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Don't know if this is the right place to put this but here it is. I was wondering if anyone use a Web Cam set up on properties you service. My main acount is a large retail store. About 7 acres of asphalt. They are located about 8 or 9 miles from my home. However the store is located at a higher elevation than me and even though it's only eight miles away the weather change is incredible. I spend an awful lot of time from late november to middle of march checking that lot in the middle of the night. Next year I am going to set up a web cam in the front of the store pointing towards the lot. (the lot is lit most of the time) I should say I'm going to do it if I can set this up for a couple hundred, even three or four hundred bucks. Anyone else do this or know how? I just started checking into them.
 

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Good idea

The webcam sounds like a great idea.

I also service an area where there are drastic differences in snowfall. Sometimes I go out plowing and don't have to do any of my more southerly contracts, while in the north I'm plowing like crazy.

There's a TV station with a webcam in my southern area, but I've been unable to find one to the north.

Sometimes I call a kid who works for me landscaping in the summer to find out what the snow situation is like at the north end, but it's not very practical at 3 a.m. - I think his parents might get a little upset.
 

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I've found a couple that are actually on internet sites, and they're reasonably close to the farthest reaches of our coverage area. Once the alarm wakes me the first thing I do is look at the radar, and the second thing I do is look at those webcams. It actually made all the difference just the other day--there was one stinking band of lake effect that put down about an inch of snow at one account while only a couple miles away there was nothing. It was looking at the one webcam that let me know for sure that I had to get on the road right away.
 

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How would this work? I'm assuming you'd have to have access to on an onsite computer network and internet connection. So if you provided the camera and the wiring, the customer would have to allow you access to the DSL/T1 so you can feed the image.

This is a good idea. I could see how it might be worth the effort on larger contracts. However, for larger contracts I'd be more willing to drive to the site anyways because if I'm waiting to see snow in the lot, I'm too late anyways since microclimates and isolated areas could have ice that won't show up on the camera. But for the spot lake effect bands that are hard to follow/predict, it might be a good idea.
 

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Here is some information that should be useful in setting up a web cam.

There has been lots of questions asked of me on how I set up the trail cam. The purpose of this page will be to describe the methods and equipment used to allow a live web cam to be setup at the trail side.

The first thing I had to do was find a suitable location. My plan was to have all the equipment (PC, monitor, cam) right at the trail and run power and a phone line to the equipment. There is technology out there that allows just the cam to be there, but those cams are a bit pricey (about $500+) and are also better suited for a computer that is on a high speed internet connection. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who's back yard backs up to one of the main trails up here, so after a little deal making, I got his permission to have all the equipment out there.

Once the site was obtained, then I needed to figure out a way to secure the equipment from the weather and any vandals. I realized that there was no way to make the equipment completely secure from vandals, but it needed to at least deter someone from wanting to mess with it. My main concern with the weather was to keep the equipment dry. I figured the cold would not be as much an issue, as the computer would generate it's own heat and most computer equipment works better under cold conditions that hot anyway. Therefore, the box is not insulated and everything worked just fine, even with temps of -26 degrees F last year. What I came up with is a box made of OSB plywood to hold the computer and monitor. The box is elevated off the ground to allow easier access to and also to keep it from getting completely buried under the snow in the winter. I still have to dig out around the computer in the winter, but I am afraid that if I elevate the box too much, then the strong winds that we get up here could topple it. I actually use metal fence posts to elevate the box. They are attached to the box and then the posts are driven into the ground. I painted the outside of the box to help protect it from the moisture and attached aluminum roof flashing to the top to help protect it even further from the elements. The roof was painted before the flashing was applied. There is power and phone running to the box. I had a second phone line setup and pay for it, so that it will not conflict with my friends phone line usage. The box is only about 50 feet from the back of the house, so there was no meaningful voltage drop to the machine. I do not know how far I could run power through extension cords before the power drop became too large to be able to run the computer, but a previous setup had a power cord run of about 100 feet and there was no problems.

To secure the camera and also get it closer to the trail, I used two 10 foot pieces of PVC electrical conduit. I did not use all 10 feet of one of the pieces of PVC conduit. Once end of the conduit is supported by the computers box and the other is supported by a 2x4. I took metal strapping and helped to secure the camera end of the PVC to the 2x4. I made sure to have the cam and it's 2x4 support 6-7 feet off the trail and it actually sits amongst several small trees. That way I am not putting any snowmobiler at an adverse risk. They would hit the trees before they hit the 2x4 and the 2x4 would also give quite easily and pull out of the ground. The cam is about 100 feet from a road crossing in the trail, so speeds at that location are typically under 20 mph anyway. To secure the cam, I used a PVC electrical junction box. The box is normally used for connecting 2 separate lengths of the PVC tubing and forming a 90 degree angle. I used one of the connection openings to allow the camera to look out of. I removed the lower 1/2 of the connection receiver on the junction box because snow has a way of accumulating everywhere up here and would pile up in front of the camera and block the view. I also placed a piece of 1/8" clear plastic in the opening that the camera looks through to help protect the camera from the elements. The camera generates it's own little bit of heat and I did not have any problems with it functioning in the -26 degree weather last year.

The camera now being used is a Veo Velocity Connect. It provides true 1280 x 1024 resolution images at 1.3 mega pixels. Because the camera shoots such high quality images, it does need some special computer hardware and software. The hardware requirements are a 650 MHz Pentium III or AMD Athlon processor or faster, 256 MB of ram, 300 MB of hard disk space a USB 2.0 port, SVGA 800x600 resolution Monitor, 24-bit color, DirectX Compatible 16 MB Video Card and a 12x CD-ROM drive or better. I will tell you that my computer only has 192 MB of ram and works. I think the 256 MB is really needed for the video conferencing that the cam can perform. All other hardware requirements are needed for the cam to take still shots and upload them to the web. The software requirements are Windows 2000 or XP. It will not run on Windows 95, 98 or ME.

I can say that I also use(d) cams from Logitech (Quick Cam Pro 4000) and Creative (PC CAM 600 or PC CAM 550). Their resolutions are not as great, but they also require less hardware and software. The cams from Creative seem to be better than the Logitech, but not by much. The cost of the cams are in the $65-$100 range.

Many of the cams come with their own software to run the cam, take a picture and then upload to the web. However, I have found some of these software programs to be less than friendly to work with and they will not support other cams. For those reasons, I use a cam software called KABcam. The software can be downloaded for free as an evaluation copy from their website. The evaluation copy does not have an expiration date, but will put a watermark on all the images. The purchase price for the software is only $20 and I recommend you just purchase the license for software, as it works great and has worked for all the types of cams I have used.

I think that about covers the things. Hope this helps anyone who is interested in having their own cam.

Great idea, by the way!

Chuck B.
 

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it seems like a good idea but the the true question is if the customer would have the capablity to let you tap into their system and would want you taped into their network. also if by some chance they would switch contractors on you and or become problem paying now you spent that money and are out it because the cam would then become worthless if ya didnt have the lot anymore...
 

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Just think of the possibilities if all the contractors in your area got together and set up web cams. Man that would be the ultimate weather tool, IMO!

Chuck B.
 

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I would have to agree that this is an excellent idea and somewhat easy to carry out now with wireless technologies as well as wireless B or G with encryption for "safety" and speed. A person could setup a wireless webcam in a weather tight enclosure and simply intall a wireless access point inside the business (within 100-150 feet) or place allowing you to make the connection if they had high speed internet access internally. The wireless access point or router would cost around $80.00 or less (LinkSys) and the wireless webcam to go with it would be about $180.00. Granted you would need permission, a lil know how, and highspeed internet access. Another more difficult and more involved option is wireless broadband access for the internet access. Here we have a provider that has wireless broadband where you get a small dish like antenna that sends and receives to one of their radio towers in the area within 9 miles of any tower and provides internet access at cable speeds. Then this setup would be completely independant (outside of A/C power) and the wireless broadband access is only $49.00 a month. Of course I say "only" if this account was really worth the effort and minimal expense.
 

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how about using one of the new photo cell phones? you'd have to have it be able to shoot a pic automatically and send it everyso often.......maybe a phone that runs java. you could even have a custom program made.
 

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I am in a really good situation. An existing Webcam looks right on my biggest customer.
See http://www.pinecam.com/
Choose Computerhounds view
Many high schools have webcams so they can give you relevant info too. TV news pages often have hiway dept traffic cams that help. Lots of options if you dig a bit. Still, nothing like going and looking for yourself. ;)
 
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