The history of Smart Homes
In 1991, Ad van Berlo setup a consultancy office for assistive technology in the care sector. He switched from the world of medical technology (cure) to the world of care technology. The field of ‘gerontechnology’ was strongly emerging, which is technology aimed at making the lives of older people easier and more comfortable. Eindhoven University of Technology started gerontechnology in the 90s as a new research area and home technology was one of the main sub-disciplines. Later, this was called home automation. France and Belgium use the term ‘domotique’ and in the Netherlands it is called ‘domotica’. In the early 90s, people could not yet imagine what home automation would entail. There were PCs but nobody knew about mobile telephones and the internet. In the 1990s, various projects took place in which older people could actually experience what home automation had to offer.
In 1998, Corien van Berlo, Ad’s partner, setup Smart Homes together with her husband. The aim was primarily to further the promotion of home automation, execute demonstration projects and start experiments. To this end, Smart Homes provided support to all pilots commissioned by the Brabant province. These demonstration projects were finished in 2000 and 2001, but the importance of these projects is still enormous. The necessity of a system integrator's participation has been demonstrated. Partly because of this, the supply of technology offering better and cheaper solutions has taken off strongly. Perhaps the most important thing is: we have learnt a lot from the most critical consumer group, the older people who may not have a lot of financial resources at their disposal.
The breakthrough in home automation, which emerged tentatively in 2001, saw the Van Berlos employ staff for Smart Homes for the first time and build The Smartest Home of the Netherlands. Through cooperation with many participants, to whom Smart Homes is very grateful, the significantly renewed demonstration home was opened in Tilburg at the end of 2001. The exceptional thing about this completely inhabitable home is the integration of the four pillars: industrial, flexible and demountable (IFD) building, home automation, durability, and accessibility. The home has already attracted many thousands of visitors in Tilburg, Almere, Duiven, Heerlen, Dokkum, Amsterdam, and Eindhoven.