According to recent FBI statistics, over 1.5 million burglaries occur annually in the United States. Businesses and households should take steps to protect themselves from common crimes like burglary and theft. Surveillance is one of the most effective deterrents for these offenses; criminals don’t want their faces on camera while committing nefarious deeds on your property.
Some homeowners turn to professional security systems for protection, but those can be expensive to install and maintain. With today’s proliferation of powerful and inexpensive computing devices like the Raspberry Pi, you can build a video monitoring system yourself, protecting your property and saving money in the process.
The Raspberry Pi Zero W packs a full computer system with Wi-Fi connectivity into a footprint smaller than a credit card. Onboard is a connector for the official Raspberry Pi camera module (add a special ribbon cable to make it compatible with the Zero) which packs an eight-megapixel sensor into a package less than an inch square.
It’s also available in a no-infrared (NoIR) version, which forgoes the infrared filter on the lens for night photography or video. You can even use standard webcams for monitoring.
To complete your build, combine your RaspPi system with the right software. MotionEyeOS is one of the most popular all-in-one monitoring solutions on the market. Simply install the program on an SD card and once configured, you can access it as a web page. Now you can modify, capture, and establish motion detection settings, and easily control the Pi camera or USB webcams.
Set alerts that will email you when the camera detects motion. You’ll receive a notification, whether it’s your cat walking through the frame or someone with a ski mask and a crowbar.
For a more personalized system, create a custom solution with OpenCV, a computer vision software program that allows you to work with captured images. Here’s an example of this type of setup, complete with a camera box made from MDF.
Once you have the tools, it’s time to get started building your own security system for your home or business. Check out a few of the creative setups we’ve seen:
1. Mount RPi in a repurposed security camera housing
Even the sight of a camera may deter potential burglars. For an obvious sign that your property is monitored, mount your camera in a gutted, conspicuous camera housing. While the camera housing itself might scare off a thief, the Raspberry Pi inside will record video evidence of any trespassers.
2. Glass Suction Cup Mount
For a subtler home security approach, consider mounting your camera to a wall or window with suction cups, or a dedicated mount like the Pi ZeroView. The mount places the camera close to the glass, minimizing reflection for a clear view of what’s going on. While ideal for home security, this could also work quite well for time-lapse applications, checking on the weather or even monitoring your fish tank.
3. 3D Printed Case
While you can easily buy a mount for your RaspPi or make one out of MDF, you can also create one with a 3D printer. We love this low-profile Pigeon project that mounts nicely to a wall or wooden surface. Check it out at Thingiverse.
4. Connected Alarms
Pi-powered cameras can do more than take video and still images. Your camera can monitor doors using pyroelectric infrared (PIR) sensors which creates a motion detector that emails you when it’s triggered. You can also receive alerts by connecting your smoke alarm to a RaspPi or use the sensor to test the air quality in your home or building. Consider using an unmodified backup alarm in case what you’ve put together malfunctions.
5. Orbii and PlayDate
Sensing and recording data is great, but what if your camera could roll around your house, interacting with pets and people alike? That’s the idea behind PlayDate and Orbii: two Indiegogo-funded projects that were prototyped using a Raspberry Pi. PlayDate and Orbii roll around your floor like remote controlled hamster balls. While you could employ either product to monitor your home, PlayDate was designed to check up on pets when you’re not there, allowing you to talk to and play with them via a rolling ball. Orbii is a dedicated home security device, and it can patrol a house autonomously. Orbii features sensors for elements like temperature and carbon monoxide.
6. Take to the Sky
Whether your goal is to prevent a burglary, take a time-lapse of the backyard, or you simply want to make sure that Fido is comfortable while you’re away, the Raspberry Pi can be the backbone of a wide range of monitoring options.
Create your own custom monitoring solution to protect your property for a fraction of the price of a professional system. NV
Jeremy S. Cook and Zach Wendt are engineers who enjoy writing about the many capabilities of Raspberry Pi, including using it to protect and secure your home. Jeremy writes for a variety of technical publications, while Zach works for Arrow Electronics, a major supplier of Raspberry Pi products.