Surveillance Systems, Pt. II

Writing for Lockergnome can be a lot of fun. I get to research lots of cool technologies and every so often, I hit on something that really hits home. This was the case when I wrote about surveillance systems. When I started my research on surveillance systems, I had an idea of what was out there. But when I really dug into the subject, I was stunned at the huge selection of hidden surveillance cameras ...

It's positively freaky.

I found some absolutely amazing (and downright scary) devices. Stealthy gear I never thought existed. Surveillance cameras that were stuffed into the most unassuming places. How scary? Check this out ..., for example, has wireless surveillance cameras that are built into a boom box, clock radio, wall clock, air cleaner, smoke detector, VCR, and computer speakers. If someone gives you one of these gift horses, be sure to look it in its mouth.

That's only a start. The company offers a wireless cigarette pack cam (in your choice of Camel Filters, Camel Lights, Winston, Marlboro, Marlboro Lights, or Kool) that is powered with a single 9 volt battery. According to their website, the pack o' butts cam can transmit signals 1000 feet line of sight or 500 feet through walls. Not a smoker? Good! How about a wireless cell phone camera, a wireless calculator camera, or a wireless button camera? Just the thing for those trench coat endeavors!

Want more? PalmVid has wireless cameras hidden in color tvs, tv antennas, plants, pencil sharpeners, books, coffee makers, and table lamps, among others. has a stealthy pen cam and VHS cassette tape cam, in addition to many of the aforementioned units. Cams can be hidden in just about anything around the house. has emergency light and thermostat units, while Simply Be Safe has a model that's built into a lightbulb. And if you're going mobile, 123 Security Products offers the "Digital Chaperone" and School Bus VCR system.

Ah, but my needs are more pedestrian. I don't need to bust an evil nanny, wayward spouse, or errant child. I just want to keep an eye on what's going on out in the yard from my home office. The goal for my surveillance system is to know where the kids are, what the dogs are up to, and whether the mail's arrived. If the kids are making fun of the mail man as the Rottweilers tear him limb from limb, I want to know about it, ASAP. A surveillance system would bring that piece of mind.

So I've been wandering around ranchero indebto, looking for the most likely camera locations. A three unit surveillance system should cover the front yard, back yard, and garage pretty well. I still need to work out the specific locations, but I have a general idea of where they'll sit.

I have a do-it-yourself rule in my house. I don't tackle any projects that involves electrical wiring or plumbing. After all, I like my electricity to stay in the wires and my water to stay in the pipes. So when I started planning the surveillance system, I decided to go the wireless route. I may change this in the future, but for now, all of the cameras will plug into existing electrical outlets. But I wouldn't mind skipping the outlets, altogether. has a cool Motion Detector SolarCam that uses solar cells for power, but the range is substantially less than their other units.

Since this is primarily to keep an eye on the yard, I'll go without a dedicated digital video recorder (DVR) to start. After all, Ranchero Indebto isn't Fort Knox and it sure isn't likely to be featured on Cribs ... ;)

Related: more wireless surveillance cameras