You don't have to shell out a bunch of cash for a webcam to monitor your house remotely. In fact, if you have a spare Android or iOS device with a camera, all you need is a cheap app or two to get the same functionality. Here's how to use your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or Android phone/tablet as a wireless network security camera.
How to Turn Your iOS Gadget Into a Wireless Network Camera With Wireless Camera
Got an extra iOS device that you want to repurpose as a wireless network camera? All you need is the Wireless Camera ($2) app, and you'll be ready to go. Download the app from the App Store and open it on your iOS device. Wireless Camera uses iOS's built-in Web server features to start a website on your local network that you can access by pointing your browser to your gadget's local IP address. (The app will give you that information when you start streaming, so don't worry about finding it yourself.)
Open Wireless Camera and tweak the Interval and Maximum Images settings to suit your personal preference (I left them at the default settings); then check Motion Detection and Add Timestamp, and check Enabled at the top to start the recording. From here, you can position your iOS device wherever you like, and it will begin streaming a video feed that you can access in http://[your device's local IP address]. Wireless Camera will tell you what the IP is when it starts streaming.
Navigate to the Web interface in your browser of choice, and click View Recorded Images to see how your camera is doing. Note that if you want to access your video feed from outside your home network, you'll need to delve into your router's Network Address Translation and port-forwarding features to point incoming traffic toward your iOS gadget. Unfortunately, that operation lies outside the scope of this how-to, and the instructions depend on your network's specific setup.
Use Your Android Smartphone or Tablet as a Wireless Network Camera
Alternatively, you can use a spare Android handset as a wireless network camera, thanks to an app called Motion Detector Pro by MVA. Motion Detector Pro is free in the Android Market, and it's very simple to set up--just download and open the app, and then press anywhere on the startup screen to enter the Setup menu.
From there, you can configure your ideal motion detection threshold, which comes in handy for separating the motion that you want to see (burglars, pets doing cute things, roommates eating your snacks) from the noise (trees, shadows, moths, etc.). You can also specify a phone number or email address to receive the incoming snapshots, but keep in mind that if you use SMS/MMS to send and receive those images, you'll be billed for them per your wireless service plan contract.
Next, press Show advanced settings, and you can configure Motion Detector Pro to start up when you send it a specific text message, define particular zones in your camera feed that you want it to monitor, and turn on a stealth mode that closes the app as soon as the phone is touched.
Once you've finished tweaking the app, activate the motion detection and you're good to go.
Have your own tips or app recommendations? Leave them in the comments!