How to Build a Wireless Trail Camera with a Live Video Stream
By Editorial Team
Items you will need
IP-based Web Camera
Marine Grade Battery
A Wireless USB Internet Card
Are you looking for a trail camera that enables you to log on to any computer and watch a live stream of your feeder? There are many companies out there that will charge you to look at photos your camera takes, but I will show you how you can easily make your own system. Complete with pan, tilt, zoom capabilities with a LIVE video stream that can be accessed from any PC or cell phone. Follow these easy steps and you'll be tuned into your feeders with no problem at all.
First things first. I will briefly describe everything you will need to put this system together. Believe me, it is MUCH cheaper than buying the systems going right now that simply email you still pictures.
First, you will need an IP-based web camera. You can find many different types of these by just searching Google for "IP WEBCAM." Radio Shack also carries a few good choices. There are a few weatherproof ones on the market but it is not necessary because you can always put a cover on it. But we will get to that later. IP-based webcams basically have their own servers set up directly in the camera. Pretty much all they need is an internet connection and they automatically allow access for control of the camera by logging into the IP address. These can be purchased starting for about $80 to over $1500. The point here is to be cost effective and the $80 models you will find work just fine. Just make sure it is an IP-based webcam. A regular webcam will not work.
The next item you will need for your trail camera with live streaming video capabilities is a cellular router. By far the best around is Cradlepoint Brand Routers. These routers are made to accept your USB wireless internet cards. I personally use the USB720 from Verizon wireless. However, almost any cellular carrier does offer some sort of wireless internet device. Sprint, AT&T, Cricket, T-Mobile etc. Just ask your service provider and they will point you in the right direction. A USB device is best. This service usually cost anywhere from $29 a month to $59 a month. This is the only fee you will acquire for this set up. If you're like myself, you may already have wireless internet service and a USB device.
Now, the Cradlepoint Wireless Router enables you to plug your cellular USB internet device right into it. It automatically recognizes your wireless internet device and forms a connection to the internet. Now whenever you plug your IP-based webcam into the Cradlepoint router, you have an internet connection via the wireless device. The IP-based webcam now assigns an IP address and is ready to stream its video to the web. Be sure you have a signal where you intend to put your system.
Next you will need a weatherproof box for your system. I use a box like shown in the picture that is much like your outside cable box on your home. They can be picked up at any hardware store for a few dollars. You will want to mount the Cradlepoint router inside the box. I mount this right in the center so it leaves room inside the box to tuck away the wireless card and any cords and a power inverter. I like to use these boxes because you can easily spray paint them with your favorite camouflage pattern and once they are mounted to a tree there is easy access if needed.
You will want to drill a hole in the box large enough to run the cord for the camera outside of. I then mount the camera on top of the box so that whenever I mount the box the camera has a clear view of the feeder or location you are trying to view. Be sure and use weatherproof calking for any holes you drill and you will want to put a "roof" over the camera after you mount it to a tree. I cut a small piece of sheet metal and just mount it over top of the camera on the tree to help keep it out of the rain.
I will sum up the next three things you will need to complete your wireless trail camera streaming video system. You will need a small power inverter that can fit inside your weatherproof box with the Cradlepoint router. This inverter needs to be able to convert power from a marine grade battery to power for the Cradlepoint Device. The Cradlepoint will supply power via the USB connection to your wireless card and some IP webcams. Some IP webcams will need to also be plugged into the power source.
Next thing you will need is an electrical timer. These serve a very important purpose in this system. They can be purchased at any hardware store for a few bucks. The timers are very important here. Being the Cradlepoint Router has a feature on it to automatically detect and configure an internet connection when powered on. Consider this timer a safety feature to ensure your camera is always ready to be used via the internet. If you're like myself, you may live several hours away from your hunting property.
If you ever lose your wireless connection for any reason, this timer will "reboot" the system which will automatically reset your Cradlepoint Routers connection and put it through the tasks of automatically re-establishing a connection. I like to set my timer to "re-boot" the system every six hours. Honestly, I have had absolutely no problems with keeping a connection, however, it's one of those things thats " better safe than sorry" to me. The first time the system would actually need to be re-booted for some reason and you are five hours away, you would probably wish you had the timer on it.
Lastly, a marine grade battery will keep power to your system. I have solar panels running to my battery and it runs indefinitely. A friend of mine just has two batteries. Keeps one at home on charge and just switches them out weekly. Just hook your battery into the power inverter and then run the power from the inverter to the other devices.
OK, In review. You have a Cradlepoint Wireless Router in a weatherproof box. You have your wireless internet card connected to your Cradlepoint Router via USB connection. You have an IP-based webcam also plugged into the Cradlepoint Router via USB connection. You have a power inverter providing power to these devices via a marine grade battery. You have the entire system mounted to a tree and powered up.
Then, you will go through the camera setup which will have detailed instructions with the booklet that came with it. It will provide you the IP address to use to log into your system. Once you enter the IP address into your web browser you can log in and take control of your camera. I have found that you can call the help line to your camera maker and they will gladly walk you step by step through the simple setup. However certain cameras are pretty much plug-'n-play. All you will need to know is the IP address to enter into your browser.
These systems are amazing. You can zoom in, zoom out. Look left and right. They can be set up to notify you by text message or email whenever motion is detected at the feeder. You can record video and sound and download it to your computer. You can sit and watch your feeders while drinking coffee in your own home or at any other computer you have access to.
The best thing about it is, you pay no fee besides your cellular internet service. If you are familiar with trail cameras then you already know with other store bought systems you will pay for monthly fees to upload pictures in which they charge you per picture fees that add up to cost hundreds of dollars a month to be able to look at still photos. Not only that but you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $700 - $1200 for the trail camera. I built my first system for less than $300.
Now you know how to not only build a system for cheaper, but also how to have a trail camera with live video streaming and many more capabilities.
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