Use a Mac as a Security Camera And Watch Live Video Remotely From an iPhone or iPad
If you’ve ever wished you could check up on your house while you’re away, wish no more because we have a simple solution. We are going to configure a Mac as a home security camera that will open a live video stream on demand which can be watched remotely from anywhere via an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or another Mac. If this sounds potentially complicated, it’s actually not at all, and everything is achieved through a little FaceTime hackery. Read along to get the Mac security cam configured in no time at all with just about any version of Mac OS X and iOS!
Requirements for the Mac Security Cam
Here’s what you’ll need before getting started:
- Any Mac with an iSight (front facing) camera
- The FaceTime app installed on the home Mac (FaceTime comes with modern versions of Mac OS X, anything Lion or later it is bundled, whereas earlier Macs can get it from Mac App Store)
- A valid Apple ID to use as a FaceTime Login – you may want to create an additional unique Apple ID for this purpose
- An iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, or another Mac with FaceTime to watch the security cam with
Setting Up the Camera & Accepting Remote Video Connections on the Mac
This is easier to set up than you might think. We’re going to assume you already have FaceTime on the Mac installed, if not do that first. Next you’ll want to position the Mac so that the front-facing iSight (FaceTime) camera is pointing in the direction you want to watch. With that done, here’s the most technical aspect of this set up:
- Launch Terminal found in /Applications/Utilities/ and enter the following command to automatically accept incoming FaceTime calls:
- Still in Terminal, enter the next command, changing the email address on the end with the Apple ID you wish to automatically accept a video connection from:
defaults write com.apple.FaceTime AutoAcceptInvites -bool YES
defaults write com.apple.FaceTime AutoAcceptInvitesFrom -array-add email@example.com
It is highly recommended to use the email address associated with the caller for who you want to auto-accept the FaceTime calls from (for example, if the Apple ID email of the caller is firstname.lastname@example.org then you would add that).
If you want to add other Apple ID’s or even a phone number to automatically accept FaceTime video calls from, feel free to do so by running the above command again with additional email addresses. Phone numbers must be prefixed with a + like so: +14085551212
If you want the security camera to be sneaky, you’ll likely want to mute the Mac as well so it won’t ring or transmit any audio from the FaceTime call.
Opening the Live Security Video Cam Feed for Remote Viewing
Now for the fun part. Once the Mac has chosen to auto-accept FaceTime calls from the email address in question, you can test out the security camera.
Grab an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac that is setup to use FaceTime with the Apple ID you chose to autoaccept invites from, and initiate a FaceTime call with the target home Mac’s Apple ID.
The recipient Mac with the camera will automatically accept the call, giving you a live video feed of what’s going on at the location of the recipient Mac. Hang up the FaceTime call at any time to close the video feed.
As mentioned earlier, it may be best to create a unique Apple ID specifically for the recipient Mac. That Apple ID could then be added as a contact to the iOS Address Book as “Mac Home Camera” and added to favorites for quick access.
The only downside to FaceTime is the feed requires a wi-fi connection or 4G / LTE cellular connection, which can use a fair amount of bandwidth. Older devices can use Personal Hotspot to circumvent the FaceTime wi-fi limitation if it applies to their version of iOS, but that does not exist in modern versions of iOS. You could probably use Skype to get around that limitation as well, but that’d be another article.
FaceTime works on just about any Mac, iPhone, or iPad, so even if the version is a bit different and the interface is slightly different to initiate the call to the video camera on the Mac, it will still work. Just be sure you open a FaceTime video chat.
This works in all versions of Mac OS X and iOS that support FaceTime. Enjoy!