The Technological Evolution of Home Security Systems


The invention of the alarm system began with an English inventor who created a simple burglar door alarm by mechanically linking a series of chimes to a door lock. Opening the door lock would cause the chimes to move producing sound waves. However, the system was considered to be an annoyance to many people as these chimes had to be manually disconnected every time when they were not needed. In 1778, a more efficient system was invented, a lever tumbler lock. The mechanism of this lock involved lifting two levers in the chamber of the lock to the correct heights by the provided key to let the bolt slide past through the levers back into the chamber releasing the door. This system was prone to pick-locking as the levers could easily be lifted by other means due to the little number and thickness of the levers. In 1818, the lock was replaced by a more secure lock, a Chubb detector lock. This lock worked the same as the lever tumbler lock but with an integrated security feature. This system made pick-locking extremely difficult and time consuming by increasing the number of the levers in the chamber while decreasing the thickness of each. In addition, if a lock of this type was tampered with, one of the levers would be kept in the position preventing the bolt to move back into the chamber. The bolt would remain stuck until the mechanism was reset by a special key. Many of the locks today are still based on these simple mechanisms with various improvements having been made to make pick-locking nearly impossible.

In addition to the invention of door locks to deter home intruders, a plethora of alarm systems have also been released since the introduction of first alarm system dated back in 1853. The very first electro-magnetic alarm system was patented in that year, and up until that point, many had relied upon guard dogs and noise from started animals. It was a simple battery-operated system based on the principle of telegraph that used electromagnetism to deliver electrical pulse signals. A circuit breaker is connected to a door and wired to an electromagnet. When the door is open, closing the breaker, thereby resulting in a complete circuit loop, the electromagnet is activated, causing an iron-attached hammer facing the electromagnet to go back and forth. When the hammer is in such motion, it continuously hits the bell contained within the system, emitting a ringing sound. However, because this was a decentralized system, effectively preventing the occurrence of break-ins still remained a problem, which led to the conception of a centralized monitoring system.

In 1877, multiple businesses in New York started to have their alarm systems connected to a central monitoring system that was being controlled by a single business entity. This system was further expanded through utilizing pre-existing phone cables to transfer electrical signals, eliminating the need for laying dedicated wires. Another relevant milestone was made a telegrapher who had developed a system of central stations in a district in which fifty neighbors were individually equipped with bells and household call boxes. These alarm devices were interconnected, which means that triggering a single bell would cause the rest to be set off, alerting all of the neighbors. A major improvement was made to this system at a later time. New York City was divided into districts and a central monitoring station in the form of a call box was installed in each of the districts. If a call box rang, a messenger boy would be alerted and set out to seek help from the relevant emergency service for that district. This emergency call box was widely used by police and fire service departments. This continual technological evolution has led to a gradual decrease in the average cost of a home security system. In 1980s, a single alarm component cost approximately $1000. The cheapest security device available on the market now is priced around $100. However, surprisingly, only 17% of the homes in the country are protected with a home security system. According to the FBI, a break-in happens every 13 seconds and the average monetary loss per burglary is around $2,416.

While the burglary statistics show that there was a decrease in burglary crimes between 2015 and 2016, a large number of homes are still vulnerable to intrusion. Less than one fourth of the homes are protected with a security system although home security systems have become increasingly affordable. Alarm systems have been improved drastically and innovation in security software and the development of security technology will never cease. More and more homeowners will adopt security systems upon realizing the benefits that they provide, and it is just a matter of time before intruding in someone’s home becomes a thing of the past.

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