Author Topic: A clever use for an IP camera  (Read 3317 times)

the fixer

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A clever use for an IP camera
« on: June 07, 2017, 04:47:36 PM »
This might be a bit too clever, we'll see...

I'm considering the feasibility of using an IP camera in a rental property I own to remotely read a couple meters that would be in a dark supply closet. I have no experience with IP cameras, though, and they do not appear to be designed for this application, so I do not know if this could really work.

Would a remotely-accessible camera like this work in that environment? Would the picture be clear enough to read an analog odometer? Would the IR lighting be enough, or would I need a model to which I can connect and remote-control an external light? Can they focus at distances of a foot or so?

I'd like the system to be at least somewhat reliable, while recognizing that if it fails I can just go to the property, read the meter directly, and fix the issue. The remote-reading apparatus meant to be used with these things costs at least $700, plus a monthly service fee for it not to need a tenant's WiFi, so if I can design my own quick-and-dirty, works-most-of-the-time equivalent for 1/10 of that price I'd be ecstatic.

BDWW

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2017, 05:01:19 PM »
I don't see why not, the IR lights should be plenty bright if it's close enough. The ones I've used to a pretty good job at lighting things up close, and only marginal at distance. It will be in black and white if it's in the dark.

The one downside I see, is that you will be using the tenants wifi/ethernet, and you'll have to configure your/their router to allow outside access to the camera IP. This may be a cake and easily secured - depending on the router/camera software - or it might mean opening up the camera to the entire world (maybe or maybe not a concern).
« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 05:03:44 PM by BDWW »

sokoloff

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2017, 07:39:14 PM »
Before you go to a vision system, check to see if the meter already broadcasts the meter reading on the ISM RF band.

If so, a Raspberry Pi 3 ($35), an SDR dongle ($10-ish), a USB power plug ($5), and a tiny amount of wifi usage and you'll be in business.

http://hackaday.com/2014/02/25/using-sdr-to-read-your-smart-meter/

If it's not, you can still use a Pi to do the vision processing locally, meaning you need a LOT less wifi usage to communicate the meter reading: https://www.mkompf.com/cplus/emeocv.html

Dicey

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2017, 07:41:33 PM »
What the hell are you guys talking about?

cadillacmike

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2017, 07:46:21 PM »
I think the OP is trying to remotely Monitor a meter(s) in one of his apts. Perhaps water or electricity, or both, to detect abnormally high consumption.

That's my guess.

However, Using a tenant paid for internet connection to do this without permission might be problematic, especially in some states that are "tenant friendly".

Dicey

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2017, 08:02:24 PM »
OP, are you worried about something like a tenant starting a grow house?

Otherwise, I agree with cadillacmike on the problematic part. The technology stuff is way over my head. Thanks for the translation, cm.

BDWW

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2017, 08:50:33 PM »
Before you go to a vision system, check to see if the meter already broadcasts the meter reading on the ISM RF band.

If so, a Raspberry Pi 3 ($35), an SDR dongle ($10-ish), a USB power plug ($5), and a tiny amount of wifi usage and you'll be in business.

http://hackaday.com/2014/02/25/using-sdr-to-read-your-smart-meter/

If it's not, you can still use a Pi to do the vision processing locally, meaning you need a LOT less wifi usage to communicate the meter reading: https://www.mkompf.com/cplus/emeocv.html

The usage should be minimal anyway, if he's only using it to the check the reading. I doubt he's going to be staring at it, watching it turn :). Log on, take the reading and log off.

cadillacmike

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2017, 09:08:59 PM »
Siphoning off the tenant's WiFi wouldn't work if I was the tenant because I MAC filter all WiFi connections. If a device is Not in my router's approved list, it gets rejected by the router.

I also have a log that I can look at to see rejected device connection attempts. I usually set up clients like this to keep their systems more secure.

That said, it should be easy to set up.


HipGnosis

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2017, 03:42:51 PM »
The usage should be minimal anyway, if he's only using it to the check the reading. I doubt he's going to be staring at it, watching it turn :). Log on, take the reading and log off.
But it will need a constant connection to the internet for him to log on.

Aren't there are laws against cameras in a rental?

BDWW

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2017, 11:40:10 PM »
The usage should be minimal anyway, if he's only using it to the check the reading. I doubt he's going to be staring at it, watching it turn :). Log on, take the reading and log off.
But it will need a constant connection to the internet for him to log on.

Aren't there are laws against cameras in a rental?

For the first part, it will need a connection to the internet, but it doesn't use anything if he doesn't log on. It's actually a mini server that just sits and waits for something to talk to it before it responds to anything.

As to the second I have no idea, I would hope if there are where he's at they'd be limited to voyeurism purposes, but the law is often not very nuanced.

BudgetSlasher

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2017, 03:28:24 PM »
Who pays for which utilities?

Internet: The camera will require an internet connection, I doubt too many tenants are going to be thrilled to allow you to use their system for a camera. So you will not avoid the monthly service fee having to provide your own internet.

Electricity: A camera will require power 24/7 either from a power adapter (as the one you posted does) or power over ethernet.  If a tenant is paying the electric bill they probably don't want to pay to operate your camera (or your camera and cable modem/wifi).

marty998

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2017, 03:41:13 PM »
Question is why?

Doesn't your utility provider give you bills /statements with this info?

Sounds like you need a hobby. I monitor my own usage via my bills... would never have considered popping a camera into my tenants place to monitor their usage.

Sounds slightly mad to me.

jeromedawg

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2017, 03:46:03 PM »
This might be a bit too clever, we'll see...

I'm considering the feasibility of using an IP camera in a rental property I own to remotely read a couple meters that would be in a dark supply closet. I have no experience with IP cameras, though, and they do not appear to be designed for this application, so I do not know if this could really work.

Would a remotely-accessible camera like this work in that environment? Would the picture be clear enough to read an analog odometer? Would the IR lighting be enough, or would I need a model to which I can connect and remote-control an external light? Can they focus at distances of a foot or so?

I'd like the system to be at least somewhat reliable, while recognizing that if it fails I can just go to the property, read the meter directly, and fix the issue. The remote-reading apparatus meant to be used with these things costs at least $700, plus a monthly service fee for it not to need a tenant's WiFi, so if I can design my own quick-and-dirty, works-most-of-the-time equivalent for 1/10 of that price I'd be ecstatic.

I think it's a great idea. I used my IP cam (Foscam) to detection motion for a rat I suspected was in our yard. I setup traps and watched it stick its nose in and get slapped by the trap (but it didn't get trapped, unfortunately). Hahaha I have a post about it floating around here somewhere with the video footage :)

You'll definitely want to do some testing beforehand in terms of the lighting/focus issues but I think it could work out well for what you want to do. Would you be connecting it to your tenant's wifi though? Or would you have it hooked up to a mobile hotspot or something?

Just out of curiosity, what kind of meter is this for btw?

cadillacmike

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2017, 09:26:45 PM »
This one is getting way down into the weeds.

Most likely there is NO law preventing a property owner from seeing his electrical and / or water meters. Remember people, it's in a service shack that is otherwise not open except to get the meters read.

However siphoning off a tenant's internet connection and / or electricity is problematic as I stated earlier.

If there is a common area electrical service, that issue is moot, and the owner can always have a low bandwidth internet connection installed for his camera to use.


BudgetSlasher

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2017, 10:07:03 AM »
This one is getting way down into the weeds.

Most likely there is NO law preventing a property owner from seeing his electrical and / or water meters. Remember people, it's in a service shack that is otherwise not open except to get the meters read.

However siphoning off a tenant's internet connection and / or electricity is problematic as I stated earlier.

If there is a common area electrical service, that issue is moot, and the owner can always have a low bandwidth internet connection installed for his camera to use.

Nowhere do he say that is it a "service shack", in fact he calls in a "supply closet"; I read closet as being inside the structure. Perhaps I missed it, but I did not read anything indicating that the closet has limited access.

So it could very well be a dark closet inside the house which the tenants have access to; either for storage purposes or to shut off the utilities in case of an emergency such as gas or water leak or even to reset a breaker (depending on what utilities we are in the closet).

I am sure either settle law or the lease allows the landlord to review the meters, at least if he is the one responsible for paying the bill. I would also bet that the access need to be something like reasonable manner/time/advanced notice; I do not personally see how a live webcam would be considered reasonable manner, nor do I see how 24/7 access to a closet would be considered reasonable.

Now if the location is in fact an exterior shack, or even locked closet, which the tenants to not have access to, then I doubt it would be considered part of the leasehold and the owner could do whatever he darn well pleases with it. Assuming, as you do, that the landlord does it at his own cost and not at the expense of the tenant for power and internet access without permission.

cadillacmike

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2017, 12:11:30 PM »
I have Never heard of a utility meter located Inside a premise. How would the meter get read?
« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 12:55:33 AM by cadillacmike »

BudgetSlasher

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2017, 03:22:15 PM »
I have Never hears of a utility meter located Inside a premise. How would the meter get read?

Both my prior house and my in-laws house had the water meter on the interior, but low voltage wiring to the exterior. The interior meters look something like this http://www.orwelltoday.com/watermeterwired.jpg with the wiring leading outside to what I assume is a wireless communication box (i cannot find any pictures for the style that was used in either house to seemingly retrofit a stupid meter into a smart meter.)

cadillacmike

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2017, 12:59:50 AM »
I have Never heard of a utility meter located Inside a premise. How would the meter get read?

Both my prior house and my in-laws house had the water meter on the interior, but low voltage wiring to the exterior. The interior meters look something like this http://www.orwelltoday.com/watermeterwired.jpg with the wiring leading outside to what I assume is a wireless communication box (i cannot find any pictures for the style that was used in either house to seemingly retrofit a stupid meter into a smart meter.)


Man, you quoted my typo! I fixed it here.

So how does the meter get read, a device is hooked to the outside connection - whatever that is ?? Strange, I've never seen it before.  It appears that such an arrangement is prone to tampering (bypassing) and might be against the law in some or many states.


sokoloff

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2017, 02:26:10 AM »
Most of the meters are read wirelessly now.

A utility car/truck drives slowly around a neighborhood and picks up the periodic blind broadcast from meters in the area, typically on the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) radio band.

I put together a quick Raspberry Pi solution with a software defined radio receiver and I could pick up about 20 meters from inside my house (4 were my own, 16 were other people's).

As far as tampering, the primary control against tampering is that the penalties are fairly severe. There's nothing in particular that would stop you physically from removing your meter and jumpering across the lugs, or wiring a relay that would intermittently jumper across them. There are "tamper" flags that are broadcast in the ISM stream; I didn't look into what causes them to be set, but I did note that my electric meter tamper flag was set, despite my not having tampered with anything, so I doubt that the utility makes great use of that data. If your electric bill suddenly drops to 20% of its previous value, I imagine the utility might look into without a tamper flag in the stream. (Note also that they can monitor your power usage without ever setting foot on your property. This also means that the usage information is available to others, some of whom might be trying to profile whether your property is occupied or not.)

BudgetSlasher

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2017, 06:21:58 PM »
I have Never heard of a utility meter located Inside a premise. How would the meter get read?

Both my prior house and my in-laws house had the water meter on the interior, but low voltage wiring to the exterior. The interior meters look something like this http://www.orwelltoday.com/watermeterwired.jpg with the wiring leading outside to what I assume is a wireless communication box (i cannot find any pictures for the style that was used in either house to seemingly retrofit a stupid meter into a smart meter.)


Man, you quoted my typo! I fixed it here.

So how does the meter get read, a device is hooked to the outside connection - whatever that is ?? Strange, I've never seen it before.  It appears that such an arrangement is prone to tampering (bypassing) and might be against the law in some or many states.

Sorry to have caught a typo, I hate it when that happens to me.

Here pretty much everything is wireless, the power company uses smart meters which are monitored by receivers placed every so often on the power poles. That is also how they manage to provide hour-by-hour, but not real-time, usage stats. I do not know if the wireless water meters piggy back on that or truck as sokoloff mentioned.

I'm am guess a combination of high penalties and technical factor involved in tampering (you can't simply disconnect the wiring and there is probably a few layers of built in anti-tampering beyond that).

Spork

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Re: A clever use for an IP camera
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2017, 04:31:07 PM »
I have Never heard of a utility meter located Inside a premise. How would the meter get read?

Both my prior house and my in-laws house had the water meter on the interior, but low voltage wiring to the exterior. The interior meters look something like this http://www.orwelltoday.com/watermeterwired.jpg with the wiring leading outside to what I assume is a wireless communication box (i cannot find any pictures for the style that was used in either house to seemingly retrofit a stupid meter into a smart meter.)


Man, you quoted my typo! I fixed it here.

So how does the meter get read, a device is hooked to the outside connection - whatever that is ?? Strange, I've never seen it before.  It appears that such an arrangement is prone to tampering (bypassing) and might be against the law in some or many states.

Sorry to have caught a typo, I hate it when that happens to me.

Here pretty much everything is wireless, the power company uses smart meters which are monitored by receivers placed every so often on the power poles. That is also how they manage to provide hour-by-hour, but not real-time, usage stats. I do not know if the wireless water meters piggy back on that or truck as sokoloff mentioned.

I'm am guess a combination of high penalties and technical factor involved in tampering (you can't simply disconnect the wiring and there is probably a few layers of built in anti-tampering beyond that).

The electric smart meters I have seen effectively do IP-over-powerline.  In fact, around here they'll give you a little doohickey that will plug into the wall and display your metered usage.  It does a dhcp/ tftp boot from a server hanging off the grid somewhere and boots over the same receptacle it draws power from.  I actually hacked mine so that I could read/store/graph electrical usage.

edit: here was my hack for graphing power usage: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/home-made-power-monitor/
« Last Edit: June 13, 2017, 04:41:23 PM by Spork »