evolution internet of things

Evolution of Smart Home and IoT Through History

Of Smart Obscura and IoT

Smart homes have long been at the heart of what many people view as the next step in the evolution of technology. Having the ability to interact with your home and carry out tasks like controlling light and heating from your phone as well as cooking through voice commands are some of the latest developments in smart home technology.

Relevant: Hot and Cold: The Best Smart Thermostats

By looking at the history of smart home technology, we can appreciate better how these past smart homes made surprisingly accurate predictions of how the present and future will be. What is clear is that in the next couple of years, that old home of yours will likely do wonders that you had never thought possible.

Let us now take a look at the evolution of smart homes through history.

1920 – The Invention of Household Machines

1920s - The Invention of Household MachinesThe first leap into smart homes was the introduction of machines into the home to assist with rising labour shortage. The machines here included food processors, vacuum cleaners and sewing machines among others.

Advertisements for these products were more innovative, with many highlighting the convenience and time savings that electrical products had around the home.

It was an excellent time for anyone who worked as a maid for an affluent family, as it meant access to washing machines, vacuum cleaners, toasters and so much more.

1932 – Alpha, The Talking and Shooting Robot

1932 - Alpha, The Talking and Shooting Robot

via cyberneticzoo.com

Alpha is the name of the robot that was designed to be a personal assistant in 1932. It was originally an exhibition at the Dome in Brighton.

The robot, Alpha, was programmed to answer a sequence of voice commands, including firing a gun. Apparently his creator did not think there was anything wrong with teaching a prototype robot how to shoot a gun, and also to demonstrate this feature to a live audience.

He is rethinking that decision since Alpha would eventually manage to shoot his creator, though not fatally. Either way, using robots as assistants is still an issue under development.

1950 – The Revolutionary Push-Button Manor

Revolutionary Push-Button Manor

via modernmechanix.com

The first ever wall-to-wall and fully functional automated house was created and used by a bright mechanical engineer called Emil Mathias. A great workman who was handy with his tools, Mathias created a unique abode where a simple button push could perform most of the everyday tasks. The end product was very impressive, even if it had a few impracticalities, and he managed to get featured in the popular tech magazine called Popular Mechanics in 1950.

Among the major inventions in the automated home include automatically drawn curtains and his wife’s vanity mirror that lit up every time the dresser drawer was opened. Interestingly, the house was not sponsored by any company, and neither was it for sale. Just an inventor who was having fun and laying the groundwork for present day smart homes.

Now, I can bet £100 that you didn’t know that. Did you?

1966 – ECHO IV, The First Automated Home Computer

ECHO IV, The First Automated Home Computer

via drdobbs.com

The ECHO IV was the first ever home automated machine. It was specifically designed to control the temperature of a home, turn household appliances on/off and also produce home shopping lists, a 1966 Nest if you will.

However, there were several complaints regarding the success of this machine in carrying out the tasks mentioned above. Also, another downside was that it was huge and bulky, hence, highly impractical.

1975 – Enter the X10 Home Automation System

X10 Home Automation System

via wikipedia.org

The X10 is the name of a simple home automation system, which was created in 1970. In this particular system, home power lines were used to enable communication between several household appliances. Nevertheless, as you can tell, the system’s dependence on regular power lines meant that it was very vulnerable to electricity interference.

1975 – Cybertecture, Smart House, The Seed Gets Planted


via wikipedia.org

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) formed a special group known as “Smart House” that advocated for including information technology in how homes were designed. Back then, this was called “cybertecture” as it was a mixture of architectural design and computer control.

1990s – The Smart Home Finally Enters Pop Culture

smart house disney

via imdb.com

The idea of a smart home eventually permeated through pop culture with many movies referencing it. In the film Dream House, a home is featured taking control over its occupants. There is also the Disney movie Smart House, which had the same concept but was family-friendly.

2010 – A Tech Disruption Occurs, Everything is Now Connected

works with nest devices2010 – Nest is Launched

One of the main designers of the Apple iPod, Tony Fadeli, founded the innovative tech startup Nest since he thought that existing home automation products were too huge and chunky. Since then, Nest has developed next gen, Wi-Fi connected smoke alarms and thermostats.

2012 – SmartThings Revolutionised the Smart Home Field

One of the most notable entrants in the smart home sector is a company called SmartThings. The company managed to raise over $1.2 million using Kickstarter’s crowdfunding platform, with Ashton Kutcher among the prominent investors.

The reason this company was very popular was because it promised the capability of linking nearly all the connected gadgets at home. Using this application, consumers get the equivalent of having an intelligent conversation with their homes.

At the end of 2013, SmartThings had shipped over 100,000 hubs.

2013 – Enter the Unequaled CES 2013

The year 2013 was the very first time that tangible home automation products dominated the CES conferences. During the conference, WeMo by Belkin was launched with several Wi-Fi devices. A notable product from Belkin was the innovative Home Control Switch, which was essentially an intelligent plug placed between the socket and an electronic plug that allows users to control their electrical devices using a smart house. Flash forward to 2015 and Tom Coates creates a revolutionary Twitter-enabled home. Tom’s house posts some regular tweets about the temperature, weather, and lighting.

2013 – Microsoft’s Lab of Things launches

Microsoft joined in the smart home party with its Lab of Things launch that encouraged researchers to start exploring various approaches to home automation. An exciting feature of the Lab is that it offers a handy virtual dashboard to monitor and control different interconnected devices and offers standards for developing home automation apps. Users who log into the Lab can view footages from their home security system or even get notifications when a door gets closed or opened, among other things.

2014 – The Ground-Breaking CES 2014

During the cutting-edge CES 2014 conference, LG launched its range of smart household appliances fitted with HomeChat. The app allowed users to communicate directly with the devices using a messaging app. Are you out shopping and do not remember what is currently stocked in your fridge back home? Simply send a quick text and get an update of your fridge’s contents.

2014 – Wink Rejuvenates Home Automation

Ben Kaufman, the Quirky founder, launched another new product called Wink, which was able to bring smart devices, including major brands such as Nest, Phillips, and Quirky, onto a home network that is then controlled by the Wink app. Hence, with Wink, consumers do not have to move even around in their houses to get tasks done.

2014 – Big organisations, like Google and Samsung, break the bank by acquiring smaller players

Samsung spent close to $200 million to acquire SmartThings and launched it’s Smart Home app that allows users to connect easily and communicate with several Samsung home appliances from fridges and washing machines to ovens and air conditioners among others.

In the same breadth, Google spent $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, whose main objective is reinventing devices around the home, like smoke alarms and thermostats. These acquisitions represent the industry’s confidence surrounding the Internet of Things.

But even so, at least you get the idea of who is really behind the technology these giants churn out every other day.

2015 and Beyond – The Future is Here!

smarter coffee featuredHere are some of the most notable developments so far in 2015 with regards to smart homes and the Internet of Things:

Parrot Pot

Many people shy away from keeping plants at home due to their busy lifestyles or forgetting to water the plants. If you are one of such people, this innovative product is just for you as you can finally keep your home properly decorated, smart and oxygenated. The Bluetooth enabled flower pot will inform you when the plants are thirsty and also help in watering them.

Keen SmartVent

The Keen SmartVent is a smart heating vent that lets you control every room individually, thus saving you lots of money in energy expenses. You only need to remove you current vent and install the new Keen upgrade. Besides that, it is compatible with other platforms like SmartThings, Wink, and Iris.

Smarter Coffee Kettle

Your regular teapot now has WiFi capabilities and coffee enthusiasts are excited. The new app-enabled tea/coffee pot allows the user to set a schedule when to begin the brew as well as getting a notification when the pot does not have water. It may seem like a very simple smart appliance, but you should also consider the broader picture.

That teapot will soon have the ability to power on your stereo or TV and prepare your whole house in the morning without your input.

IoT is Driving the Smart Home Evolution

smartthings new generationOne of the main driving forces behind the smart home evolution is the IoT or Internet of Things. The IoT is a technological trend that projects how technology will be integrated into common items you would not normally think could or would be automated. Certainly, companies like Sony, LG, and Samsung already foresee a future in which simple products in your house, from your alarm to the wash dryers, will communicate with each other and work in harmony. This harmonious relationship could, for example, be where your windows and TV screens can sense your movements in the house and fine-tune accordingly; and also where music automatically moves from your headset to your home stereo system when you get home among other very interesting applications.

The current market trends regarding smart homes and IoT is a broad range of independent household appliances. Eventually, these independent products are expected to be programmed so as to work harmoniously at home, thus creating a truly “Smart Home” experience. Yes, there is the issue of compatibility that is yet to be fully addressed, but consumers do not want to face any product restrictions due to compatibility issues. Expect that future integration of smart devices in a home system will be a simple and smooth process. Once all these independent appliances will be able to communicate and work harmoniously together, it will give a new breath of life to your home.

Smart Homes – The Worst Thing That Could Happen to Home Security

If there is one sector that is prone to disruption and compromise from the impending smart homes, is home security. The traditional, old-school security companies are increasingly under attack from deep-pocketed and large broadband firms like AT&T and Comcast. Also, they are also now facing increasing competition from simple DIY security options that could appeal to budget conscious clients.

Relevant: Wearables IoT – Security, Privacy and Safety Concerns

Now, there is a big difference between getting a full time monitored security solution at home complete with a call centre, and, for example, a simple sensor box to detect intrusion. The two are certainly not equal when considering a security solution for your home. However, even though most consumers prefer living in secure environments, not everyone today is willing to spend top dollar on home security. Thus, the new smart security offerings give such people more options instead of the traditional expensive monitored solution.

Ultimately, consumers will calculate their security needs based on their desires for various services, such as a call centre, upfront and monthly costs versus their ability to supervise a simple DIY security solution and then make a decision. These decisions will likely change with time as their personal or family situation changes and also newer technologies are released.


Every year, there are increasingly more products being created that have internet capabilities and can be used at home. Research into IoT shows that this innovation will only increase with time. 65% of American consumers are also willing to adopt smart home technologies, with recent reports predicting that there is going to be over 9 billion interconnected smart devices by 2018. One thing is for sure, and that is the home will only get more intelligent with time.

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