This site was created wholely by Sam Churchill (© 2016). The webcam (which is not currently operating) will update about 1 frame per second and shows the Interstate 5 bridge and Vancouver Washington, located at River Mile 128 on the Columbia River. The Interstate 5 bridge connects Vancouver Washington and Portland.
The I-5 bridge is about 1 mile to the East of our vantage point while the Interstate railroad bridge, (and the Port of Vancouver), can be seen about 1 mile west from this vantage point. The Washington side of the river is about 1,000 ft from our location.
Vancouver Washington, the Red Lion Inn, and the boat landing at The Quay is north, from our Hayden Island location. We are directly opposite the planned Vancouver Waterfront Development Project which is expected to begin soon.
Our webcam uses a Fosscam FI 9821W, a pan/tilt camera with 720p resolution with an Ethernet output. It plugs into my router. A second camera, D-Link’s DCS-930L is also available to feed directly to Sensr.net. A cheap $10 telephoto accessory lens brings the train up close.
The objective of the HaydenIsland.Info website is to provide live video on the Interstate Bridge, viewable from a browser. The camera is a Fosscam FI 9821W, a pan and tilt 720p camera (http://amzn.to/156XBWW) and we would use our Comcast 50 Mbps connection off Comcast’s router.
There are several live streaming options: A $100 Nexus 4 can work as a camera. A streaming app on a phone may utilize Facebook or Twitter for social networking or be hosted on Ustream or Livestream.
- Ustream’s basic service is free and supported by advertising. It recommends sending a single 720p HD using Real Time Messaging Protocol streams. Ustream’s free iPhone, iPad and Android apps allow you to broadcast live video from anywhere using 3G, 4G/LTE and WiFi. Ustream also offers free streaming.Advantages of Ustream is that in the free plan, viewers do not need to register and it allows video embedding in other websites.
- Livestream’s app allows instant sharing via Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email. Advantages of Livestream is there is no advertisements in any of the plans. They have portable video encoding hardware with HDMI input so inexpensive point and shoot zoom cameras could be used. Livestream also offers a free ad-supported service and premium services at 720p up to 2.5 Mbps on Android.
- Twitter has launched Periscope, an app that broadcasts live video filmed by your smartphone to your followers on the social network. The free iPhone (only) app was acquired by Twitter in January.
- Meerkat, which launched in February 2015, generated interest at this year’s SXSW festival in March. Both Meerkat and Periscope currently uses the iPhone and a vertical format exclusively and can’t archive content, so it’s applicability for monitoring trains is limited.
- Facebook offers video on Instagram. Instagram video is like Vine, Twitter’s video sharing tool. The Instagram app supports the oEmbed standard, which means that services such as Embedly and web apps such as WordPress can display Instagram photos inline or in other apps. But there is no easy “embed” button for end-users. Yet.
Live views could also be archived at Sensr.net, 24/7 for 30 days for just $10 a month, direct from my IP camera. No computer or phone necessary.
With a 30 day, 24/7 archive, everyone could see and count exactly what trains pass through the region. That sounds like the best plan. BNSF and Union Pacific want to restrict the information to emergency response groups. They don’t want the public to know.
The (above) photo is shot on an overcast day on my Sony A5000 at 55mm.
The (above) photo was shot at the same time at 210 mm. Both photos are unprocessed. The small hazmat placards cannot be read from my location on Hayden Island, which is approximately 1,500 feet south. This train is not a unit train and appears to be carrying a variety of loads.
The best vantage point, by far, would be inside the Vancouver City Hall building, a new 5 story brick building which directly overlooks the rail traffic, in the “blast zone”, not 500 ft away from the South end of the building.
The current Vancouver City Hall Webcam changes automatically and includes the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River, Mount Hood, and the Columbia River Waterfront as well as the BNSF rail line. The live Vancouver camera is powered by Streamdays.com and may use an Axis network camera. Streamdays supports all IP cameras that can run H.264 over RTSP which is the vast majority of IP cameras available. Streamdays offers unlimited viewers and data use for $35/month.
Plug in a Ubiquity Network Camera ($140) and you’re streaming. Embed it. You’re done.
Social media should be a vital and integral component of any train monitoring system, providing ubiquitous, real-time social networking. It should include automatic notifications, live chat, timelines and archives. Live train video might be embedded in a WordPress blog, Facebook or Twitter.
Some live camera options:
The best image quality for video might take the HDMI feed from an APS sensor camera like the Sony A5000 ($300) which can zoom in, unlike most netcams. A 50-to-1 zoom camera ($300), with image stabilization might make hazmat placards readable in good weather. You feed the hdmi signal to an HDMI encoder ($200) for live video. That would total about $500 for hardware. Add $100 for a cellular-based mobile router if you’re outside. The catch with cellular, of course, is a data plan that won’t break the bank.
HDMI encoders ($200-$300) input HDMI from cameras and output a WiFi signal to nearby hotspots for live connections to Youtube, Ustream or Livestream. A FLIR camera accessory on an iPhone might be another (low resolution) option since rain and fog obscure visibility and half the trains travel at night.
A Ubiquity Network Camera ($140) can capture video even in complete darkness (from a short distance) and link through a UniFi AP Outdoor WiFi bridge ($135). That might get you 1,000 ft with a couple of 9-12db panel antennas on each side of the bridge. A 50 watt solar panel ($100) with a 35a/h battery could power the remote camera, camouflaged as a bird house.
A camera dedicated to rail traffic through the city of Vancouver might use image recognition to determine the number of coal, oil and propane cars. That information could be used for billing hazardous transit fees. Elemental Technologies might be able to do image processing and automatically count oil and coal trains coming down the river.
How much money could a live train camera generate a month for the City of Vancouver…$1K a month…$10K a month…More? Lets’ get Don Benton on this :).
Here’s what I think we need:
1. Port Forwarding:
2. Perhaps VideoWhisper Live Streaming software might be an option to add video broadcasting to WordPress sites (http://www.videowhisper.com/?p=WordPress+Live+Streaming).
3. You can control the Fosscam from an Android App: (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alexvas.dvr&feature=related_apps#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEwOSwiY29tLmFsZXh2YXMuZHZyIl0)
4. A $300 Windows 8 tablet (with cellular connections) might be used with a USB camera or a wireless Dropcam ($200). Dropcam comes with Night Vision, HD video, Two-Way Talk and Digital Zoom. Paired with their secure online Cloud Video Recording, it will automatically save 7 days of continuous footage for $9.95/month or $99/year.
5. Sensr.net stores IP camera footage in the cloud, and lets you watch live from any device (https://sensr.net) My D-Link Network Camera (DCS-930L), which costs under $50, can also be used with Sensr.net.
6. Using an Android phone as a Webcam may be an option. A $250 Nexus 4/5 smartphone running IP Webcam webcam software (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pas.webcam) like Mobile Webcam or TinyCam might be placed near the tracks. A smartphone could link to a solar-powered WiFi hotspot. Maybe upload a still image every 15 minutes.
7. A $35 Trigger Trap might control a $250 Samsung S4 camera or Galaxy K Zoom with built-in 3G/4G cellular connections. It could then automatically upload via T-Mobile cellular connection when triggered by sound or movement. A $50 solar panel and a $25 external battery could power the self-contained unit. The $500 remote camera could be placed in a bird house just outside BNSF’s rights of way.
8. Ustream’s basic service is free but supported by an aggravating 30 second video ad that shows before you can see the picture. Their Pro Broadcasting Services, charges $99/month but doesn’t have ads and lets you use high resolution video. It still has limited monthly minutes.
10. A software package like NetcamStudio (http://www.netcamstudio.com) might also be used. It works with our Fosscam and enables pan/tilt (www.netcamstudio.com/SupportedCameras). WireCast has software for live streaming ($495) which can be used with virtually any encoder.
11. Phones with Movidius visual processing chips or Qualcomm’s Zeroth, image recognition technology, will be able to parse out text and graphics printed on rail cars (and probably read boat registration numbers, too). This year.
Cognitive technologies in smartphones, due this year, will likely allow visual recognition of oil, coal and gas trains and automatically trigger a notification on twitter, for example. No cloud processing required.
– Sam Churchill, Hayden Island, April, 2015