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The smart home: How it all began

Controlling the lights with your voice or adjusting the heating via the internet is now just part of everyday life for most of us. But the roots of the smart home go way back.

We’ve all longed for the day when technology would help us out with everyday tasks and make our life simpler. This is why the idea behind the smart home is anything but new. For decades now, science fiction has been exploring the idea of home automation. Way back in the 50s, authors such as Ray Bradbury were already describing a future with interactive homes that seemingly run themselves. However, while the idea of home automation has been circulating in the minds of artists and visionaries for some time now, it is only recently that real, working smart homes have existed for the masses. That said, there have been a few inventions that have paved the way for today’s smart homes. Here are a few milestones:

1901 – 1920: The invention of household appliances

While you could say that standard household appliances are anything but “smart”, back in the early 20th century they caused an absolute sensation. It all began with the first motorized vacuum cleaner in 1901. This was followed two decades later by refrigerators, clothes dryers, clothes washers, clothes irons, toasters, and lots more besides.

1966: ECHO IV, the kitchen computer

While it never hit the stores, the ECHO IV was the first smart home computer. It could calculate shopping lists, control the indoor temperature, and switch appliances on and off. The downside was that it was almost as big as a house.

1975: X10 Home Automation Project

Pico Electronics discovered it was possible to use existing power cabling to control lights and small appliances. A few years later, products appeared in stores under the X10 label.

1998: Smart home tech becomes accessible for the first time

Huge technological leaps drove exponential growth in smart home tech, opening up the chance for consumers to get their hands on the technology to make their homes smart. An increasing number of home automation, home networking, and other devices were available from retailers.


Current smart home systems offer greater security, convenience, and enable us to live more eco-friendly lives. They help us stop our homes consuming energy unnecessarily and warn us of unwelcome visitors. The technology is becoming more and more accessible – and since most of us in the developed world have home networks and smartphones, smart devices are slowly but surely conquering our homes.

Read part three to learn what the smart home of the future looks like.

This post is also available in: German