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The Evolution of Home Alarms

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By: Editor
October 1, 2013
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The Evolution of Home Alarms

160 years ago, the modern home security system was born. It’s hard to believe, but the home alarm system actually pre-dates World War I by some 60 years. Today, advancements in home security allow you to receive instantaneous updates and view live camera feeds, all on your phone! But by looking back, we can appreciate just how far home alarms have come since one fateful day in 1853.

Alarm Geese

The basic concept of home security dates way before 1853, as far back as when Romans were still at the height of their power. Historians state that as early as 386 CE, the Romans were using geese as a way to alert them of danger. The geese’s noises were loud enough to alert any sleeping inhabitants to impending danger. Remarkably, geese are still being used the same way in parts of the world. Other animals, such as dogs and various livestock, were also used a basic means of intrusion detection.

The Modern Home Security System

It wasn't until the early 1700's that a newer, more reliable home security solution was introduced. An English inventor named Tildesley created a door lock that was mechanically linked to a set of chimes. If anyone tried to enter, the chimes would sound. While Tildesley’s chiming door lock was a huge step for home security, it still only operated on a basic level and was easily thwarted. It took over another century before a new method came out.

It was another inventor, Augustus Russell Pope, who officially invented and patented the first modern home security system on June 21, 1853. It was an electromagnetic system, reacting to the closing of an electric circuit. The system was attached to doors and windows and if any of those were opened, the electric circuits would close and cause the magnets in the system to vibrate. The vibrations were sent to a hammer, which then struck a bell to raise the alarm.

Pope decided to sell the rights to his invention in 1857, to a businessman named Edwin Holmes. Holmes quickly turned the alarm systems into a business and began selling the system door-to-door, a practice we still see today from various companies (but not from FrontPoint). Holmes also made continuous improvements to the system, a lot of which we see in current home alarm systems. Home automation features, such as a clock to automatically arm/disarm and a switch to control house lights, were all created by Holmes back in the mid-1800's!

Bringing Monitoring Stations into the Mix

The concept of a central monitoring station had been used by fire departments, but not for home security until 1871. A man named E.A. Calahan introduced the concept by dividing New York City into districts, which would each have their own monitoring stations. Whenever a distress call came, a messenger would immediately be dispatched to send help to that district. As a result of his successful venture, Calahan helped form the American District Telegraph Company, or ADT, in 1871.

The New Era of Home Alarms

For the next few years, home security systems steadily became more common, but it wasn't until a century later that another drastic improvement was made. The first set of motion detectors were integrated into home alarm systems in the 1970's. They used ultrasound waves to detect movement. Motion detectors were later improved upon in the 1980's, where infrared technology replaced ultrasound for better detection results.

Up to this point, home alarm systems were still a costly investment, but that changed in the 1990's. The production costs fell and home security became more affordable for the public. Security systems became common enough during this period that they became a standard feature of many buildings. However, it wasn't until the end of the 90's when home security solutions took the next revolutionary step: the first wireless home alarm systems were introduced.

Wireless Reigns Supreme

Today, home security systems not only have wireless sensors, but also wireless communication. Cellular chips are now used to communicate with monitoring stations, the very same technology used in cell phones. We've also reached a point where controlling your wireless home security system is as simple as opening up an app on your smartphone.

As home security has evolved, so have the burglars trying to outsmart them. It’s a never ending race between security and burglar. With technology advancing and changing at an incredible pace, we have no real idea what the next evolution of home security will be. However, judging by all the changes in the past 50 years, it’s safe to expect something truly amazing.

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