Turning one of my old Android phones into a webcam is something I've been thinking about doing for a long time now. A couple of years ago, I backed a 3D printer project on Kickstarter (RigidBot, if you're interested). It took a long time to finally get the thing, and it's frequently glitchy and buggy. I'd like to be able to keep an eye on it when I'm out of the room or at work. Besides just wanting to monitor progress as it prints, I've read a couple of horror stories about 3D printers glitching out and causing house fires. With how many times this thing has freaked out and frozen in place with the heat still on, that's got me pretty worried--especially when I'm at work.

At first I looked into the Nest wifi smoke detector and drop cam, but that's a pretty pricey option. I decided to go this route as it will allow me to keep an eye on things without straining my wallet too much, with is stretched pretty thin these days.

It's pretty straightforward and simple process, and well worth it. I've even shared the password with some friends so if they're interested in this sort of thing they can check up on my progress . . . and if they're really lucky they just might catch me swearing and trying to fix the latest problem that's cropped up with my RigidBot.

Step 1: Gather Materials

It's a pretty simple list this time, all that's actually required is an old (but still functional) Android phone, cable, charger and wifi. I'm using a Droid Razr Maxx that works just fine, except the charging port has broken loose. More on that later.

In addition, depending on your phone and application, you might want to get your hands on some sort of mount. I'm using mine as a monitor for my printer so I simply found a couple of models on thingiverse already designed for my phone and printer, printed them out, cobbled them together and was ready to install.

Depending on your phone, for tools you may need a soldering iron, bench top power supply, hot glue gun, and a set of teeny tiny screw drivers. I was recently provided this soldering station from thediyoutlet.com, and this project was it's maiden voyage. Worked like a charm, more about it in the next step.


Step 2: Prep Your Phone

An android phone may fall out of use for a variety of reasons. Maybe you just upgraded to the latest and greatest model, and held on to your old one. Maybe it stopped working properly in some way, but wasn't totally ruined so you felt bad throwing it out. Maybe like me, you're a pack rat and horde all sorts of shiny, semi-working technology . . . you know, just in case.

I'm a buy it used and avoid long term contracts kind of guy--I'm on pageplus and get my 4G from a router from Ting, which is a kludge of a way to do your phone service, but it keeps me out of expensive contracts that I have to stick with for years and years. One of the downsides, however, is a total lack of warranty. So, when my fancy Razr Maxx stopped charging about a year ago (hey, so I'm three generations behind the times, sue me), I simply had to set it aside and buy a new phone (S3, hurray!). The Razr still worked fine, I just had to drill a hole in it and extend a battery wire out so I could attach some alligator clips to those and attach that to a USB charger. Not an elegant solution, but it worked out okay until I replaced it!

So if you're lucky and your phone is just old but still working, all you'll need to do here is plug it in near the location you want the webcam. For me, I had to open the case and modify some things.

Here's where that soldering station from thediyoutlet came in. I have no reservations whatsover recommending this tool, some of you may have seen my old soldering station instructable, but this is waaaaaay better than that mess. It served me well for many years, but this is a definite upgrade. This one has a soldering iron, hot air gun, and a variable power supply, all of which I ended up using for this project.

My first thought was to try and repair the actual USB charging port. The heat gun that comes as part of the station worked great to loosen the solder on the port, allowing me to remove it. I then tried to wire the end of a USB cable directly to the circuit board. The soldering iron worked great and had a really pointy nib for use on SMD circuit boards, but my hands just aren't steady enough for that delicate of work, I guess. I made a mess of things and had to start over.

I realized there's no real need for a USB connection! I decided to make the direct battery connection permanent (and less messy). I took that same USB cable, stripped the positive and negative wires (usually red and black, but in this case gray and black--green and white are data, so you don't need those here). I decided to remove the battery completely since the phone would be permanently powered, and lighter without it. Before I attached the USB wires to the power inputs, I attached the phone to the benchtop power supply and made sure it was working fine without the battery. No problems! I screwed the wires in place, and added a dollop of solder to each for good measure.

Finally, using a dremel I carved the hole at the bottom of the phone's casing a bit deeper, to fit the fatter USB wire. Sticking it in place with hot glue, I then tested everything on a USB wall charger before using epoxy to keep the USB cable in place at the bottom of the phone, reassembled it, and was ready to go!

Step 3: Get the App

There are several webcam apps available in the google play store, but I went with IP Webcam. They've got a free version which I used to set everything up and make sure it works. I ended up kicking in the $4 for the full version to get rid of the ads and the watermark on the video feed. Totally worth it to support the work of the designer!

When you first load the app, you'll see the settings screen. There are lots of ways to customize this app for your purposes, but the important ones are these:

Login/password: If, like me, you're going to stream this over the internet, you'll probably want to make a login and password.

Stream on device boot: Just in case your phone decides it's time to reboot, this will turn the webcam back on afterwards.

Start server: Click the last entry on the list, and the video will start streaming!

Just a side note-- I didn't need any of these options for my own setup, but you can set up this app to act as a security camera. It can record video loops, be motion, light, or sound activated, take a picture at certain intervals, etc.

Look at the bottom of the screen, and you'll see an IP address. In my case, it's . If all you want is to be able to keep an eye on something from another room in the house, you're done! Mission accomplished!

However, if you want to be able to check on things while you're away, there's more to do--it's a little techy, but even an amateur shouldn't have too much trouble. Write down that IP address and head over to your desktop PC.

Step 4: Give Your Phone a Permanent IP Address

Logging into a wifi router and messing with its setting can be a daunting task for someone who's never done it before, but it's not that difficult--most likely you'll be able to find a manual either in your stuff or available online.

The first step is finding it's local IP address. My phone's webcam address was "", which means that it's port 8080 at that IP address. In MOST cases, you'll find that your wifi router is located at X.X.X.1, or in my case "". Simply type that into your browser's address bar, and you'll very likely find yourself at the login page for your router! If not, you'll probably find it printed on the bottom of the router or somewhere in the manual.

If you've never logged in, the router's password and login are probably still set to their default values (find this again on the bottom of your router or in the manual). I like to write that info down on a piece of masking tape and stick that to the bottom of my router, just so there's no confusion, since I don't have to log in more than once in a great while.

****Update 12/18/14:AtlantaTerry points out that leaving your router set to the default login/password is a big security hole. If you find it is, now it a great time to change the login and password, then write that down on a piece of masking tape and stick it to the bottom of your router.

Once you're logged in, you need to find your phone and give it a static (unchanging) IP address. Standard router procedure is to issue temporary IP addresses that change every week or so, but you want your webcam to keep the same IP address at all times. You may have to poke around a bit in the management screen or in your manual to find out how to do this, but in mine I found it simply under "Connected devices", where I was able to hit edit, change it from DHCP to Reserved IP, enter my IP address, and hit save.

Step 5: Make Your Webcam Available Online

Now that the local IP address is locked down, you need to make that available over the internet. Basically, your router acts as a gateway between your local network and the outside world, and the IP addresses on each side of that gate are different. So, you need to tell your router to forward an outside address to the IP address and port of your webcam. Sounds complex, but it's not all that bad.

On my router, I found it under "Advanced" and "Port Forwarding". Most routers will have it similarly filed away. You'll want to add a port to forward, in my case it's, port 8080. You'll probably also have to turn on port forwarding, as it's usually set to off by default. Now point your browser to google, type "What's my ip address" into the search bar, and see what it says. You'll get a string of numbers back. To access your webcam, simply type that string of numbers into a browser with :8080 at the end (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:8080). You may need to check from a different network or over a working phone's data connection as there is a bug in some routers' firmware that doesn't always allow you to connect back to the same IP address over the internet. If all has gone well, you've got a working webcam!

Here's an example of my webcam watching my 3D printer print. I'm not sure why the video is such low quality, as the stream is waaaaay better than this. There's probably a setting I missed somewhere, had it turned to low quality or something.

Step 6: Monitoring A 3D Printer

This won't apply to everyone, but I thought I'd include this step about my personal use of the webcam. As I mentioned, I wanted to be able to keep an eye on things while it's running but I'm away from the house. So, I printed a swing arm, mounting bracket, and a phone case for the phone. Everything is assembled and attached to the frame of the printer.

The last thing I did was install a smoke detector on the ceiling above the printer. This way I can have my stream up and running in the background at work, and if the smoke alarm goes off I'll be able to hear it!

Step 7: Final Thoughts

This was a fun project and the result was great, but I kept having setbacks! My stupid printer broke down twice while I was making parts for this, something went wrong with the phone and it refused to turn on for a while, etc. It was frustrating, but the result is awesome and totally worth it.

If you set up your own webcam using my instructable, post a picture in the comments and I'll send you a digital patch and 3 month pro membership!

Please take a minute to favorite, comment, and follow me! This project gave me an idea for an even bigger and better project along the same lines, so hopefully I'll be able to finish that soon and post it here. If you have any comments or need a little help figuring things out let me know and I'll do my best to set you straight!

***Update 12/28/14 - Instructables user Menneset posted this link to his own thingiverse design, using the instructions here to monitor his Da Vinci 3D printer with his Droid Bionic!

<p>If anyone discovers that their Internet router is set to the factory default values, that is a HUGE security hole!!!<br><br>Change it NOW!!!<br><br>Then, as advised, write the new values on a piece of masking tape then stick that to the bottom of the router.</p><p>Terry Thomas<br>President<br>PC Tech Support<br>Atlanta, Georgia USA</p>
I always change hardware from the default username &amp; password. A friend came to visit &amp; asked for the password to the WiFi network &amp; was shocked at how complicated it was, lol. But I never write it down on masking tape &amp; stick to the bottom of the router. I have a password manager software &amp; document that I use to keep track of all of my passwords. I save the doc on an encrypted external hard drive &amp; encrypted cloud acct every time I change it. I have kids &amp; parental controls!
<p>Not to mention leaving a port pinholed out is also a big security risk as well...well as long as the app streaming is secure it should be ok...but hackers are tricky devils!</p>
I feel bad now. I trust my kids because I raised them. I have only one password method and told it my wife. O yeah and we have no guns in the house, sorry.
<p>I've been considering doing something like that. I've got soooooo many passwords and logins floating around in my brain it's gotten to the point that I can't keep track of them very well!</p>
<p>Use a password manager to help keep the complexity of your passwords high without taxing your brain. I use LastPass.<br>Terry is quite correct, I'm the sort of person who DOES check default and common passwords on devices and proceeds to inform the device owner that their security is lax if I get in, better me than someone sketchy, but people DO put your router password to the test.</p>
<p>I've heard lots of good things about LastPass, it may just be time for me to give them a shot!</p>
I use it and it's great. It has a great password generator that you can set what ever charactures and the length you want. You never get the same password twice.
I have been using self authored lines of CNC code. Type 2 Data statments are best . They contain letters numbers and symbols and are quite long. I use them frequently so no problem remembering.
<p>Solid point Terry, I hadn't thought to explicitly point that out in the instructable. I'll flag your comment to the top of the list and tweak that step a bit!</p>
<p>Depending on the version of Android, you can also set up a static IP address from the phone instead of the router. In the WiFi settings, long-press the name of the network you are connecting to, and press Modify Network. In the Advanced Settings, change the IP settings from DHCP to Static. Scroll down and choose an ip address for yourself! The Gateway and DNS should autopopulate to the correct values.</p>
Ah, I didn't know that! I'll feature your comment to the top of the list!
<p>buteman is confused, depotdevoid. PeterV3 is correct.<br><br>The purpose of giving a static local IP on the LAN to your camera/phone is so that the port-forwarding from the router will go to the right device.<br><br>If you have a NAT-ing router (which everyone does, these days), the local IP address which devices on the LAN have is assigned by the router, through negotiation with the devices. Either side of the negotiation can be configured to give a predictable &quot;static&quot; local IP to a particular device. You can either configure the device to ask the DHCP server (in the router) for a particular IP address, or you can configure the router to give a particular IP address to a specified MAC address (which should be unique for each device). Either approach should get the desired result: your IP camera always gets the same local IP address.<br><br>If you're setting up any kind of server in your house (which is what this is), it is nice to also have a static IP for your public IP address, but that generally costs money. An alternative is called Dynamic DNS (google it). Basically, a script runs on your computer or router which checks what IP address it has been assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). If that address changes, the script makes the change in the DNS, so that, after a short outage, outsiders can find your server again.</p>
<p>It's not the same thing. Your router static IP address is the WAN one which is what is seen from the world. A static IP address on your phone is for your private network which is only seen by other computers, smartphones, tablets and so on in your home and logged into your router. Of course if you have a neighbour nearby and know their router password you can log into their router and then you will be on their network so will see their computers but your other computers in your home wont be able to see your computer and you wont be able to see them.</p>
<p>SIDE NOTE: Once you have found your WAN IP address make a note to check that it is still valid &quot;once every now and then&quot;. ISP's (Internet Service Providers) will often lease your WAN IP address (IP address on the Internet side of your router) to you for only a select number of days, then it is reset and you get a different one. This is why many people end up purchasing a Static IP address (One that does not change) from their ISP. Keep this in mind so that your not surprised one day when you cannot access your camera. If so IP address likely changed. :-)</p><p>-Zack</p>
Interesting, I didn't know that! I'll flag this comment to the top so it's more visible!
<p>I would like to set this up as a security camera and want to have a l looping storage file for a week or whatever is reasonable. Is that a reasonable project?</p>
<p>I'm pretty sure there are settings in the app that allow you to do just that.</p>
<p>Actually, it is very rare for an individual to purchase a static IP from their ISP. What most people do is use a subdomain from a service such as dyndns which periodically checks for IP address changes and will update accordingly. </p>
<p>A very good instructable on how to repurpose an older phone. Wondering how to expand on this concept though. Anyone know how to take the video feed, only record motion and have that uploaded to the cloud to review at a later time. The end goal is to utilize this as the basis of a security video system.</p>
<p>This is still a relevant instructable! To monitor your IP cameras from another Android device, I use TinyCam (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alexvas.dvr&amp;hl=en). It works great for IP cameras made from Android devices as well as dedicated cameras (like Foscam).</p>
<p>Well I am going to guess that everyone now knows what 3D printer to avoid now. LOL But this camera looks pretty cool. Gotta find one to try this out with. Gave my 2 old androids to my son to play on wifi and he has managed to lose both of them. This could be used for so many things. First thing that popped into my head is a video baby monitor. Very cool looking project.</p>
Yeah it's definitely a buggy product. I guess they've come out with a Rigidbot 2, but they lost my support with such a fickle device...and not supplying me with replacements for faulty parts.<br>Glad you liked my project! I'd love to hear if it works out for you.
<p>Is it possible to set an external IP address to use the webcam all over the internet ?</p><p>Thank you so much !</p>
<p>Yep! If you go through my whole 'ible step by step, I show you how to set that up.</p>
ok, done, very well.<br>Thank you very much :-)
I made this without any issues. I did change the port to 1024 to avoid router issues.
<p>Awesome, thanks for the &quot;Made It&quot; post! Patch and pro membership are on the way!</p>
The problem I keep running into is that the camera ceases to function on the phone. the app runs into an error where it cannot access the camera and I have to reboot the phone manually every time. it does this at least twice a day. it didn't start doing this until about two to three months into the project. What I'd like to know is how to stop this from doing it or be able to remotely reboot my phone so that the camera will reset and I can again watch my fish tank from work... isn't voice to text wonderful?
<p>You can use an Android security app like Cerberus from <a href="https://cerberusapp.com" rel="nofollow">cerberusapp.com</a> (or find it on the Play Store) to control your device remotely. </p><p>Once installed you can text your device from any other device (or use the web console) and reboot it. </p><p>You can do other things too, like take a picture using the devices camera.</p>
Thanks I'll try that
<p>You might also try doing a full factory reset on your phone to see if that helps. I've had some success with that fixing problems.</p><p>Either way, sorry I missed this comment! I'll send that pro membership and patch out right away!</p>
Haven't tried anything new with this yet. The problem seems to be going away on its own... thanks for the code and patch!
<p>What router software are you using? That interface in the images is unlike any I have ever seen. Is it custom firmware? One of the open source options?</p><p>The UI looks great!</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>Looks like an Xfinity (Comcast) gateway to me.</p>
<p>Yep, it's a comcast. I finally bought my own router though and sent that back, got tired of paying them $10 a month to rent the modem.</p>
<p>Great instructable! Question: Where can you get new soldering tips for your mighty soldering station? I couldn't find any on that website...</p><p>TY!</p>
<p>Honestly don't know...I haven't been in contact with those guys for a while. On the plus side, the original tip is still in great shape, so hopefully I don't have to worry about it any time soon.</p>
Great use of and older smart phone. Great instructions. Now if you could just rig up a smoke dector to fire extinguisher it would take some of the worry out of the equation.
<p>That would be a fun project! Scare the daylights out of my cats if it went off at the wrong time though. They like to sit around and stare at the printer while it's working.</p>
This is a great idea. I have a question though. <br>This may work great as an ip web cam but what are the possibilities of making it two ways? Such that I can check in and also be seen on the other end at the same time. <br><br>I think it would be awesome to monitor and interact with my pets this way whenever I'm out.
<p>You should be able to do that, but I think in the case of a two-way connection it might be easier to set up a traditional laptop or desktop with a webcam at each end. Either way, I'd love to hear if it works out!</p>
<p>You have WiFi so you should be able to use video chat with an auto answer that many have.</p>
<p>But not both.... they can't both be set up to control the camera at the same time.</p>
<p>Ref: Step 5 - You may be getting low quality because sophisticated streaming IP Cam software is usually set up to stream at a lower quality so you get motion instead of jerky still shots. The hardware usually can't handle high frame rates or high quality photos. Software engineers know that and have provide what is called a 'sub stream' for viewing the motion. A high speed internet situation and a high quality IP Cam does not usually need to use the low stream but even though your camera video is good the CPU in your phone is a different story.</p>
<p>You have a 'be nice policy', so now you also need a 'be nice to be able to edit my comment' policy so I could fix a few of my mistakes. :)</p>
<p>Interesting, I didn't realize that. Thanks for the info!</p>
<p>This Instructable Rocks! Thanks so much! I'm going to start on this right away. We just want to watch to see who comes to our door when we are gone. You made it simple!</p>
<p>Cool, let me know how it turns out!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lose your train of thought and you're waiting ... More »
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