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The History of Home Automation

The smart house—a fully automated home with both a personality and an incredible capacity for completing domestic tasks—has been a trope in science fiction for more than half a century. Authors like Ray Bradbury offered fantastic fictional accounts of homes that could clean themselves and cook for their occupants all while acting as a high-tech security guard.

Though the sophisticated artificial intelligence and self-cleaning abilities of the average home may only exist in the realm of fiction, automated security has become very real (and automation of some basic maintenance tasks has also come as a bonus). Today, alarms can be armed, cameras can be monitored and electronic devices can be controlled from a single remote control, such as a smart phone. How did we get here? 

It all started with Nikola Tesla’s invention of the original remote control in 1898. He used radio signals to remotely pilot a toy boat. People thought he was crazy at the time for trying to create such extravagant machines and his inventions never made much of a commercial impact, but Tesla’s work laid the foundations for the powerful systems of the future. Over the following years, the remote control was tested in some military applications and as an accompaniment for higher-end electronics, but its resounding impact on American households truly began in the 1950s when consumers joining in on the television craze discovered they could operate their new favorite device from the comfort of their own couch. Coincidentally, the television monitor also played a major role in the development of modern security and surveillance. 

While televisions were rapidly piling into American living rooms, scientists were hard at work developing computers. The first computer chips and digital computers were colossal machines built at universities in the 1940s and 1950s. At first the processing power of digital computing was only available to the government and the very rich, but by the late 1970s and early 1980s affordable personal computers became accessible. The speed of digital computers left technology just one step short of where it needed to be for the existence of what we now know has home automation.


The final step to achieving true remote home automation came in the form of wireless networks. Starting with X-10 protocol in the 1970s and progressing all the way to the Wi-Fi we have today, the increasing speed and processing capacity of new wireless network protocols allowed security systems to improve in terms of power and ease of use. The first wireless security systems were very expensive and consequently didn’t catch on with potential buyers. Then components got cheaper, which allowed the extremely tech savvy to construct their own affordable systems, but still left home automation out of the reach of the average busy consumer. Today, however, the speed of wireless networks and robust nature of smart phones give everyone the chance to acquire a comprehensive and non-obtrusive home automation system. From saving energy via automated light control to remotely operating a security system, home automation allows you to maintain your property from a distance.


LiveWatch home security systems feature a full suite of smart home services and can be installed in minutes. With very little effort, you could be controlling your own smart house from the touch screen of your phone or tablet. Now what will the science fiction authors write about?

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