As science fiction meets real life, people are wondering if it's possible to see a picture of their home in real time for free on the Internet. There are programs (Google Earth, Virtual Earth) that offer satellite imagery at the street level where you can see your house for free, but the images are not real time (see Resources). For folks just wanting to look at what is going on in their neighbourhood while they're gone, the way to see a real time view of your house is to install an outdoor webcam.
Purchase an outdoor webcam system and a router. You can purchase a wired system if you have an outlet nearby or a wireless model that runs on batteries. There are pros and cons to both types of systems. Many basic webcam models are priced at less than £32.
Install the webcam on your property facing your house according to the manufacturer's directions. If you are using a wired system, the webcam will require a outlet nearby for power and it will need to be connected by a router to your computer. You may also need an extension cord and a long piece of network wire to connect the camera to the router. Wireless models will not need the network wire or the extension cord since they run on batteries.
Install the software included with the webcam and test the system (from your home computer) to be sure your camera is working.
Write down the IP address of your home webcam and enter it into the browser's address bar to view your home via webcam while you are away. You can see your home from any place with an Internet connection such as a computer at work, a coffee shop with wireless connectivity or from a friend's computer.
If you live in a metropolitan area, you can check out sites such as "Live World webcam" and "EarthCam" to see if there already is a streaming webcam in your local neighbourhood. For many city dwellers, a live street view of their neighbourhood is already available (see Resources). A wireless webcam will allow you to place the camera further away from an outlet (since they run on batteries) and to connect wirelessly to a wireless-compatible router, but they are more expensive than wired webcams (See Reference 1).
Be sure to install your wireless webcam on your own property and not on public or private property owned by someone else--you may be breaking the law.