How your old cell phone can help catch burglars - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

How your old cell phone can help catch burglars

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It seems like every few months there's a new phone on the market. What do you do with your old device? 

Tech experts say old smart phones and tablets can be re-purposed as home security cameras. All you need is Wi-Fi and apps that are typically free or cost only a few dollars.

You could recycle that spare smart phone, give it to a family member or make a few bucks by selling it.

At "Sell you Mac" in Blue Ash, company owner Brain Burke said they buy 20 to 50 devices a week.

"iPhone 4s aren't worth much anymore, in the 20 to 30 dollar range. iPhone 4S will a little more in the 40 to 50 dollars. iPhone 5s around $100," Burke said.

Burke said if you'd rather hold onto that old device, you could make that old smartphone work for you as a home surveillance system.

“It's pretty amazing what you can do for virtually no money," said Dave Hatter, FOX19 NOW's technology expert.

Hatter explained it's as easy as downloading an app. All you need is Wi-Fi, so the phone doesn't even need to be activated. Then just set up the device or multiple devices around your house. You can then monitor the live feed on a cell phone or computer from your work or virtually anywhere.

"You can use anything that's got a camera. Ideally, it would be good if it had a microphone or a speaker in it because most of these apps, like Alarm Force, you can talk to someone that's in your house," he said. “You can build a pretty elaborate system.”

There are apps for both Apple and Android with names like "Presence," "Alfred," and "Motion Detector." Click here for a full list of options.

We wanted to see how it would work, so we installed the free "Presence" and set up spare smart devices around the FOX19 NOW newsroom and a home in Northern Kentucky. The motion detection worked and we were able to monitor the feed from miles away.

Hatter says there are a few security concerns to think about before you try this out. He said wipe your old device and set it back to its factory defaults. Then upgrade it, so it has the latest operating system. Then do your homework: Research the app you are considering before you download. Most importantly, make sure your network is secure.

"If you don't know what you're doing basically someone else could use that as a way to hook into your network and activate the cameras and possibly watch you," he cautioned. “Someone could figure out when you're home alone and when you're not there and possibly more importantly steal your stuff. You could be potentially setting yourself up for some security issues."

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