Smart Home Technology: A Historical Journey of Innovation

smart home technology history

Today, the concept of a ‘smart home’ doesn’t surprise anyone, although not all inhabitants of the planet use intelligent solutions for managing home devices. However, just a few decades ago, smart house technologies were beyond the realm of fantasy for the general population. The history of their emergence and development goes through several significant stages, thanks to which modern, ‘smart’, automated systems exist today, providing comfort and security.


  1. When did the concept of a smart home first emerge?
  2. Who came up with the concept of the smart home?
  3. The evolution of a smart home.
    • 1901 — 1920: Inventions in household appliances.
    • 1950 — The Era of Push-Button Estates
    • 1957 — Monsanto’s House of the Future
    • 1966 — 1967 — Introduction of kitchen computers
    • BMS (Building Management System) in homes
    • 1975 — X10 Home Automation Protocol
    • Birth of smart home technology in 1978
    • 1990 — 2000 — Home automation gains momentum
    • 2010 — Launch of NEST
    • 2012 — SmartThings revolutionizes smart home systems
    • 2014 — Smart speakers with voice assistants
    • Events in 2015 related to smart devices
  4. Modern Smart Homes
    • Mark Zuckerberg’s Home
    • Bill Gates’s Home
  5. Dreams of the Future Home

When did the concept of a smart home first emerge?

Just 100 years ago, at the dawn of the 20th century, mentions of robots capable of automatically regulating the functionality of household appliances seemed fantastical and unbelievable in books. As years passed, in the 1960s, the Spira brothers invented a smart device for lighting control. In the history of smart homes, it marked the first step towards further innovative developments that significantly simplified the lives of modern individuals. The electrification and proliferation of household appliances such as irons, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners played a crucial role in the active development of smart technologies.

Who came up with the concept of the smart home?

In the 1970s, in Washington, the Institute of Intelligent Knowledge embarked on the initial developments of smart house technology, where a single cable was used for signal transmission. This invention marked a significant milestone in the history of smart homes, paving the way for endless technological possibilities. These innovations evolved so rapidly that the initial inventions became obsolete faster than they could be practically tested. The smart home emerged slightly later, but the early intelligent technologies marked the beginning of its long journey of development.

The evolution of a smart home.

The evolution of the smart home can be divided into several stages. In its early days, there were isolated attempts at home automation without widespread adoption. However, with the advent of computers and later smartphones, it became possible to integrate disparate networks into a unified system with centralized control. Below, we’ll explore the chronology of events that trace the development of innovative home technologies.

1901 — 1920: Inventions in household appliances.

The beginning of the 20th century marked the creation of household appliances powered by electricity. They performed simple tasks but made daily life easier. In 1901, the vacuum cleaner was invented, followed by the toaster in 1909. In 1913, the refrigerator and dishwasher made their debut, and in 1927, the iron with a temperature regulator was introduced. Dryers and washing machines came a bit later in 1935. The introduction of these household appliances to the market provided inventors with the opportunity to work on the development of an automated home.

1950 — The Era of Push-Button Estates

The development of future automation systems fell to American engineer Emil Matias, who in 1950 equipped his own button-controlled home. His residence featured numerous devices controlled by buttons. Using this control system, Matias could turn on and off the radio, remotely open the garage doors, and when he opened a drawer above his dressing table, the light would illuminate, and the curtains would automatically twitch. Matias also had an automatic alarm system in his home. The 2-meter-long cables used for control were concealed in the floor and walls. Newspapers and magazines covered this intelligent invention extensively.

1957 — Monsanto’s House of the Future

In 1957, the California-based company Monsanto helped introduce people to the smart homes of the future with astonishing technologies for that time. For a decade, Disneyland’s attraction not only showcased advanced technology but also the properties of rigid plastic, which the company was manufacturing. The “Home of the Future,” now a part of history, was set in the year 1986. Its design was clover-shaped to optimize the use of natural light through windows. Not only the house but all its contents, including dishes and furniture, were made of plastic.

To ensure warmth, ventilation, and the diffusion of pleasant scents, there was a smart climate control system, all operated from a single panel. The house featured a microwave oven for quick cooking, an ultrasonic dishwasher, an electric toothbrush, and a razor in the bathroom. Video communication was available throughout the space. Some of the technologies showcased at that time by the organizers remained beyond the realm of fantasy, such as shelves for irradiated food or an ultrasonic dishwasher. The concept of a plastic house itself was a fantastic idea.

1966 — 1967 — Introduction of kitchen computers

A significant milestone in the journey of automation was the invention of the Electronic Computing Home Operator Echo IV, the world’s first kitchen computer. This intelligent device had the capability to regulate household appliances, control the temperature in the home, create shopping lists, and store recipes. However, it did not gain widespread adoption and remains a part of history.

BMS (Building Management System) in homes

Building Management System (BMS), also known as Building Automation System (BAS) or Internet of Things (IoT) system, is a computer-based control system installed in buildings to monitor and manage both the mechanical and electrical equipment within the building.

Building Management Systems (BMS), also known as Building Automation Systems (BAS) or Internet of Things (IoT) systems, are capable of controlling and managing a wide range of building systems and functions. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the various systems they can work with:

  1. Electrical power
  2. Lighting control
  3. Plumbing and heating
  4. Ventilation and air conditioning
  5. Surveillance and security systems
  6. Elevators
  7. Fire alarm systems

Primarily, BMS can be used to control both the indoor environment and the security of a building. When used optimally, BMS can enhance energy efficiency, reduce operational costs (such as electricity bills), and contribute to environmental sustainability. It can also be valuable for risk management during building operation.

Now, let’s take a closer look at what BMS is capable of:

  • BMS can turn off heating in a room when a door is left open.
  • BMS can turn off lights and air conditioning in unoccupied rooms.
  • BMS can activate lighting in a room when motion or presence sensors detect activity.
  • BMS can activate surveillance cameras in areas where motion detectors are triggered.
  • BMS can allow users to set the desired temperature in an office or meeting room.
  • The system can remotely reserve a parking space for a vehicle.
  • BMS can generate visitor badges that grant access only to specific offices and areas.

This is not an exhaustive list, and it’s important to note that not all Building Management Systems will necessarily perform all the functions listed. The capabilities of a BMS can vary depending on its configuration, components, and the specific needs of the building it is installed in.

Indeed, a well-configured Building Management System (BMS) plays a crucial role in risk management. For example, in the event of a fire alarm activation, it can be used to:

  • Close dampers in the ventilation system to prevent smoke from spreading.
  • Send all elevators to the ground floor and keep them there to prevent their use.
  • Turn off fans and initiate smoke evacuation fans.
  • Perform various other actions to ensure the safety of occupants during an emergency.

Regarding building security, BMS can record which employees were on-site and did not leave the premises, which can be invaluable in an emergency situation. It is also excellent for post-event security assessment by creating event logs and incident reports.

1975 — X10 Home Automation Protocol

A significant breakthrough in the history of smart home technology was the development by Pico Electronics in Scotland of the first specialized control standard for X10 devices. X10 used the electrical wiring in homes to transmit signals, allowing for the control of household appliances on a specific radio frequency. X10 enabled monitoring of device operation, wireless lighting control, and tracking the current status of devices. Special remotes and computer interfaces made X10 convenient and user-friendly.

X10 was affordable, and its installation was relatively straightforward, contributing to its widespread adoption. However, certain functions were prohibited in European countries, so X10 found its primary market demand in the United States.

Birth of smart home technology in 1978

In 1978, as electronics became more accessible to the general population, the development of smart technological systems entered a new era. This date is officially considered the birth of the smart home, marking the beginning of the history of modern intelligent living spaces. Automation allowed for the regulation of household appliances through the electrical grid. This collaborative achievement was made possible by Leviton and X10 USA and initially gained popularity only in America. Affluent U.S. citizens began to enjoy the “wonders of progress.” Automation could be controlled from a single remote, but the number of commands was limited to just 6, primarily used for regulating electric lighting.

In the following years, intelligent offices and buildings with interconnected electrical appliances began to emerge. However, the adoption of these new technologies was not only driven by the desire for automating household processes but also by the need for resource conservation and ensuring security.

1990 — 2000 — Home automation gains momentum

The 1990s marked a new stage in the history of the development of intelligent automated systems. This was when the Electronic Industry Association was organized. The work of the organization involved creating automated systems for home comfort and safety. During those years, touch panels, sensors, and special mechanisms were invented, without which the functioning of a smart home would be impossible.

At the very end of the 20th century, in 1999, a program combined the functionality and settings of all household appliances into a single network, which could be controlled from a computer. That same year, Disney released a new film, ‘Smart House,’ which showed audiences technological wonders. And, it was no longer science fiction! From that time on, the automation of home processes developed rapidly.

In the mid-1990s, the American ideas of smart homes also penetrated European countries, where they began to implement intelligent systems. Associations appeared, consisting of several companies, whose main goal was to ensure comfort and safety, both for individual homes and buildings.

2010 — Launch of NEST

In 2010, two Americans who had left Apple, M. Rogers and T. Fadell, founded the company Nest Labs, which launched a “smart” thermostat for mass production. This modest device saw considerable consumer demand. The following year, a modified version of the thermostat was released, featuring additional functionality and an updated design. The Nest thermostat is considered to be the first smart device with software developed under the “Smart Home” concept. The popularity of Nest made a significant impact, leading developers to focus all their efforts on updating smart devices – redesigning, developing mobile apps for control, expanding functionality, and enabling easy connectivity with the push of a button.

2012 — SmartThings revolutionizes smart home systems

The advent of smartphones simplified the task of improving home automation. Thanks to smartphones and tablets, controlling a smart home became easier and more straightforward than with remote controls that operated on closed protocols. Humanity owes this revolutionary breakthrough to Samsung, which created an open-access system of interconnected intelligent things. SmartThings is a comprehensive system with centralized control, sensors, and cameras, all managed by a mobile app that can be downloaded directly to a mobile device.

This smart invention works with heating and lighting circuits, refrigerators and home theaters, alarm and motion sensors, water supply, and other devices. In short, this innovation aims to transform your ordinary home into a smart one, where almost everything can be turned on or off with a single tap on a smartphone.

2014 — Smart speakers with voice assistants

Amazon introduced the world to the Echo, an intelligent speaker with the voice assistant Alexa. The following year, Amazon presented a set of Alexa skills. The launch of Alexa marked the beginning of what we call the smart speaker revolution. This was followed by the launch of Cortana on mobile platforms, which had previously only been available for Windows 10. Google introduced Google Assistant as part of its messaging app Allo. Companies like Baidu, Apple, Alibaba, and Samsung kept pace, releasing both smart speakers and voice bots based on artificial intelligence. Thanks to the efforts of these diverse companies and their integration with different operating systems, desktop computers, and mobile phones, smart speakers have become a part of everyday life for ordinary people and a helpful tool in managing smart homes.

Events in 2015 related to smart devices

The year 2015 marked the introduction of numerous devices for home automation that quickly gained popularity. Among the most interesting were:

Parrot Pot Smart Flowerpot: This intelligent flowerpot, equipped with temperature, light, and water sensors, takes care of the plant inside it. It can autonomously water the plant and advise the owner when to add fertilizer or move the pot to a more lit area.

Keen Home Smart Vent: This smart heating radiator is an intelligent grate for homes with central heating. It controls the air temperature in each room separately and regulates air flow. This device not only saves on energy resources but also provides comfort and can interact with other automated systems.

Smart Kettle for Coffee: Controlled via a special mobile app, this smart kettle can heat and maintain water at the optimal temperature for brewing coffee. It automatically turns off when there’s no water left.

Despite the interest in these innovative gadgets, the greatest consumer interest remains focused on automated home security systems. These systems offer peace of mind by providing enhanced safety and security features for homes.

Modern Smart Homes

Today’s smart home technology represents a seamless integration of various devices and engineering systems, which interact with each other and can be controlled via a mobile app on a smartphone. This technology has recently emerged but has already become popular among American and European consumers. The systems feature remote mobile control, allowing users to regulate heating channels, water supply, lighting, and the operation of household appliances. Additionally, they often include video surveillance capabilities, further enhancing the functionality and security of the smart home environment. This advancement has made managing home environments more efficient, convenient, and secure.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Home

Mark Zuckerberg’s luxurious mansion in Palo Alto is equipped with sophisticated smart technology, with a unique aspect being that the software was developed by the owner himself. The program, named Jarvis, has the capability to play specific music, identify family members through facial recognition, and pinpoint their location in the house. It can receive commands through Facebook and execute them. With Jarvis, household members can relax while the system autonomously opens or closes curtains, and opens doors for welcome guests, demonstrating the advanced level of personalized automation and convenience in smart home technology.

Bill Gates’s Home

The project for Bill Gates’ home in America was overseen by a renowned architect whose name will go down in the country’s history. The result is a living organism where all devices interact with each other. The video cameras start broadcasting approaching guests hundreds of meters away from the fence. The mansion features complete automation of household appliances. Sliding walls double as displays that change pictures according to the wishes of the household members or villa guests. Gates’ smart home is also equipped with a swimming pool with a water temperature regulator, a garden complex that monitors each plant, and a voice-controlled glass elevator. This level of sophistication and integration in a home’s design and technology showcases the pinnacle of smart home innovation.

Dreams of the Future Home

The home of the future is currently envisioned as a concept based on the most advanced technologies and the Internet. The central element is a voice control system. A high-tech kitchen equipped with artificial intelligence and robotics will allow the selection of dishes for preparation through a special projection. This works as follows: the homeowner selects a dish for dinner, triggering an analysis of the food in the refrigerator – if something is missing, the artificial intelligence automatically orders it from the store. An intelligent assistant is used for cooking, and a robot table delivers the warm dish to the living room.

The widespread adoption of smart home technology will gradually lead to the emergence of smart cities. It’s possible that in just a couple of decades, what seems like science fiction today will become standard for every inhabitant of the planet. The history of smart home development presents dozens of facts where fantastical ideas have been fully realized in real life, illustrating the rapid advancement and integration of technology into our daily living spaces. 🙂

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