Web cameras (or webcams) are little digital cameras that send still or video images out to the Internet, live or recorded. Typical webcams are simple multimedia video cameras made to shoot at close range; clip one on your computer monitor, point it at your face and you’re ready for your (often grainy) closeup. Higher end web cameras, often called network cameras, are more like security cameras capable of taking good resolution images across a room.
Webcam technology use by business is spreading rapidly as prices drop. Cheap models are below $20 and major computer manufacturers now offer web cameras built in to monitors. Webcam opportunities for business include:
1. Talking to clients or staff via videoconferencing, internet phone calls or instant messaging with live webcams equipped with microphones.
2. Promoting your business with live webcams showing what’s going at your shop or restaurant. Promoting yourself with a videoblog recorded on a web camera.
3. Monitoring your business while you’re away through webcams.
4. Giving free webcams as promotional gifts to clients and staff – cheap web cameras come embedded in stuffed animals and other toys and novelty shapes.
Webcam basic gearThe basic webcam setup is a camera you clip to your laptop screen or computer monitor and plug into your computer via a USB cable. A built-in microphone or connected headset captures the audio. Operating software comes with the web camera. Alternatively, get a laptop or monitor with webcam built in.
Shopping for webcamsWebcams are widely available online and prices are competitive. As you move up the price points for web cameras, you get better lenses (glass vs. plastic) higher image quality (up to high definition video levels), more range of shooting angles for the lens (some have automatic tracking that moves as your face moves) and better microphones.
Live webcams for communicationsTelevise yourself with a webcam through instant messaging, internet telephone calls or online videoconferencing.
Network cameras: live webcams for monitoringIf you're looking for a webcam to keep a close eye on your business premises from afar, you start to move into the security camera market with more sophisticated web cameras that may be able to shoot in the dark and respond to commands to pan, tilt and zoom. Check into a network camera - a webcam with a built in computer that can wirelessly send images to a computer network
Toy and promotional webcamsFor giveaways to clients or staff, buy novelty webcams embedded in stuffed animals or other fun shapes or branded with your logo.
Publicizing your business with webcamsPoint live webcams at the bar in your restaurant, your showroom floor, your construction site, or any other spot you want to show off on the web.
- Webcams can't stream full-motion video - sudden motions will make a blur. So keep those excited hand gestures to a minimum.
- Webcam lenses typically are fixed, meaning the lens can't zoom. Webcam software, however, can zoom to one part of the image, showing it in a larger format, though with less picture quality.