Making Android Smart Phone a Remote IP Camera

When you are going to purchase a new smartphone like iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5, don’t just throw your old devices away. Via socket connection, we can build a remote monitoring system with obsolete mobile devices instead of purchasing expensive Webcams or wireless cameras. In this article, I’d like to share how to connect an Android camera app to a remote server by socket, as well as how to display the camera preview frames of my mobile device on the server Window.

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The following points helped me figure out the solution:

  1. Create a customized Android camera application, and capture preview data from Android camera.
  2. Send the preview data to a remote server frame by frame through Socket.
  3. Convert the preview data format from NV21 to RGB on the server.
  4. Draw and display RGB data in Swing component.

Android Camera – Socket Connection – Remote Monitor

To quickly build up a custom Android camera application, we don’t need to spend too much time. Google has already provided us an online tutorial Camera. Based on the source code, we just need to make a few improvements.

Create a preview callback to receive copies of preview frames:

private Camera.PreviewCallback mPreviewCallback = new PreviewCallback() {

        public void onPreviewFrame(byte[] data, Camera camera) {
            // TODO Auto-generated method stub
        	synchronized (mQueue) {
    			if (mQueue.size() == MAX_BUFFER) {

Register preview callback before starting the camera preview:

try {

        } catch (Exception e){
            Log.d(TAG, "Error starting camera preview: " + e.getMessage());

Do not forget to remove preview callback before stopping the camera:

public void onPause() {
    	if (mCamera != null) {

Use AlertDialog to initialize the IP address and port number:

private void setting() {
		LayoutInflater factory = LayoutInflater.from(this);
        final View textEntryView = factory.inflate(R.layout.server_setting, null);
        AlertDialog dialog =  new AlertDialog.Builder(IPCamera.this)
            .setPositiveButton(R.string.ok, new DialogInterface.OnClickListener() {
                public void onClick(DialogInterface dialog, int whichButton) {

                	EditText ipEdit = (EditText)textEntryView.findViewById(;
                	EditText portEdit = (EditText)textEntryView.findViewById(;
                	mIP = ipEdit.getText().toString();
                	mPort = Integer.parseInt(portEdit.getText().toString());

                	Toast.makeText(IPCamera.this, "New address: " + mIP + ":" + mPort, Toast.LENGTH_LONG).show();
            .setNegativeButton(R.string.cancel, new DialogInterface.OnClickListener() {
                public void onClick(DialogInterface dialog, int whichButton) {

                    /* User clicked cancel so do some stuff */

When clicking the start button, a socket connection will be triggered in a worker thread. We can wrap type, length, width and height in a JSON message for communication. Once the server receives the message, it will make an initialization and allocate memory for preview frames. The worker thread won’t stop sending preview frames until the stop button is pressed:

	    mSocket = new Socket();
	    mSocket.connect(new InetSocketAddress(mIP, mPort), 10000);
	    BufferedOutputStream outputStream = new BufferedOutputStream(mSocket.getOutputStream());
	    BufferedInputStream inputStream = new BufferedInputStream(mSocket.getInputStream());

	    JsonObject jsonObj = new JsonObject();
            jsonObj.addProperty("type", "data");
            jsonObj.addProperty("length", mCameraPreview.getPreviewLength());
            jsonObj.addProperty("width", mCameraPreview.getPreviewWidth());
            jsonObj.addProperty("height", mCameraPreview.getPreviewHeight());

			byte[] buff = new byte[256];
			int len = 0;
            String msg = null;

            while ((len = != -1) {
                msg = new String(buff, 0, len);

                // JSON analysis
                JsonParser parser = new JsonParser();
                boolean isJSON = true;
                JsonElement element = null;
                try {
                    element =  parser.parse(msg);
                catch (JsonParseException e) {
                    Log.e(TAG, "exception: " + e);
                    isJSON = false;
                if (isJSON && element != null) {
                    JsonObject obj = element.getAsJsonObject();
                    element = obj.get("state");
                    if (element != null && element.getAsString().equals("ok")) {
                        // send data
                        while (true) {

                            if (Thread.currentThread().isInterrupted())

                else {


On the server side, use a buffer queue to cache incoming data:

public int fillBuffer(byte[] data, int off, int len, LinkedList<byte[]> YUVQueue) {
        mTotalLength += len;
        mByteArrayOutputStream.write(data, off, len);

        if (mTotalLength == mFrameLength) {

            synchronized (YUVQueue) {

            mTotalLength = 0;         
            System.out.println("received file");

        return 0;

Referring to StackOverflow, we can use the following code to decode the NV21 data:

public static int[] convertYUVtoRGB(byte[] yuv, int width, int height)
            throws NullPointerException, IllegalArgumentException {        
        int[] out = new int[width * height];
        int sz = width * height;

        int i, j;
        int Y, Cr = 0, Cb = 0;
        for (j = 0; j < height; j++) {
            int pixPtr = j * width;
            final int jDiv2 = j >> 1;
            for (i = 0; i < width; i++) {
                Y = yuv[pixPtr];
                if (Y < 0)
                    Y += 255;
                if ((i & 0x1) != 1) {
                    final int cOff = sz + jDiv2 * width + (i >> 1) * 2;
                    Cb = yuv[cOff];
                    if (Cb < 0)
                        Cb += 127;
                        Cb -= 128;
                    Cr = yuv[cOff + 1];
                    if (Cr < 0)
                        Cr += 127;
                        Cr -= 128;
                int R = Y + Cr + (Cr >> 2) + (Cr >> 3) + (Cr >> 5);
                if (R < 0)
                    R = 0;
                else if (R > 255)
                    R = 255;
                int G = Y - (Cb >> 2) + (Cb >> 4) + (Cb >> 5) - (Cr >> 1)
                        + (Cr >> 3) + (Cr >> 4) + (Cr >> 5);
                if (G < 0)
                    G = 0;
                else if (G > 255)
                    G = 255;
                int B = Y + Cb + (Cb >> 1) + (Cb >> 2) + (Cb >> 6);
                if (B < 0)
                    B = 0;
                else if (B > 255)
                    B = 255;
                out[pixPtr++] = 0xff000000 + (B << 16) + (G << 8) + R;

        return out;

Create BufferedImage for rendering in Swing component:

BufferedImage bufferedImage = null;
int[] rgbArray = Utils.convertYUVtoRGB(data, mWidth, mHeight);
bufferedImage = new BufferedImage(mWidth, mHeight, BufferedImage.TYPE_USHORT_565_RGB);
bufferedImage.setRGB(0, 0, mWidth, mHeight, rgbArray, 0, mWidth);
public void paint(Graphics g) {
        synchronized (mQueue) {
        	if (mQueue.size() > 0) {
        		mLastFrame = mQueue.poll();
        if (mLastFrame != null) {
        	g.drawImage(mLastFrame, 0, 0, null);
        else if (mImage != null) {
            g.drawImage(mImage, 0, 0, null);

Source Code

15 thoughts on “Making Android Smart Phone a Remote IP Camera

  1. Did you include the INTERNET permission on Android?
    Also the IP address should be the IP of the server on your network

  2. Does IPCamera work on Android smartphone without service, but it has only WiFi? Every time I tried to use the phone without service, the application has crashed. What could be wrong and how to fix this issue?

  3. You probably direct it to a database of your own and retrieve it from the database in the other phone. Just need help on how

  4. How can I direct the camera feed to be saved in a database that I have created

  5. Hi, Thank you for this tutorial.
    Can you help me out with this problem that i am facing when implementing this?

    Below is what I have done so far.
    1. I copied and pasted all the server side codes (under the folder name ‘Monitor) in Eclipse.

    2. I imported the project (the folder ‘IPCamera’) in Android Studio.

    3. I ran server on Eclipse by running and it gives me JFrame window. On Console, it says “server’s waiting”.

    4. I ran IPCamera in my Note 5 mobile phone to check if it is working fine. It seems to be working fine as it opens built-in camera and displays start button.

    5. I put ip address of (i am not too sure which ip address i should put) and port number of 8888 and press ‘start’ button.

    In Android Studio monitor, I receive an error below.

    “E/socket: failed to connect to / (port 8888) after 100000ms: isConnected failed: ECONNREFUSED (Connection refused)”

    Do you know what the problem is?

  6. Thanks for this tutorial man! Searching for this for about month and actualy find. Very useful, code is easy to understand.

  7. Hi,

    Learnt A lot from the tutorial. but still having some issues…
    The app was running on mobile and the Monitor part on eclipse IDE, the phone was connected to the Pc via USB cable .

    I wasnt Able to get any output on my monitor scene . and the log on eclipse was stuck saying servers waiting.

  8. Yes. If you want to view the image on another Android phone, you just need to create a simple Activity with a view – ImageView or any custom view – for rendering the received image data.

  9. Hi,
    I was wondering if it is possible to view the image on another Android phone rather than using your computer. Can this code be modified to do that?

  10. I’m not sure whether there’s such an app. But you can ask some Android developers to make it:
    1. the app should have the permissions of SMS, email and camera
    2. once the SMS received, analyze the SMS content with your predefined keywords
    3. once keywords matched, trigger your customized camera( Don’t use camera intent) to take a picture.
    4. send the picture via email (a remote upload server connected through socket is better)
    5. That’s all

  11. Hi
    I am not a programmer, but maybee you could give me a hint, where could find an app, that can simply take a picture on request and send it to a predefined mail address.
    The request should best be triggered by a sms with some keyword. The idea is, to place my old mobile in my shelter and get a picture of the environment, whenever I want it. To save energy the device should be simply in standby all the time until it receives the SMS.
    Does anybody have an idea where I can find such an app or who could program that?
    Many thanks

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