Revolution and Evolution: ESA Examines History of Home Security
Understanding High-Tech Security Requires a Journey through the Past
Irving, Texas (Jan. 30, 2014) — In recent years, home security has shifted away from simple control panels and deadbolt locks into cool, coveted high-tech gadgets that compose items on many homeowners’ wish lists. While the Jetson era hasn’t arrived just yet, the technology behind modern smart homes would likely be enough to blow the minds of our ancestors.
But, today’s security systems aren’t simply the product of technological developments of the past few years; the groundwork for smart security systems was laid generations ago. To understand how home security evolved into what it is today, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) takes a look back at the past.
The first home security systems
When World War I ended, an increase in crime followed. As a result, Americans became sensitive to security needs and were eager to find ways to protect themselves and their property. Additionally, many insurance companies began offering premium discounts to alarm subscribers. These events produced a consumer demand for alarm systems.
During this time, homeowners may have subscribed to a service called door shakers— a group of night watchmen who would shake subscribers’ doors each night to ensure they were locked. More advanced users may have installed an alarm system that used electromagnetic contacts fastened to doors and windows, which were connected to a battery and bell. These systems were monitored by a central station that sent a guard to the residence when the alarm was triggered.
Fast forward to today, homeowners have traded in door shakers for automated, sophisticated systems. Now, to ensure that doors are locked and the alarm is set, users simply log in remotely via a web-enabled device and check the status of their homes. They can lock doors, arm the system, or adjust the thermostat with the touch of a button.
Video surveillance evolves
In 1949, George Orwell’s book "1984” was published and the notion of video surveillance became an eerie concept. While video surveillance technology was developed in the 1940s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that it was used in homes as a security measure.
An early model of an advanced video home security system included a large motorized camera that moved down a track to view the exterior of the home through four peepholes mounted in the front door. The video camera transmitted grainy images of visitors to a stationary television monitor that also served as the control panel where the homeowner could remotely control the camera’s movements. The panel, which was located in a separate room away from the camera, was equipped with security features such as an intercom to communicate with visitors, a door lock switch and a button that could activate the alarm at the central station that monitored
Now, surveillance cameras are as small as one square inch, connected to the Internet and outfitted with powerful lenses that can capture and stream high definition video online that can be viewed from anywhere in the world. Additionally, with a connected smart home, homeowners can program their security systems to send a live video clip of an area if motion is detected when the home is unoccupied and the alarm is activated.
Fire alarms become a hot topic
As security system technology evolved, so did fire alarm technology. In 1962, a team of Canadian researchers published a study regarding the life-saving potential of heat and smoke detectors. The team examined 342 residential fire deaths occurring in Ontario from 1956-1960 and concluded that if homes had been appropriately equipped with heat detectors or smoke detectors, fatalities could have been reduced by 8 percent and 41 percent, respectively. These findings played a major role in the development of policies and standards for smoke detectors in new and existing residences. As a result, smoke detectors largely attributed to a 50 percent decrease in U.S. fire deaths between 1975 and 1998.
Modern day smoke alarms often employ a combination of sensors – photoelectric and ionization – to detect both smoldering and smoking fires and are interconnected to alert occupants of a fire in another part of the home. New technology has emerged that connects the smoke detector to the Internet and allows homeowners to check the status and battery life of their fire alarm remotely via a web-enabled device; silence a false alarm with the wave of a hand; and tell you the exact location of a fire in a human voice.
The home security system has developed by leaps and bounds in the last century and new technology is emerging each day. What’s available now is only the tip of the iceberg: Imagine what’s to come in the next 100 years.
Established in 1948, the Electronic Security Association (ESA) is the largest trade association representing the electronic life safety and security industry. Member companies install, integrate and monitor intrusion and fire detection, video surveillance and electronic access control systems for commercial, residential, industrial and governmental clients. In cooperation with an alliance of chapter associations, ESA provides technical and management training, government advocacy and delivers information, advice, tools, and services that members use to grow their businesses and prosper. ESA may be reached at (888) 447-1689 or on the Web at www.ESAweb.org.