Though the foundational technology of the security system has evolved and been iterated upon for well over the last century, the invention of much of the technology used in today’s modern home security system is credited to African American inventor, Marie Van Brittan Brown.*
Brown was working as a nurse in Jamacia, Queens, New York, when she and her husband Albert, an electrical technician, designed her idea for a security system in 1966.
Due to their lines of work, Brown and her husband often worked odd hours, leaving her home alone at night in a high-crime neighborhood. As with many entrepreneurial ventures, this groundbreaking invention was a result of needing a solution to a problem and lack of options in the marketplace.
How Did It Work?
Wanting a system that would help Brown feel safe, she began designing an interactive home security system.
The closed-circuit television (CCTV) that supported her security system was not widely used in the marketplace at that time, however, with a little bit of ingenuity, she was able to build a layered, multi-functional security system.
The system, which was constructed of a sliding camera, peepholes, television monitors, and two-way microphones, allowed Brown to see, hear, and speak to whoever was at her front door.
For an added layer of protection, in addition to being able to see and speak to who was at her front door, Brown also added an element that allowed her to control her door lock without having to be at the front door. As a bonus, in the event she felt she was in danger, she could press an emergency button that alerted authorities. Sound familiar?
The Influence on Today’s Home Security
Though the patent was awarded in 1969, citing Marie as the lead inventor, the system itself was considered ahead of its time and quite expensive to install. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t have a lasting impact on the home security space. Cited in 35 U.S. patents, the Browns’ invention paved the way for what we now recognize as the modern home security system.**
From video surveillance and two-way communication to remote door locks and alerts to the authorities, you’ll find many foundational elements of today’s professional monitoring services in Brown’s patent (though the idea of a smartphone, let alone controlling the system with a smartphone, was more than a foreign concept in the 60s!).
Without question, Brown’s invention has played a critical role in making our world a safer place, and at the rate the industry is growing, the intricacies of Brown’s invention will continue to support this growth. For the latest in safety, home security, and innovation, visit the CPI Security blog to learn more.
*Lemelson-MIT, “MARIE VAN BRITTAN BROWN: Home Security, Consumer Devices.”
**The Smithsonian Magazine, “A Brief History of the Invention of the Home Security Alarm.”