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509 Airport Executive Park, Nanuet, NY 10954    |    5434 Sir Churchhill Dr. Leesburg, FL 34748

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A Brief History of Smart Home Automation

The House of Tomorrow

It may seem to the average observer that home automation is a very recent development. That is true if one is thinking of consumer-friendly and affordable smart home solutions. However, the technological advances that got us here have been happening for quite a while.

Many technology historians point to Nikola Tesla’s creation of a remote control for a toy--way back in 1898--as the true beginning of easily accessible consumer-oriented automation. As promising as this was, it would be several decades before electrical appliances became commonplace in the home, and even longer before technology could really deliver on the promise of a futuristic home incorporating those appliances, controlled remotely.

The 1933 A Century of Progress International Exposition (the “Chicago World’s Fair”) offered a look at the Home of the Future. Sure, it was designed to resemble something we’d still recognize today from science fiction, yet the interior failed to live up to the promise, simply because the technology didn’t exist yet.

After the 1940 invention of the electrical digital computer, the 1940s through the 1960s saw computer technology come into its own. In 1966, Westinghouse engineer Jim Sutherland created the ECHO IV, which was the first true home automation device, controlling temperature and appliances, and allowing for inputting and later retrieval of shopping lists, recipes, and other family memos. 1969 ushered in the true connected universe with the introduction of ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet we know today.

1975 brought the X10 Home Automation Project. We’re finally getting into the territory of practical devices for actual homes. The X10 devices worked with a building’s existing AC wiring and controlled small appliances and lighting fixtures.

The 1980s were a game changer for everyday consumers. Motion-sensing lights, automatic garage door openers, programmable thermostats, and security systems were now commonplace and affordable. In 1984, the term “smart house” was coined by the American Association of Home Builders.

Then, in 1990, a challenge issued by Dan Lynch, President of the Interop Internet networking show resulted in John Romkey and Simon Hackett creating a toaster connected to, and controlled from, the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) was born, although it would take Kevin Ashton another nine years to contribute the term.

That same year, Microsoft contributed its own version of how a smart home should look and function. Microsoft predicted many things that today’s smart home owner takes for granted, such as security systems, environment controls, smart locks, and lighting controls.

Throughout the 2000s, smart devices and systems have been evolving at a rapid pace. It’s estimated that by 2012, there were already 1.5 million automated home systems in place. In 2014, Amazon introduced the Amazon Echo (for Prime members), and while it was originally marketed as a voice-controlled music solution, the inclusion of Alexa quickly demonstrated the use of the device as a smart home hub.

Today, IoT devices are more plentiful than ever, and the cost of smart home systems keeps dropping, making them an attractive option for homeowners. However, the home automation industry has suffered some growing pains due to proprietary software and systems. Often, consumers need to make trade-offs between having the various devices they truly desire and the capability of those devices to work well in a seamless installation.

At Zeus Integrated Systems, we specialize in the design, planning, and installation of the leading smart home automation systems. Whether you call an estate in Westchester or a NYC brownstone home, we can custom tailor a smart home solution for you.

It's easy to get started today. Just give us a call: (800) 878-9705