Your old phone is a better security camera than CCTV, says Manything CEO

What did you do with your old phone? If you're anything like us, it's currently sat in a drawer, thrilled that someone's remembering that it exists. Yeah, you tried to sell it, but the guy in the store said you needed the box, and the cable. And you wanted to keep that cable. Plus, it was worth 0.5% of what you paid for it, so you took it home with the intention of trying somewhere else and never did.

The good news is, it could have a second life - as a security camera. And we don't just mean pointing your phone's camera at something terrible happening like an extra in a Marvel movie. 

If you download and use Manything, your old trusty handset could work as a real Wi-Fi security camera, like the Nest Cam IQ, but iPhone 5 shaped.

Like this

Like this

We sat down with the CEO of Manything James West to talk about where the idea came from, and some of the unexpected things he's seen since setting up Manything.

"In 2012 there was something extraordinary happening in smartphones which was that the smartphone was already higher resolution, packed with more sensors than your standard video monitoring camera," says West.

"If you were wanting to do video monitoring of your house, or a shop, or an airport, that security camera is lower resolution than your smartphone. 

"It was pretty clear to us – even back then, by the end of 2013 – there were going to be a billion spare old generation smartphones in the market that were all of the higher specification than any CCTV cameras out there."

From thought experiment to home security

It's all well and good realizing that a device is higher spec, but how do you go from that to having a security business?

"It was really just a sort of mad thought-experiment at the beginning which is ‘what if we could write some code to turn them into home security cameras’? And what if that would cater to a market that previously didn't exist which is people who need a video monitoring camera now. Not tomorrow, not having read all the reviews, that want it now."

Many people that have a security camera use it half as a method of observation, half as a deterrent. But if you need a camera now, there's a good chance you either know something bad's about to happen, or something bad is already happening. 

"We have a very high rate of people needing us and bad things happening. Many of our users have a benign need which is ‘puppy and parcel cam’ but we've also got a whole bunch of users who have an immediate threat to their safety, so it might be domestic violence, it might be bad neighbors. It's the only security camera that they can have now.'

Not all doom and gloom

But luckily it's not just the worst side of life that Manything captures, and one of the cool features of Manything is that users can share clips of the interesting or funny things that they've caught with their cameras. 

The clips fall into a range of different categories, and West was telling us about some of the more unique uses of the Manything system that he's seen: 

"When something's happened you wanna send us, you can you can choose a category of whatever it is and these kind of reflect our user breakdown. We actually have an alien's category because we've got enough people that think they see aliens. 

"We had a very cool one which was that Arizona meteor that lit up the whole driveway. We’ve got one guy who’s a Potter who watches his furnace with it. We’ve got someone who's got a wind turbine who wants to see if it trips."

If you want to see some of the clips Manything users have shared, check out the video below:

Manything is free to download and use, with subscriptions starting from $3.99 (£2.99) that allow you to add more cameras and watch more video recorded to the Manything cloud. 

If you're interested in setting yourself up a camera (as old as an iPhone 3GS, or Android device running 4.2), check out our guide: How to turn an old smartphone into a security camera.

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.