Monitor your Mac from your phone by streaming the webcam

Monitor your Mac through the webcam and see what is happening in front of the computer. Stream the webcam to your phone

Would you like to know who is using your Mac at home or work? Want to watch your pets at home or see the office at work? You can, just by using the Mac’s built in camera and your phone.

The camera in the iMac and MacBook can be put to good use by using it to monitor what is happening in front of the computer.

You might want to know who is using your Mac when you are out, or you might want to monitor your pets at home when you are at work. Is your dog going crazy and tearing up the place? Is it constantly barking and annoying the neighbours?

Are your cats fighting or sitting on the windowsill looking outside? Is your hamster running on its wheel or is it fast asleep?

All you need to do is to install an app on your Mac and then leave it pointed at whatever you want to monitor.

The monitoring is carried out on your phone or tablet and the iPhone, iPad and Android devices are supported.

You can take snapshots and video clips of the streaming video from your Mac and save the action. It is fascinating and there are a number of uses, including using it as a simple security system. You could use it as home surveillance and monitoring.

1 Install the video streamer

Download the AtHome Video Streamer from the iChano website or get it from the Mac App Store.

AtHome Video Streamer for the Apple Mac

Run it and the AtHome Video Streamer window appears.

Most of the window is a live image from the Mac’s webcam. On the right is status information and a QR code.

2 Get the phone app

Go to the iOS App Store if you have an iPhone or iPad, or the Google Play Store if you have Android Devices and get the AtHome Camera app.

Open the app and press the plus button at the top to add a video stream. 

Select Add Camera by QR Code and point your phone at the Mac’s screen.

AtHome Video Camera app on the iPhone AtHome Video Camera app on the iPhone

The Mac’s video stream can then be selected and you can watch a live video of whatever is in the Mac camera’s field of view - your home, office, pet dog or whatever.

Record, snapshot and more

Most of the functionality is in the phone app and if you see something interesting happening, you can press the Capture button to save a photo or the Record button to begin recording.

A Night Vision button changes the sensitivity and makes it easier to see the video in low light. There are also High, Good and Low video quality settings. There is even a button to talk, so you can speak to your pet or whoever is in the room with your Mac.

The Mac's screen does not have to be turned on and you can let it power off. I have set up Hot Corners so the screen goes off when the mouse is pushed into the top right corner of the screen. The camera continues to stream the video.

The app window can be hidden and the only give-away is the green light next to the camera on the Mac to show that it is active. Put a bit of black tape over it and you won't know the Mac is being monitored.

Problems

There are quite a few one-star reviews in the Mac App Store, but the app was recently updated and the video streaming worked perfectly whe I tried it.

It was amazingly easy to set up and within a second of capturing the QR code on the Mac, the Mac’s camera could be accessed on the iPhone.

It works over local Wi-Fi networks and over the internet. For example, you can watch the video stream from your Mac’s camera over 3G/4G when you are out.

Keep an eye on your data usage though. Streaming video for hours over 4G might cause you to go over your data limit. It is best if you just take a quick look at what is happening. If you can find a Wi-Fi network then you can stream all you want.

A lot of great features are promised in the Mac App Store description and the app itself. However, I could not see any menus or controls to enable motion detection, timed video recording or email notifications.

The motion detection would be very useful and the idea is that you get an email and push notification when something moves in front of the Mac. A thief stealing it perhaps, your dog waking up from its nap, or your kids coming home from school? You could record a video or take a photo and be alerted to the event.

It is a mystery how these features are used though, so if you can work it out, let me know in the comments. Perhaps you need a more recent MacBook than I have.

I also set up AtHome on an iPad and streamed it to a Samsung Galaxy S6 Android phone. You can read about it here.

 

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