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100 years of caravans: From wooden wagons to connected camping

2 May 2019Technology news
3 minute read

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first commercially produced towing caravan in the UK.

In that time, these portable homes have evolved from a luxury wooden wagon to the widely available holiday-on-wheels we know today.

And yet, the humble caravan has maintained its appeal for enthusiasts – impressive in the age of budget commercial flights and international travel.

Packed with the latest internet of things (IoT) products and smart technology, German holidaymaker (and Vodafone employee) Dirk Ellenbeck has embraced the idea of a busman’s holiday.

He decided the tech more often found in your ordinary house would be ideal to upgrade the traditional family camping experience for the digital age.

This state of the art campervan – kitted out with a range of connected devices – has transformed the camping experiencing, making it simpler and safer.

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Road less travelled: Dirk Ellenbeck with his wife Silke and dog Hazel in front of their connected caravan. Photo credit: Vodafone UK

Connected camping

“Two years ago I bought a motorhome for our family to discover Europe,” says Dirk.

“After our first journey I thought that a camper’s life could become much easier with connected mobility and IoT.

“As a spokesperson for Vodafone Germany I had a lot of knowledge about the possibilities of IoT, and I was always looking for a chance to demonstrate it in a practical way.”

“I started the “connected caravan” project and it’s really made travelling around easier and safer.”

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Location, location, location: V-Auto allows Dirk to see exactly where the van is. Photo credit: Vodafone UK

Location technology means Dirk can pinpoint exactly where their van is – whether it’s parked or on the move – helping to plan the best routes, while giving peace of mind over possible theft or unexpected movement.

The V-Auto device sends information on journey length and even provides tips on how to drive more safely and efficiently – helping to plan quicker routes in the future.

Dirk can also keep an eye out for intruders while on the move using the smart V-Camera, which provides live video, app alerts and recordings. Motion detection flags any unexpected activity, aided by infrared for night time vision.

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The walls have eyes: Dirk using the V-Camera to keep his home on wheels secure. Photo credit: Vodafone UK

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A dog’s life: Hazel enjoying the holiday, kept safe by V-Pet tracker. Photo credit: Vodafone UK

IoT sensors send alerts on fires or water damage straight to Dirk’s smartphone minimising the impact and improving safety.

Other smartphone-controlled features include remote door locking, a levelling application (using an automated lift system) and, for caravans and campervans with solar panels, an energy monitoring system with a power invertor.

Finally, a pet tracker means Hazel – Dirk’s dog – is also kept safe and sound while visiting new places in Germany and abroad.

100 years of caravanning

From the late 1800s to early 1900s, the very first touring caravans were luxury wooden horse-drawn wagons, enjoyed by the wealthy elites to travel around the countryside.

Inspired originally by the travelling homes of the Romany community, the original glamping experience was a far cry from the caravan we know today.

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Chipperfield Circus caravans, Town Moor, Newcastle 1952. Photo credit: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

In 1919, the first commercial caravans to be towed by car began production – the beginnings of the modern caravan.

By the 1930s to 1940s, trailers were becoming lighter and more streamlined, meaning people could travel longer distances.

And by the 1960s – with increased economic prosperity – there were more manufacturers, lower prices and better campsite facilities available for holidaymakers. This was when caravanning went mainstream.


Fast-forward to today, there’s a huge choice of caravans and campervans with improved design, facilities and features – ready for another evolution with the addition of IoT technology and modern comforts.

Meaning the tourists of tomorrow are likely to carry on camping.

Find out more about V by Vodafone here.

  • Digital Society
  • IoT
  • Technology

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