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Tiny, Free Roaming Webcams?

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Anonymous
January 17, 2001 7:39:56 PM

An interesting problem was put in front of me and I'm looking information for the best solution. Make an extremely lightweight, self-contained webcam system fully independent of a base station, but yet able to upload pics to a file server from nearly any location in the state of Iowa to be shown on a website in realtime.

Every year there is a big 7 day bicycle ride in Iowa called RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) and I thought it would be cool to mount a webcam on my bike when I go this July. I looked around on the web and the only similar implementations I could find included a bike trailer and 20lbs worth of computer parts. I know that a person can do better than that. I'll be at least 5 miles from a support van at any time so short range solutions (Bluetooth, 2.4ghz wireless LAN) isn't an option unfortunately. What I'm looking into is a small webcam linked to a PDA or laptop with a cellular modem. The webcam takes pictures every couple of minutes and the PDA or laptop takes the image, calls on the cell modem, uploads the pic using ftp, and disconnects the call. This saves me cellular charges and conserves power so that I don't have to carry a bunch of batteries with me.

Basically I've gotten to the point that I need a firm set of hardware and a good wireless implementation to get the information to the servers. Below is what I will need for the system. Any suggestions for each piece, or a full working system that could be purchased would be very helpful.

Webcam: the smaller and more power efficient the better, something all weather, the size and shape of a pen would be optimal since aerodynamics play a part in this piece and I don't want something like a Logitech QuickCam stuck to my helmet.

I actually haven't found a digital camera that'll fit my requirements so I'm looking into an analog camera with an analog -> USB adapter.

I'm looking at the

SuperCircuits pc75wr analog camera --> http://www.supercircuits.com/

and the Belkin analog -> USB converter --> http://www.usbstuff.com/capture.html

How will this work? Any better suggestions? The size and shape of the SuperCircuits camera is ideal for me.

Computer: Needs to be able to connect to both a Webcam and a Cellular Modem and be able to do the work explained above. As power efficient as possible, the longest lasting batteries possible. Needs to fit in bicycling jersey pocket (about 4 inches wide and 8 inches deep) or failing that a small backpack. Needs to be weather resistant. I've tried Palms, Handsprings, iPAQs, and HP PDAs and none give me what I'm looking for so I'm starting out now looking for sub-laptops (ie Sony Vaio size). Suggestions?

Modem: this is problematic as not all of Iowa is covered for digital cellular service but all of Iowa IS covered for analog at least. Another option may be the recently reinstated Iridium system (I read somewhere they allowed data transfers).


Any help would be greatly appreciated,
January 18, 2001 9:02:17 AM

I don't know if this helps, but you may try contacting the news media that cover the Olympics. They use entire solutions designed to do just what you want. Pobably expensive though, but who knows. Perhaps worth a try.

P.S. you might want to use a "?" instead of a idea symbol in your next question post.

:wink: :cool: :wink: :cool: :wink: :cool: :wink: :cool:
:smile: <b><font color=green> Have a day </font color=green></b> :smile:
January 18, 2001 9:59:02 AM

Can't help you with the cam, but do have a suggestion for the bike/computer. A brittish company makes a high output in-hub generator for lighting systems that could potentially keep the battery charged. It is very efficient (low friction).

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