Mobile Lifecasting using an iPhone and Sensr

Lifecasting is the act of broadcasting the events of ones life as they are experienced.  Lifecasts are usually real-time, and the prevalence of webcams and wireless Internet has made it possible for almost anyone to broadcast what they are doing as they are doing it.  Mobile wireless devices with Internet connectivity have opened up entirely new possibilities, making it possible to catch interesting events as they are happening — where they are happening.  Un-tethering from a laptop is incredibly liberating and allows you to share the action from where you are seeing it.

Sensr.net is a versatile service for sharing and recording image streams.  Here we focus on sharing and recording from an iPhone.

This post describes how to use Sensr.net with an iPhone App called “PhoneCam” that can transmit a continuous stream of photos to Sensr.net‘s servers.  PhoneCam is available for $2.99 from the iTunes store.  Using the iPhone means it’s possible to broadcast from almost anywhere there is WiFi or 3G.  You can even broadcast while you’re on the move.

More information about PhoneCam is available from the developer here: http://www.tidalpool.ca/phonecam/index.html.

In brief, PhoneCam periodically takes a picture with your iPhone camera and uploads it to an FTP site.  This works perfectly with Sensr.net!

The rest of this post takes you through the necessary steps of configuring Sensr.net and your iPhone to enable Lifecasting on the go.  I’ve included a lot of screenshots to help you set up your Sensr account and to adjust all the settings on PhoneCam.

Add a New Camera to your Sensr Account

Login to Sensr using your Facebook username and password.  Select the “My Cameras” page.  Here you will see thumbnails of the latest images from your existing cameras.

To add a new camera to your account, click on the big green button labeled “Add New Camera.”  This will allocate a new Camera on the Sensr servers.

Tell Sensr About your Camera

On the “Camera Info” page you should fill in the fields marked with red arrows.  Give your camera a meaningful name.  Set the Timezone of your Camera. (Note: the layout of this page changed in Sept 2010.) Click on the big green “Add Camera” button at the bottom of the page to save these settings for your new Sensr Camera.

Write down your Sensr FTP Credentials

You should now be on the “Activate Camera” step shown below. Sensr.net has allocated an FTP account for your camera. The server name, username and password constitute the FTP credentials for this account.  Write yours down for later.  These are the settings that we must give to PhoneCam so that it can talk to Sensr.net.

In the example of this post, the FTP credentials are as follows:

  • FTP Server: f3.sensr.net
  • Username: cam345
  • Password: xg1qts3v4t

After you have written down these values, click on the “Take me to my camera!” button.  You will then be on the Gallery view of your camera.  There won’t be any images yet in your gallery because it is a new camera.

Configure PhoneCam

Now it is time to configure your iPhone for image uploading to Sensr.net.  You should have already installed PhoneCam on your iPhone by using the Apple App store.  When you open it up for the first time, you should go to the “Settings” page by clicking on the lowercase italic “i” at thetop-right of the screen.

PhoneCam Servers

You will be adding a new server to the PhoneCam settings first. Notice the “Server” field at the top.  Click on the right of this line to go to the Server Settings page.  (In the screenshot below, I have already added the server I called “Lifecast.”  You won’t have this yet.)


Add a new Server

To add a new Server, click on the “Edit” tab at the top-right.

From there you will be able to select adding a new server by clicking on the “+” that appears at the top-left of the page.

Edit Server

We are finally at the page where the FTP credentials from the Sensr.net site can be entered into the PhoneCam.

* Select a meaningful name for your server.  This is for your own use.  I called my primary Sensr.net upload “Lifecast” for this example.
* For the “Host” field, enter the “FTP Server” name assigned by Sensr.net.
* Ensure that the “Path” remains empty.
* For the “Username” field, enter the “Username” from Sensr.net.
* For the “Password” field, enter the “Password” from Sensr.net.

When you are done, the page should look like this.  Go back to the Servers list by clicking the “Server” button at the top-left.

On the page that follows, click the “Done” button.  Lastly, make sure your new server has a “check-mark” next to it.  This selects which server PhoneCam uploads to.  When you have, click on the “Settings” button to get out of server configuration.

Configure Image Name and Refresh Frequency

There are a few last steps in setting up your PhoneCam.

  • Give a “File Name” for the uploaded image: use “phonecam.jpg”
  • Select an update interval for how often to upload.  I like to upload continuously when PhoneCam is on, or perhaps at an interval of 5 or 10 seconds.
  • Select “Replace Images: OFF.”  This causes PhoneCam to give each uploaded image a new filename.  This option works best with Sensr.net.

The other parameters should be left as their default values.  Here is what I use.

  • Type: JPEG
  • Quality: 80%
  • Size: 320×240

And also

  • Save TO Album: OFF
  • Title: none
  • Detail: none
  • Date/Time: OFF
  • Location: OFF

Lifecast your Life using PhoneCam and Sensr.net

At this point, you should be ready to go!  Go back to the PhoneCam home page and press the Big Red Dot to start recording images.  As each image is taken, you should see status messages at the bottom of the screen counting the number of images taken and the number of successful uploads.

Lifecasting on-the-go!

Now, when something interesting is happening in your life, you can add it to your Lifecast.  Just get out your iPhone, start up PhoneCam and press the “Big Red Dot” to start recording into the *cloud*. Sensr.net is always watching for your broadcasts and recording your data.  You can even share your images on Facebook.  (That will be the subject of another post.)

Of course, the challenge remains to “be interesting.”  Keep me posted with what you find.

9 thoughts on “Mobile Lifecasting using an iPhone and Sensr”

  1. Thank you so much for this well written and illustrated post! A couple days ago I stumbled upon Phonecam- it appealed to the IP Cam geekette in me. Within minutes Phonecam was FTP-ing images to one of my domains at Dreamhost.
    Doing a little searching for more info led me to you here. Within 30 minutes the iPhone was uploading images to Sensr.net – what a cool service!
    I want to design a hat to hold the lifecasting iPhone and free up my hands. The POV approach will be a refreshing change from the usual fixed position camera’s view.
    There are so many experiments I want to try. I use Evocam software on a headless Titanium Powerbook with a free standing iSight and a wireless IP camera, written all kinds of interesting web pages to share them, and am always psyched to learn new tricks.
    Once again, Thank You for sharing!
    Regards,
    Leslie Michel

  2. Hi Leslie –
    The hat sounds fantastic! I hope you’ll have some interesting results to share! I’ve mounted the iPhone on my windshield using a Kensington iPhone holder to record where I’m driving. Kinda interesting.

    By the way: Evocam works GREAT with Sensr.net if you haven’t tried it.

    And one more thing: we have a group for Sensr users at http://groups.google.com/group/sensrnet. We’d like to get more people to share what they’re doing in there!

    Regards,
    Tom

  3. I posted a revision to this article today in which I suggest setting “Replace Images” to OFF in settings of PhoneCam. This causes PhoneCam to give each image a unique name: “phonecam-1.jpg”, “phonecam-2.jpg”, etc. instead of naming all images “phonecam.jpg” and simply overwriting the last one. (I’ve updated the screenshots too.)

    Sometimes sensr.net gets busy doing maintenance operations. Giving each image a unique name ensures that none are lost when the load gets high.

    -Tom

  4. So here we are in 2013 and Sensr.net finally has an H.264 Video Upload app for iPhone that lets you LifeCast in full-video with audio. The addition of audio is actually a little bit creepy, and I’m contemplating making it video-only

    http://sensr.net/blog/2013/02/20/vcam-sensr-ip-camera-app-for-iphone-ipad-and-ipod-touch/

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sensr-vcam/id597995476?ls=1&mt=8

    What do you think? Do you prefer JPG stills? Video with Audio? Or Video only?

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