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Upgrading your phone every few years or even every year is quickly becoming the norm, and while I would of course try to sell the old phone, smartphones sometimes lose value so quickly that selling old material is really not worth it. The end result is that you could have a smartphone lying around the house taking up space in a drawer.

If you’re looking for an easy way to put your device to good use, we have an easy-to-setup project that you can do without too much time or effort: you can turn your phone into a security camera. There are a number of reasons why you might want to have a home security camera to set up a simple closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system monitoring your home or office.

However, installing dedicated CCTV equipment is quite expensive and most people cannot do it themselves. All you need is an old smartphone or tablet and the right software. We had many other bad experiences until we tried Home Security Camera – Alfred and Web Camera Online – CCTV IP Cam. Both apps worked reliably, although they lacked many features mentioned elsewhere.

An improvised home surveillance system

There are many sophisticated home surveillance systems that you can purchase for your home. From simple ones that help you track your pets to ones that can detect theft or broadcast live events, there are plenty of options on the market.

However, if you fancy a simple home surveillance system that won’t cost you anything to set up, this could be a perfect project to try. It doesn’t promise five-star performance, but if you do it right, it should be a very worthwhile setup for the home. It is one of the cool apps that you can use for an old Android device.

  • An older Android phone, preferably running Android 7 or earlier.
  • Google live transcription and notification app.
  • An automation app like Tasker, IFTTT, or MacroDroid (we’ll be using MacroDroid).

Google Live Transcribe app settings and Notification

The Google “Live Transcribe and Notification” app is where most of the heavy lifting will take place. The nifty little app can detect and identify a wide range of sounds. From animal sounds like barking, to burglary-related sounds like breaking glass, to fire alarms and baby cries, the app has you covered.

To configure the app:

  • Download the Live Transcribe and Notification app from the Google Play Store. Once downloaded, install it and grant all necessary permissions. Depending on your phone manufacturer and Android version, you may already have the app installed.
  • Quit the app.
  • Open the Settings app on your phone, locate and tap Accessibility > Sound notification, then enable sound notification. Just search for “accessibility” in the “search settings” input box on newer versions of Android.
  • Tap the back button to return to the accessibility permissions screen.
  • Scroll down to locate and tap Live Transcribe.
  • Enable live transcription. A button will appear at the bottom of the screen unless you are using a newer version of Android.
  • Tap the floating Accessibility button that appears at the bottom of your screen to open the Live Transcription UI. If you don’t see any, just launch the Live Transcribe app.
  • Snap, whistle, flush the toilet, play music, and try various other sounds to check if the app is set up correctly. Also say a few words to see if the transcription is correct.

If you followed the steps precisely, the app should label each sound with considerable accuracy. With that, it’s clear to continue.

To receive notifications on your phone whenever it detects a sound you are interested in, you need to enable and select the sounds you want to be notified about. Do it in the Live Transcribe and Sound Notification app like this:

  • Open the sound notification screen from the Live Transcribe and Sound Notification app. The sound notification screen is different from the live transcription screen. You should be on the sound notifications screen as shown in the first screenshot above. If you are on the live transcription screen, click the gear icon in the lower left corner of the screen and tap Open sound notifications.
  • Click the settings icon in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • Turn on the switch and sound notifications are paused. If it says sound notifications are on, leave that untouched.
  • Then tap Sound notifications are enabled to display the sound notification preferences screen.
  • Turn on the switch next to the sounds you want to be notified about. For example, turn on the switch next to Baby Sounds and Dog Barking if you want to receive a text message on your phone whenever your dog barks or your baby cries when you’re away.

Configuring MacroDroid

The next step is to configure the MacroDroid application. MacroDroid is an Android automation app that you can use to automate a variety of Android tasks. It uses a trigger action operating model, where it performs an action in response to a predefined condition or trigger. For example, you can schedule the app to send a text message with your child’s “coming home” number at 6:00 p.m. every day.

In this project, we are using the app to extend the functionality of the live transcription and notification app. The Live Transcribe app does not have a remote notification feature. Instead, it uses MacroDroid to send remote notifications when your phone detects an interesting sound.

  • Install the MacroDroid app from the Play Store.
  • Launch the MacroDroid application and grant the requested permissions.
  • On your MacroDroid’s home screen, tap Add Macro, then tap the plus icon at the top of the area labeled Triggers.
  • On the next screen, tap Device events > Notification > Notification received > OK.
  • In the message that appears, choose Select one or more applications, then press OK > Live transcription and sound notification.
  • On the next screen, leave all options untouched and tap OK. You will return to the MacroDroid home screen.

Final Words: How to Turn an Old Android Phone into a Home Surveillance System

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