You might have a baby/dog/hamster that you want to keep an eye on when you’re not there. We understand: they’re lovely, especially hamsters. Here’s how HackSpace magazine contributor Dr Andrew Lewis built a Raspberry Pi baby cam to watch over his small creatures…
Wireless baby monitors
You can get wireless baby monitors that have a whole range of great features for making sure your little ones are safe, sound, and sleeping happily, but they come with a hefty price tag.
In this article, you’ll find out how to make a Raspberry Pi-powered streaming camera, and combine it with a built-in I2C sensor pack that monitors temperature, pressure, and humidity. You’ll also see how you can use the GPIO pins on Raspberry Pi to turn an LED night light on and off using a web interface.
The hardware for this project is quite simple, and involves minimal soldering, but the first thing you need to do is to install Raspbian onto a microSD card for your Raspberry Pi. If you’re planning on doing a headless install, you’ll also need to enable SSH by creating an empty file called
SSH on the root of the Raspbian install, and a file with your wireless LAN details called
You can download the code for this as well as the 3D-printable files from our GitHub. You’ll need to transfer the code to the Raspberry Pi. Next, connect the camera, the BME280 board, and the LEDs to the Raspberry Pi, as shown in the circuit diagram.
Insert the microSD card into the Raspberry Pi and boot up. If everything is working OK, you should be able to see the IP address for your device listed on your hub or router, and you should be able to connect to it via SSH. If you don’t see the Raspberry Pi listed, check your wireless connection details and make sure your adapter is supplying enough power. It’s worth taking the time to assign your Raspberry Pi with a static IP address on your network, so it can’t change its IP address unexpectedly.
Smile for Picamera
Use the raspi-config application to enable the camera interface and the I2C interface. If you’re planning on modifying the code yourself, we recommend enabling VNC access as well, because it will make editing and debugging the code once the device is put together much easier. All that remains on the software side is to update APT, download the
babycam.py script, install any dependencies with PIP, and set the script to run automatically. The main dependencies for the
babycam.py script are the
NumPy. Chances are that these are already installed on your system by default, with the exception of
RPi.bme280, which can be installed by typing
sudo pip3 install RPi.bme280 from the terminal. Once all of the dependencies are present, load up the script and give it a test run, and point your web browser at port 8000 on the Raspberry Pi. You should see a webpage with a camera image, controls for the LED lights, and a read-out of the temperature, pressure, and humidity of the room.
The easiest way to get the
babycam.py script to run on boot is to add a line to the
rc.local file. Assuming that the
babycam.py file is located in your home directory, you should add the line
python3 /home/pi/babycam.py to the
rc.local file, just before the line that reads
exit 0. It’s very important that you include the ampersand at the end of the line, otherwise the Python script will not be run in a separate process, the
rc.local file will never complete, and your Raspberry Pi will never boot.
Tinned Raspberry Pi
With the software and hardware working, you can start putting the case together. You might need to scale the 3D models to suit the tin can you have before you print them out, so measure your tin before you click Print. You’ll also want to remove any inner lip from the top of the can using a can opener, and make a small hole in the side of the can near the bottom for the USB power cable. Next, make a hole in the bottom of the can for the LED cables to pass through.
If you haven’t already done so, solder appropriate leads to your LEDs, and don’t forget to put a 330 Ω resistor in-line on the positive side. The neck of the camera is supported by two lengths of aluminium armature wire. Push the wire up through each of the printed neck pieces, and use a clean soldering iron to weld the pieces together in the middle. Push the neck into the printed top section, and weld into place with a soldering iron from underneath. Be careful not to block the narrow slot with plastic, as this is where the camera cable passes up through the neck and into the camera.
Paint the tin can and the 3D-printed parts. We found that spray blackboard paint gives a good effect on 3D-printed parts, and PlastiKote stone effect paint made the tin can look a little more tactile than a flat colour. Once the paint is dry, pass the camera cable up through the slot in the neck, and then apply the heat-shrink tubing to cover the neck with a small gap at the top and bottom. Connect the camera to the top of the cable, and push the front piece on to hold it into place. Glue shouldn’t be necessary, but a little hot glue might help if the front parts don’t hold together well.
Push the power cable through the hole in the case, and secure it with a knot and some hot glue. Leave enough cable free to easily remove the top section from the can in future without stressing the wires.
This is getting heavy
Glue the bottom section onto the can with hot glue, and hot-glue the LEDs into place on the bottom, feeding the cable up through the hole and into the GPIO header. This is a good time to hot-glue a weight into the bottom of the can to improve its stability. I used an old weight from some kitchen scales, but any small weight should be fine. Finally, fix the Raspberry Pi into place on the top piece by either drilling or gluing, then reconnect the rest of the cables, and push the 3D-printed top section into the tin can. If the top section is too loose, you can add a little bit of hot glue to hold things together once you know everything is working.
That should be all of the steps complete. Plug in the USB and check the camera from a web browser. The
babycam.py script includes video, sensors, and light control. If you are using the optional USB microphone, you can expand the functionality of the app to include audio streaming, use cry detection to activate the LEDs (don’t make the LEDs too stimulating or you’ll never get a night’s sleep again), or maybe even add a Bluetooth speaker and integrate a home assistant.
HackSpace magazine issue 26
HackSpace magazine is out now, available in print from your local newsagent, the Raspberry Pi Store in Cambridge, and online from Raspberry Pi Press.
If you love HackSpace magazine as much as we do, why not have a look at the subscription offers available, including the 12-month deal that comes with a free Adafruit Circuit Playground!
And, as always, you can download the free PDF here.