Raspberry Pi camera stream with control dashboard

I made my Raspberry Pi into a controllable security camera so I can stalk my cat from work. Here is how I did it.


Hooking up the camera module and enabling it

The camera is connected to the Raspberry by inserting the Flex cable into the slot situated between the HDMI port and the Ethernet port.

Once the camera in inserted it must be enabled. Type

sudo raspi-config

and go to Interfacing Options and enable the camera module.

Once the camera has been plugged in and enabled you can test it by taking a still picture

 raspistill -o image.jpg

Video stream using mjpg-streamer

I used mjpeg-streamer to run a lightweight webcam stream hosted on a website. It works well because it has explicit support for the Raspberry Pi camera module. First, install the dependencies:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git cmake libjpeg8-dev

Then, clone the repository

git clone https://github.com/jacksonliam/mjpg-streamer.git

and build the code

cd mjpg-streamer-experimental
mkdir _build
cd _build
cmake ..
sudo make install

Move the compiled .so-files to an appropriate system directory:

cd ..
sudo cp output_http.so /usr/local/lib/.
sudo cp input_raspicam.so /usr/local/lib/.

Make a folder for the website and move the sample live stream html file there :

sudo mkdir /var/www
sudo cp ./www/stream_simple.html /var/www/index.html

We are now ready to run the live stream. The following command will stream the input from the Raspberry Pi camera to a web server listening to the port 8080:

mjpg_streamer -o "/usr/local/lib/output_http.so -w /var/www" -i "/usr/local/lib/input_raspicam.so"

The red light on the camera module should now light up. On the same network as the Raspberry, the stream can now be found by opening a browser and going to http://<raspberry ip>:8080

Making it into a service

By making the live stream into a system service, we can make it turn on automatically on reboot (or after power outage) and more easily control turning it on and off. Create a new file called /etc/systemd/system/livestream.service with the following content:

Description=Webcam service
After=multi-user.target network.target network-online.target

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/mjpg_streamer -o "/usr/local/lib/output_http.so -w /var/www -c <username>:<password>" -i "/usr/local/lib/input_raspicam.so"


Remember to replace <username> and <password> in the line starting with ExecStart above. This will be the credentials used to access the livestream.

To run the live stream automatically on boot, we enable the service:

sudo chmod 664 /etc/systemd/system/livestream.service
sudo systemctl enable livestream.service

Accessing the stream from outside the local network

To be able to view the live stream from outside your local network, go into your router’s Port Forwarding settings and forward any outgoing requests for port 8080 to the internal port 8080 on the Raspberry Pi’s local IP address.

Turning the camera on at specific times

The set up so far will make the camera stream stay on for as long as the Raspberry Pi is on. For extra security and privacy, it might be useful to only run the camera stream when you are at work or out of the house. One simple way to make this happen is to make a cron job. Edit the system crontab of the Raspberry:

sudo crontab -e

Then, write the following:

30 9 * * 1-5 systemctl start livestream
30 16 * * 1-5 systemctl stop livestream

This will make the livestream turn itself on every weekday (1-5) at 9:30 am and turn itself off every weekday at 4:30 pm. Change the example above as appropriate.

Control dashboard

In addition to the steps above I also set up a dashboard so I can more easily control the camera from any computer or phone connected to my local network at home. This was a little bit more involved and might be the topic of a future post.

Dashboard for controlling camera hosted on the local network