of detection, including “two frames,” which uses software to compare the last frame with the current frame in order to detect movement. Another option, “background modeling,” may be more appropriate for situations in which objects, such as people or trees, continually move in and out of a frame. It ignores certain repetitive movements, only recording when something unusual occurs. Another main control is the sensitivity slider, which controls the level of movement needed to trigger motion detection.
The “alerts” tab lets users choose what happens after motion is detected. Users can choose to receive e-mail or cell phone text messages, with or without a screen shot. Another option is to receive screen shots at certain predefined intervals.
Users can press a record button on the screen to begin recording footage at any time. Another option, “record on detect,” sets the software to detect when noticing motion. The “record on alert” function only begins recording when alerts are generated, which can be one way to limit the amount of recorded video. Recording can also be set to occur on certain dates and at certain times.
Users can play back recorded video on their local computer or remotely online. Clicking the “view” tab on the toolbar and then the word “videos” leads users to a computer folder where date-stamped videos are stored.
To access video remotely and to receive alerts, it’s necessary to create an account. After creating a user name and password on the iSpyconnect Web site, users are asked to choose from various subscription plans, which begin at $7.95 per month. Users can then view video and control the program through the iSpyconnect Web site. ISpy can also be viewed through many types of mobile devices. A special Web site is provided that is more tailored for viewing and controlling the program from mobile devices.
ISpy says it takes a variety of measures to secure users’ video and account information. Methods include encrypting account passwords before they’re stored in iSpy’s database, helping protect them. ISpy also tracks IP addresses that log into users’ accounts and makes a list available to users through their account page.
The program has many other features and controls. Users may need to apply a little trial and error may be needed to gain the optimal results and experience. Though iSpy charges for functions, such as remote viewing and alerts, it’s relatively simple to set up and provides a near-professional level of surveillance options and controls at modest cost.
Pros. Offers many surveillance features and options including motion detection and e-mail alerts. Easy to set up.
Cons. Can only set up on Windows computers currently. Assesses a monthly fee for full-feature use.
Where to get it. iSpy can be downloaded from iSpyconnect.com. The program is free when used on a local network and computer. Charges for remote access and alerts begin at $7.95 per month.