Home Control Term Glossary

Decipher the language surrounding home automation with this handy list.

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Design by Audio Video Interiors; photography by Mort Tucker Photography

Making technology choices for the home can be challenging when you don't understand the language surrounding gizmos and gadgets. Keep this glossary of terms on hand to clear up any high-tech confusion.

  • 4K: Also known as Ultra HDTV, 4K has four times the resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) as a standard high-definition display (1920 x 1080 pixels) for incredibly realistic images.
  • 802.11ac: Today's Wi-Fi products are designated by a numbering system, developed to differentiate between various technology families. Wi-Fi products are identified as 802.11, and are then further identified by a lowercase letter that identifies the specific technology; 802.11ac is the most recent standard.
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth technology is a global wireless standard that is robust, low-cost and uses little power.
  • Connected: A connected device is one, simply, that can access the Internet via either wired or wireless technology, giving it smarter features and the ability to be controlled via the worldwide Web.
  • Contrast ratio: This is the ratio of the brightest and darkest parts of a display’s image. If the contrast ratio is poor, the image will appear washed out.
  • DLP or Digital Light Processing: DLP displays use a chip that contains 8 million microscopic mirrors to reflect an image onto a surface. DLP projectors are a popular choice for the home theater.
  • Gigabit: Gigabit Ethernet builds on top of the Ethernet protocol, but increases speed tenfold to 1000 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
  • GUI or Graphic User Interface: This is the place where man and machine meet in order for the former to control the latter. A GUI is the display on your iPad, touchscreen control panel or lighting touchpad, or the menu system you use to set up a home theater component.
  • HDBaseT: This enables a single LAN cable to replace multiple cables and connectors in the home entertainment system, including Ethernet, audio and video.
  • HomeRF: A HomeRF is a wireless radio-frequency networking technology that uses a protocol known as Shared Wireless Access Protocol (SWAP).
  • Infrared (IR): IR transmission is categorized as a line-of-sight wireless technology, meaning you have to have a direct path from your remote control and component for proper operability.
  • Occupancy Sensor: A device that senses when a room or space is occupied. These are great for automated lighting and climate control. If the sensor detects that someone has left the room, for example, the light and climate can be powered down automatically.
  • Plasma: The first kind of flat-panel TV to hit the market more than a decade ago, plasma displays vary the intensity of fluorescent lights — red, blue and green — to create an image.
  • HomePlug: A wired Internet delivery system that uses power lines instead of Ethernet.
  • HVAC or Heating, ventilation and air conditioning: HVAC takes into account all facets of climate control.
  • LCD or Liquid crystal display: A flat-panel display technology that uses liquid crystal and cold cathode fluorescent lights (CCFLs) to illuminate the screen.
  • LED or Light-emitting diode: This is a type of LCD display that uses light-emitting diodes instead of CCFLs to illuminate the screen.
  • OLED or Organic Light-Emitting Diode: This is a flat-panel display technology that uses organic light-emitting diodes to light up the screen. OLED TVs are the thinnest TVs available.
  • Receiver: A receiver is a component that not only switches between your various audio and video sources, but connects your speakers to your sources and usually includes sound processing.
  • Streaming: This means that media — such as movies, photos or music — is sent from one device to another over the Internet via wireless technology, instead of being downloaded to a hard drive.
  • Structured Wiring: Structured wiring is the basic set of wires needed to hardwire a home for things like distributed audio, distributed video, control and Internet.
  • Subwoofer: This compact speaker is responsible for bringing bass — the low frequencies of the audio spectrum — into an audio system.
  • Wi-Fi: The most popular wireless technology, which operates over two radio frequencies, 2.4GHz or 5GHz.

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