You’re halfway to your car, but the clouds above do not wait. A torrential downpour splashes down and you run, grocery bags in hand, fingers ready on your key fob. Beep beep. The sound of a dry refuge. You slip into your car, mostly dry, and unconsciously give thanks to your trusty key fob.
That’s how we expect wireless controls to act: as simple and dependable as a light switch. Ironically, radio control predates the wired light switch by almost two decades: Nikola Tesla invented radio controls in 1898, 18 years before Morris and Goldberg would file their patent for the wired toggle switch.
Look at the evolution of wireless control since then – garage door openers, keyless entry for cars and Amazon delivery drones.
Look at these 7 wireless control innovations from the past and present:
RADIO CONTROLLED BOAT
Nikola Tesla wowed audiences at an electrical exhibition in Madison Square Garden with his seemingly magical manipulation of a small boat. In his first public demonstration of remote radio control, Tesla stopped, started and turned the tiny ship about a pool of water and even flashed its running lights on and off.
At the time, media wrote how the technology could be used for military means, but Tesla foresaw the useful domestic applications we enjoy today: “You do not see there a wireless torpedo; you see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race.” Nikola Tesla wowed audiences at an electrical exhibition in Madison Square Garden with his seemingly magical manipulation of a small boat. In his first public demonstration of remote radio control, Tesla stopped, started and turned the tiny ship about a pool of water and even flashed its running lights on and off.
At the time, media wrote how the technology could be used for military means, but Tesla foresaw the useful domestic applications we enjoy today: “You do not see there a wireless torpedo; you see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race.”
WIRELESS GARAGE DOOR OPENERS
Goldstein and Ackerman
The first wireless remote controls for garage door openers freed homeowners from the inconvenience of getting out of their cars and lifting heavy, wooden garage doors.
When asked about the invention, co-inventor Norman Ackerman jokingly explained: “We made it so the wife in the passenger seat next to her husband was no longer the ‘garage door opener.’”
Garage door openers became very popular in the growing suburbia of mid-20th century America. For many families in the 1960s and 70s, the garage door opener and the TV “clicker” were the only two wireless controls in the home.
Several inventors proposed putting a radio link in a telephone handset prior to 1966, but George Sweigert was the first to file a patent for a legal, marketable version of the cordless phone.
Sweigert, who was a radio operator in World War II, wanted to use his invention to help make battlefield communications easier for untrained personnel.
In the 1980s, cordless phones operating at 27MHz had decent range but poor sound quality and you ran the risk of picking up other people’s conversations on your phone. Later versions solved these issues by using the higher frequencies (900MHz and 2.4GHz). By the 1990s, these improvements (plus the convenience of talking without being tethered with a wire), made cordless telephones a fixture in almost every household.
KEYLESS ENTRY FOR CARS
The Renault Fuego was the first car with a remote keyless entry system with central locking, making the otherwise basic automobile seem sleek and high-tech.
Drivers enjoyed a surprising psychological benefit to this technology: they reported feeling reassured upon hearing the click of the door locks and seeing a flashing light indicating their car was locked and secure. 30 years later, keyless entry is no longer a luxurious option; it is the standard.
WIRELESS LIGHTING CONTROL
Lighting and control manufacturer Lutron created RadioRA to give people remote control for the lighting in their home and business. The remote controls communicated with receiver/switches built into the wall to dim and switch lights.
Complete RadioRA systems were too expensive for success in the mainstream market, but the product paved the way for the affordable wireless controls we enjoy today.
Levven Controls has developed wire-free switches to control power without a permanent box or wire installed in the wall.
The wire-free switch can be mounted without cutting a hole or connecting to a wire. This spares the owner from any repair or repainting work on their surface (brick, concrete, tile, wood, etc.). If needed, the switch can be moved to a different location or used as a portable remote. The Levven Controls switches can control one or many lights and fixtures at a time, which means owners can use them as a master switch to control all the lights at once.
The affordability, adaptability and easy installation of Levven Controls have made it successful in both the new construction and retrofit/renovation markets.
Amazon Prime Air is deploying unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones, as they are more commonly known — to deliver packages direct to the customer’s doorstep in 30 minutes or less.
Though Amazon is still testing its drone delivery systems, we think Nikola Tesla would have been pleased to see a radio-controlled quad-copter delivering a 55 lb payload to his door.
Using Controls Daily
After living with radio control for 118 years, it’s proven to be just as reliable as its younger cousin, the wired switch. Safety, reliability, easy integration, accessibility and convenience is now a baseline expectation for all new products, both wired and wireless.
Take a look around, how many wireless controls are within reach? Computer mice and keyboards, television and gaming systems, ceiling fans, sound systems, locks, thermostats, security systems and garage doors are all examples of reliable wireless controls.