The fascinating history of home automation – Part 1



While the truly automated smart home may be a relatively new innovation that comes to us courtesy of the internet and wireless technology, a stroll through the last century of history shows we’ve been transfixed with the idea of making our homes smarter and more intuitive for years.

In this two-part series, we’ll offer a fascinating insight into how the smart home came to be.

Let there be appliances

In many ways the early 1900s can be linked to the evolution of home automation. As electricity became available in many homes, a push to make daily chores easier began in earnest, resulting in an array of new appliances.

Over two decades innovations like the vacuum cleaner, the electric washing machine, the clothes dryer and iron all became welcome residents of homes.

Smart they may not have been, but the move to simplify domestic life had begun.

The remote control

Interestingly, smart homes owe at least some of their evolution to electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, who is widely credited with inventing the remote control. In 1898 Tesla created a remote control that used radio waves to manoeuvre a small boat, yet it wasn’t until the 1930s that remotes were applied to household features like garage doors.

An idea takes hold

The 1930s sewed the first seeds of home automation and it came courtesy of the World’s Fair Chicago in 1933. The fair featured a “Homes of Tomorrow” display that showcased the potential convenience and opulence of the future. It’s reported the first home automation system was completed at this time, but the technology wasn’t advanced enough and the idea was never commercialised.

Total electric living

By the 1950s the idea of automated living had truly taken hold as reflected in this advertising blurb from Westinghouse:

“Imagine this: Total Electric Living… where electricity does absolutely everything: heats, air conditions, cooks, preserves food, lights, entertains, encourages hobbies, makes it the easiest way ever for you and your family to be happier, healthier, to live fuller lives.”

Meanwhile, in Michigan the Push Button Manor was on display. This unique house featured drapes that could close at the push of a button and an electrical system that checked whether all doors and windows were locked at night.

By 1957 even Disney was embracing the idea, with a Home of the Future as an attraction at Disneyland in Anaheim. The home included cupboards and drawers that opened and closed at the push of a button, sinks that adjusted to the height of home occupants, and curtains that automatically opened and closed.

A work of fiction

The ‘60s saw humans obsessed with home automation. Although the technology was yet to develop, the concept was being honed in futuristic science fiction TV series like the Jetsons and Star Trek. It was a compelling image of the home to come.

In the next post, we’ll cover the late 1900s and the true innovations which delivered home automation to our door.

About Lera

Lera Smart Home Solutions is a leading installer of smart home technology in the greater Sydney region. Our team boasts over 20 years’ experience in IT networking, programming and the electrical industry.

We have sourced the most reliable and cost efficient solutions from around the world to provide the very best in smart home solutions, and work with our clients to understand their needs.

You can learn more about transforming your house into a smart home, or contact us directly for further advice.