Where Did Smart Homes Get Their Start?

As smart home technology continues to improve, you may find yourself wondering how we got started down the path to more efficient home operations. Smart homes were first discussed in science fiction, usually as a warning against them. “Actual smart homes haven’t existed for nearly as long as the idea of them”, says smart home entrepreneur Haim Toledano.

Here is a short timeline on the history of smart homes:

The Invention Of Home Appliances

Your basic home appliances like the toaster, oven, and refrigerator may not seem like smart home inventions, but before 1901, home appliances were rare or nonexistent. These inventions were huge advancements at the time, starting with the first engine powered vacuum cleaner in 1901, followed by an electric powered vacuum in 1907. Over the next couple of decades, refrigerators, toasters, washing machines, irons, and many other conveniences that modern day people take for granted would be invented.

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The Echo IV

Never actually commercially sold, the ECHO IV is considered the first smart device. It could create shopping lists, control the temperature of the home, and turn other appliances on and off. Honeywell also created the Kitchen Computer which claimed to store recipes, but it was not well received and did not sell a single unit.

Tech for the Elderly

The invention of Life Alert in 1991, and further development of gerontechnology, or technology for the improvement of senior living throughout the 90s; is one of the first examples of what we might consider a ‘smart’ device.

Early Automation

In the early 2000s, home automation began to increase in popularity. With its growing popularity came more consumer accessible pricing, and led to greater research and development being focused on bringing automation into the home. It was at this time that consumers began seeing domestic technologies, home networking, and other similar devices popping up on retail store shelves.

Today’s Smart Homes

Smart homes today focus on security, convenience, and sustainability. Devices like smart thermostats and appliance shut off devices make sure that homeowners aren’t wasting electricity. Other devices help with saving water and managing your food purchases to avoid waste. Security cameras and alarms that are connected to smartphones can alert homeowners to intruders, whether or not they are home. A modern lifestyle demands us to approach being in two places at once, and smart home technology acknowledges this. Some devices allow us to create an impromptu grocery list by telling us what is in the fridge already, or perhaps by analyzing what you have thrown out this week. Technology is allowing us to be physically in one location while virtually being in our homes.

The Future

There is no limit to what smart home technology may be able to accomplish in the future. At some point, we may even approach having The Jetson’s-like automation, with robotic maids and tubes to transport us from one room to the other. We can look forward to pretty much every device in our homes being digitized and automated, most likely for the better.