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A webcam is a video camera that feeds or streams its image in real time to or through a computer to computer network.
When "captured" by the computer, the video stream may be saved, viewed or sent on to other networks via systems such as the internet, and email as an attachment.
Unlike an IP camera (which connects using Ethernet or Wi-Fi), a webcam is generally connected by a USB cable, or similar cable, or built into computer hardware, such as laptops.
The term "webcam" (a clipped compound) may also be used in its original sense of a video camera connected to the Web continuously for an indefinite time, rather than for a particular session, generally supplying a view for anyone who visits its web page over the Internet.
Some of them, for example, those used as online traffic cameras, are expensive, rugged professional video cameras.
making them the lowest-cost form of videotelephony.
The video streams provided by webcams can be used for a number of purposes, each using appropriate software: Most modern webcams are capable of capturing arterial pulse rate by the use of a simple algorithmic trick.
Researchers claim that this method is accurate to within 5 bpm.
Webcams may be installed at places such as childcare centres, offices, shops and private areas to monitor security and general activity.
Despite the low cost, the resolution offered at present (2015) is rather impressive, with low-end webcams offering resolutions of 320×240, medium webcams offering 640×480 resolution, and high-end webcams offering 1280×720 (aka 720p) or even 1920×1080 (aka 1080p) resolution.
They have also become a source of security and privacy issues, as some built-in webcams can be remotely activated by spyware.