Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Alarm New England

The history of home security systems is rich and varied, stretching back over many years. Today, we might be familiar with home security systems boasting advanced technology and automation. But what we might not know is how it all started. Among the key figures in this journey is the home security system inventor, Marie Van Brittan Brown, whose invention in the 1960s laid the groundwork for the sophisticated systems we rely on today. Brown’s story is not just one of innovation but also of necessity, insight, and the desire to create a safer living environment.

photo of marie van brittan brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown was born on October 30, 1922, in Jamaica, Queens, New York. Living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate and slow police response times, Brown sought a way to feel safer in her own home. Working as a nurse, with irregular hours that often left her home alone at night, she was acutely aware of the vulnerabilities that came with her situation. This personal need for safety and security led her to conceive an idea that was revolutionary for its time.


In 1966, Brown and her husband, Albert Brown, an electronics technician, devised a system that would allow her not only to see who was at her door but also to communicate with them without opening it, and to alert authorities if necessary. This system was comprised of four peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The camera could be moved to look out of any one of the peepholes, allowing Brown to see who was outside at varying heights, including children. The images captured by the camera were then transmitted to a monitor inside the home. Additionally, a panic button was included to immediately alert the police if the homeowner felt threatened.

Marie Van Brittan Brown filed a patent for her invention in 1966, and it was granted in 1969. The patent described a system that provided a front door with a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The revolutionary aspect of Brown’s invention was not just in allowing homeowners to see who was at their door without opening it, but also in its incorporation of a communication system and an alert mechanism to notify the police, which significantly enhanced home security.

first home security system patent


Brown’s invention laid the foundational technology for the modern home security systems we use today, which include motion detectors, automatic police notification, and video surveillance. While technology has clearly evolved and expanded upon her initial concept, the principles behind Brown’s system remain at the core of home security. Today, smart home security systems integrate cameras, motion sensors, and internet connectivity to provide real-time surveillance, remote access, and instant alerts to homeowners and law enforcement.

Marie Van Brittan Brown’s contribution to home security is a testament to the power of innovation driven by personal need. Her work exemplifies how thoughtful, inventive solutions can create lasting changes that benefit countless individuals. Brown’s legacy is not only in the device she created but also in the sense of safety and security that her invention has provided to homes around the world. As we continue to develop and refine home security technology, it is important to remember the pioneering work of Marie Van Brittan Brown, whose vision and ingenuity have made an indelible mark on the field.