Monday, April 27, 2009

Remote surveillance on your mobile phone

I assume that you have read my previous post on 'streaming webcam using VLC' that describes how to use VLC to stream your webcam's video over the network.

This opens up a new and simple means for surveillance. The idea becomes more interesting and useful based on the network that we choose and where the video is viewed from. To me, if I were to view the video from some other comp, the usability decreases a lot -- unless you are streaming video from home and want to have an eye from your office comp over the Internet; yes, but there are cheaper and better ways to do the same.

I was keen in trying to perform surveillance on a mobile phone and was pretty much fascinated when I could do it. It is really awesome to watch a place in real-time from a remote place and that too wirelessly on a mobile. Now that we know how to stream the video over a network, the only missing link is to figure out a way to establish a network between your mobile phone and your comp.

There are multiple ways to do it:

1. Bluetooth PAN (Personal Area Network): This is the simplest, cheapest and comes at no running cost. Modern bluetooth devices provide upto 100m range, but remember you might have to check with your phone's capability also. I would NOT prefer this as this might tend to disconnect and there is no easy way to reconnect remotely. But it works. I sometimes use it to have an eye on my office cube (for no reason :) ) when I'm just around it.

2. Internet: This is cheaper to establish but has a running cost (specially the data charges on the mobile side are usually hefty). Given that we are aiming at transferring video (atleast QVGA), the bandwidth usage will cost a lot of money; the speed of the network might also be an issue (although a high speed EDGE service on the mobile side might be enough). However, this gives the maximum possible range of surveillance. Literally, from anywhere in the world.

3. Wi-fi: This option is similar to option 1, but much more reliable than a bluetooth PAN. Automatic recovery from signal failures is a plus. I prefer this the most, because my office is fully equipped with Wi-fi. In fact, our other offices (including the ones overseas) are all interconnected, so I can really watch my cube (where I broadcast) from my mobile wirelessly from any of my offices. It's really cool (at least for the first few times). Wi-fi drains battery much faster than bluetooth (as of this writing) though -- so may not be suitable for continuous surveillance.

4. Combination: A combination of these options shall also be applied. E.g., I can choose Internet (broadband) on the broadcasting side, and use Wi-fi (maybe in office?) on the mobile side.

How to view on the mobile:

I'm only going to talk about Windows Mobile here (although I believe the same software is available for Symbian phones too). All you need is a video player for streaming video. Based on the platform you have, you can find one. Note that you need to get a player that supports the protocol and codec you used while streaming.

For Windows Mobile, users can choose to use the free TCPMP (The Core Pocket Media Player) or the professional edition of the same called as the CorePlayer. I personally believe that the CorePlayer is the best for playing streaming video.

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