How Do Wireless Webcams Work?

by Bert Markgraf
Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

You can use wireless webcams anywhere you want to view images over the Internet, but you have to know how they work to get all the benefits. You can set up the camera itself in different ways, and how it connects to the Internet determines who can see the pictures or video. The wireless feature means that it connects directly to the Internet and can continue to send images when your computer is switched off.


The wireless webcam lens focuses light on an electronic chip. Chip sensors convert the light to pixels that the camera transmits via radio waves to your wireless router. From there the images are available anywhere on the Internet through your broadband connection. Some cameras take continuous video, some use a motion sensor to take pictures when something moves, and others take pictures at regular time intervals. You have to decide what you want your webcam to do and get a corresponding model.

Power Supply

A true wireless camera has no power supply wires and operates on a battery. You can carry this type of camera around within about 100 feet of the router, but you may have to recharge the battery as often as once a day. For most wireless webcams, the word "wireless" refers to a wireless Internet connection, and you have to plug it into a power source.

Network Connection

Before you can see any of the images from the webcam, it has to connect to your wireless network. Most cameras come with software that you install on one of your computers. You connect the camera to the computer via USB or an Ethernet port and run the setup wizard. After the camera connects to your wireless network, you can remove the wired link and follow the instructions in the wizard to connect to the camera in your browser. You can see the images from your webcam in your browser window and, if the camera has the capability, you can pan and zoom the camera to look around and for close-ups.

Internet Connection

The key feature of a wireless webcam is its connection to the Internet. Although you can see the images on computers connected to your wireless network, people on the Internet can't find your camera or see the pictures. To enable access to your camera from the Internet, the camera either has to establish a connection to an Internet server or post its images on the Web. Many cameras include such a service from the supplier, or you may have to pay a small fee. If the service is included, the camera automatically connects to its parent server. If the service is extra, you have to sign up and enter the server information in the camera settings. In either case, you can access the camera by going to the service website and logging in.

Viewing the Images

When your webcam's images are available on the Internet, you can decide who can see them. The webcam service protects your images with a username and password, but you can make them public or send the login information to family and friends. Typical applications for a wireless webcam are monitoring your home while you are away or checking on children and babysitters. Businesses often use webcams for construction site monitoring or in warehouses. People who live in scenic locations sometimes install webcams to let the public enjoy the views.


Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Bert Markgraf is a freelance writer with a strong science and engineering background. He started writing technical papers while working as an engineer in the 1980s. More recently, after starting his own business in IT, he helped organize an online community for which he wrote and edited articles as managing editor, business and economics. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from McGill University.

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