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App turns old iPhones, iPads into a home security system

Planning to upgrade your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch? Instead of selling or recycling your old iOS devices, you can turn them into home security cameras with the Presence app by People Power.

2 min read
The Presence app turns an iPad into a security camera. Jared Kohler/CNET

Setting up a home security system can involve buying expensive cameras, covering installation costs, and paying a monthly service fee.

Entrepreneur Gene Wang began searching for a more cost effective way to protect his mother's house after it was burglarized twice in one year. This lead to the development of the Presence app, a free iOS app that turns old Wi-Fi-enabled Apple devices into home security cameras.

Turn your old iPhone and iPad into home security cameras
Watch this: Turn your old iPhones and iPad into home security cameras

"In the last 12 months, there have been like 50 million iPhones that have been replaced and a lot of people keep that old phone and iPad because ... what do you do with these things? If you sell them, who knows if your private information will be comprised," said Wang, the CEO of People Power. "So what we're doing is breathing new life into these old devices."

Jared Kohler/CNET

You download the app on two devices -- one serves as a camera and the other becomes a monitor. Set up the camera device in places you want to keep an eye on, maybe the front door or your living room. Then use your other iOS device to monitor the camera feed in real time.

You don't have to monitor the feed 24/7. A motion detector feature will alert you if something moves in front of the camera and will send you a 5-second video clip via e-mail. You can also check in with someone at your home or business with two-way audio and video.

The system supports the iPad 2 and newer, the iPod touch 5th generation and newer, and the iPhone 3GS and newer. The devices need to have a working camera as well as access to a constant power source and reliable Wi-Fi.

Wang said so far the app has been used to stop a robbery in a home and catch thieves breaking into a warehouse. He also said the Miami Unified School District in Miami, Ariz., voted to use the Presence app to set up security cameras in schools and is asking the community to donate used smartphones.

But what's to keep someone from stealing the used Apple devices mounted on walls and ceilings?

Wang warns would-be thieves, "We're going to have a picture of you so that's not the brightest thing you can do."

People Power will soon be offering a Pro subscription service that will offer more elaborate features, like targeted motion detection and HD-quality video. They are also expanding to support connected devices beyond iOS, including Android, and to allow for remote control of connected home gadgets like smart thermostats and energy-efficient plugs.