Monocle: View & Control IP Cameras with Alexa & Arduino

Monocle enables Alexa devices such as Echo Show/Spot & FireTV to view your network IP cameras & control them with a wireless PTZ controller.

Monocle View & Control IP Cameras with Alexa & Arduino


Amazon Alexa® (at least at the time of this writing) does not inherently support any direct integration with local/private network cameras running securely inside your network. Instead Alexa focuses on providing an infrastructure for third-party camera manufacturers to integrate their cameras. This is great for the few camera manufacturers that have implemented an Alexa skill; however, many camera manufacturers are not equipped to deliver such a service or its simply not a priority for them. Some manufacturers require a subscription to their own cloud products/offerings to enable this feature. To make matters worse, many users, that have multiple security cameras installed, have heterogeneous environments with a mixture of different camera models from different manufacturers.

Thus, Monocle was born. Monocle steps in to help address these problems and provide a solution for the numerous network cameras that either do not have any cloud connectivity or where owners purposefully disable cloud connectivity for privacy concerns. In essence, Monocle is an aggregator of camera feed information that implements the necessary backend integration and secure communication with the Amazon Alexa services.

Users can define their camera feeds via the Monocle web portal which integrates that information with the Monocle Smart Home Skill to provide Alexa the listing of camera feeds as smart home devices in the user’s Alexa App. Anytime a request is made from a video-enabled Alexa powered device such as an Amazon Echo Show, Amazon Echo Spot and/or Amazon Fire TV, the Monocle servers receive the request from the Alexa gateway and returns all the necessary details on how to connect to the camera stream. The user’s Alexa device then locally connects to the camera’s video/audio stream on the private network and displays the content on screen.

Monocle View & Control IP Cameras with Alexa & Arduino schematics

With Monocle, users are now able to view any of their network cameras from any Amazon Echo video enabled device or from their TV using Amazon FireTV simply by asking, “Alexa, show me the {nursery} camera.” Now that the cameras are visible, how can the user control them? Several of these cameras have PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) capabilities. A custom Alexa skill using voice commands to control the cameras might would work well for recalling camera presets but would be incredibly cumbersome for fine adjustment or dynamic control. What the user really needs, is a physical/tactile solution capable of making fine adjustments and dynamically positioning the camera in near real time. The following software and hardware projects integrate with the Monocle platform to provide local PTZ controllers in a variety of form factors and control surfaces. These wireless PTZ controllers automatically control the last camera selected through Alexa and the Monocle Smart Home skill. Now the user can sit in front of the TV, ask Alexa on FireTV to show a specific camera feed, and then pick up the PTZ controller and move the camera around to any location or recall one of the camera’s presets.

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