Some people think of home automation technology as something new, but that really isn’t the case. Today’s Integrated Home Technology is actually the end result of a long history of invention and development that goes back over a hundred years. At One Touch Automation, we are always looking for the latest innovations, but it’s fun and interesting to look at where this technology came from as well as where it’s going. This week we’re going to be looking at where some of the key devices we use every day come from.
Remote controls in 1893? Even though television hadn’t been invented yet, in 1893 the great inventor Nikola Tesla registered U.S. Patent 613809 for something that sounds a lot like a TV remote control. However, the first practical TV remote was the Zenith “Lazy Bone.” a wired remote that turned the TV on and off and changed the channel. People constantly tripped over the long bulky cable and the Lazy Bone was soon replaced in 1954 by the Zenith “Flashmatic” that used four flashlights to wirelessly control the TV. Next came the “Space Command” that used ultrasonic sound waves to send information to the television. It worked, but it boosted the price of a TV by 30%. Finally, transistors arrived and the modern infrared remote became a standard feature. As Home Automation becomes more common, control of entertainment devices is just one of the many functions on a single touch screen.
The First Popular Wireless Remote – The Garage Door. The first popular wireless home control device was the garage door opener. While electric garage doors have been around since the 1920’s, it wasn’t until 1931 that Popular Mechanics magazine described a practical wireless remote for them. In the 1050’s, they became a symbol of suburban affluence, even though the crude transmitters often opened the neighbours garage door as well as your own. Modern garage door openers are much more reliable and form a part of a complete IHT system.
Dim the Lights Light dimmers have been around since 1890, but not as we know them now. The first ones were often filled with salt water which rusted the dimmer and created an obvious electric shock hazard. Many different ways of dimming lights were tried until a breakthrough in 1959. Joel Spira, the founder of the Lutron Lighting company invented the solid state dimmer. This dimmer actually switches the light on and off 120 times a second. The result is a small unit that fits in a regular wall switch, saves electricity and is safe to use in any home or office. Lutron has continued to be the best-known name in lighting technology as they develop and market innovative products for the new world of compact flourescent and LED lighting.
A New Sense of Security – Cameras During World War II, Germany wanted to know if anyone was sneaking onto their rocket launch sites. An engineer named Walter Burch came up with the idea of installing a camera that could watch the site all day and night. It was first used for security in New York in 1962. As the cameras have become incredibly affordable, more and more home owners have decided to add this kind of protection. They can now easily monitor the cameras in their home on a cell phone or iPad from anywhere in the world, a great source of comfort when home owners travel.
One Touch – Panels The touch screen is a very important part of home automation, because it lets the user control many devices intuitively and with little or no knowledge of the devices being controlled. Touch Screens are the new kid on the block. It was in 1965 that a British inventor thought that something like this would be good for air traffic controllers. It wasn’t until 1977 that Seimens developed a product called a “touch screen.” Right now, touch screens are the most popular way to control home systems, but watch for more and more controls that simply react to the wave of your hand. They’re coming soon and Crestron’s got them.
Hot Technology – Thermostats The thermostat also goes back over a hundred years, to 1885 to be exact. Many of you may remember when they had a switch filled with liquid mercury. The digital thermostat has made a big difference in energy use, but watch out for Nest, The Learning Thermostat. It’s the first completely new thermostat in many years, was invented by Tony Faddell, the creator of the iPod, and promises to save you 20-30% on your electricity. It’s also the first thermostat that doesn’t look ugly. More about this interesting device in later blogs.
As you can see, our industry has a long history of development and innovation. In next week’s blog, we will be looking to the future, and introducing you to some of the incredible new home automation products introduced at the CEDIA EXPO 2012 show. We think you’ll be amazed.