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The In-Depth Guide to Smart Home Control

Jun 02, 2021|

The average home in the United States has 10 connected devices. As more and more people experience the benefits of smart homes, that number will continue to climb.

Smart homes and security systems help make life safer and more convenient, but with so many different smart devices, how do you control them all in a way that’s both efficient and easy? Control panels and smartphone apps! Together, they make controlling your entire home simple, whether you’re at home or away.

smart home pro with customer showing smart hub and app
A Smart Home Pro walks you through the Vivint app and Smart Hub.

What is a smart home control panel?

Control panels are small touchscreen panels or keypads that allow you to control various aspects of your smart home. They are mounted by an entry way or in a bedroom to allow for easy access.

Depending on your smart home system, you may call this panel something else, such as the alarm panel, base station, or smart hub. Whatever you call it, all control panels serve the same essential function--central control of your smart home devices and systems.

These control panels act as the brains of your smart home system, connecting your smart home devices and ensuring they work together.

Control panels—then and now

The concept of a control panel initially began long before smart homes were even a thing. In the 1990s, the cost of home security systems and monitoring became much more affordable, making a security system attainable for many homes. In these early days of widespread use, security systems had very simple numeric keypads that were used to arm and disarm a home’s alarm system.

Many alarm panels also had one-touch emergency buttons on the keypads. These buttons were designed to allow homeowners to call for help via the monitoring center with the push of a button. At this point in time, all homes had landlines, and cell phones were not as common. The one-touch emergency callout allowed people to get help without running to the phone (which may or may not have been cordless).

Smart home technology has come leaps and bounds since then, and today’s smart home control panels not only allow you to call for help, but manage all smart home and security devices from one spot.

Control panel designs

While alarm panel functionality has improved, so has their overall design. The clunky keypads of the 90s have been replaced with sleek panels that complement a home’s decor.

Many are also touchscreens with high resolution, color displays, microphones, and speakers. Control panels also use a WiFi connection, allowing them to display information like local weather and emergency alerts.

What can you do from a smart home control panel?

You can manage your smart home from your control panel, but what does that mean exactly? While the features and capabilities of a smart hub vary from brand to brand, depending on what your system includes, some of the things you would use your control panel for include:

  • Arm and disarm your security system
  • Turn lights around the house on and off
  • Lock and unlock doors
  • Adjust the temperature in the home
  • View your security camera footage (live or recorded)
  • Open and close your garage door
  • Answer your front door and speak to the person
  • Communicate with your system’s central monitoring center
  • Get immediate help via a panic or emergency button
  • View local weather and emergency alerts

As the command center of the home, most people use their panels for much more than disarming their security system. Some real-life situations that make control panels like the Vivint Smart Hub a convenient part of a smart home include:

Help in an emergency

Most panels have a panic button that puts you in contact with the monitoring center, who will contact emergency authorities on your behalf. There are many instances when a panic button like this will come in handy; for example, you may hear someone trying to break into your home, or a family member may be having a medical emergency and need help.

man touching smart hub medical button
Control your system from both the Smart Hub and app.

Closing up for the night

For most people, shutting things down for the night is a routine that includes turning off lights, checking to make sure doors are locked, the garage door is closed, and the alarm is set. A control panel allows you to simplify your nighttime routine by doing it all from one location without having to make the rounds.

Answering your front door

Having the doorbell ring when you’re not expecting anyone or when you’re busy with something else can be inconvenient and even unsettling. When your home is equipped with a doorbell camera, you can answer your door right from your home’s control panel without having to open the door. Panels with a two-way voice and one-way camera feature mean you can see who’s at the door and speak to them without the potential risk of opening your front door to someone you don’t know.

Know what’s going on around the house

Panels can also keep you informed of what’s going on around your home. For example, it will sound a chime if one of your doors open, so you know when a family member comes home or leaves. Or, you can view real-time footage from the indoor camera you have in your baby’s room, allowing you to check on the baby without disturbing her sleep.

Smart home and security apps

One of the best things about a smart home is the ability to control your home wherever you are. In addition to the smart panel, most smart homes have apps that allow you to control your home’s devices while you’re away.

Home automation and security apps for your home allow you to do many of the same things you can do from your control panel, like adjust the temperature, turn on the lights, or answer the door. The advantage of the app is the ability to do it from anywhere. If you’re working late, for example, you can use your app to turn on lights in your home so it doesn’t look empty. Or, you can check in

Smartphone apps also provide additional control and customization. With the Vivint Smart Home App, for example, you can:

  • Know what’s going on at home in real time. Notifications let you know what’s happening at home. If you forget to close your garage door or your security system is tripped, you’ll immediately get a notification on your phone.
  • Set custom actions. You can also use your app to create custom actions for your smart home. So if you want your downstairs lights to turn off automatically at a certain time or your front doors to unlock when the fire alarm goes off, you can.
  • Control access to your home. You can unlock your front doors for deliveries, pet sitters, or even family members right from your phone, eliminating the need for extra keys.
  • Arm and disarm your security system. What if you left your house in a rush and forgot to arm your security system? No problem. You can arm and disarm it via the app.

Smart apps vs smart control panels

If you have a smartphone app for your home, do you really need a control panel? Absolutely. Think of it this way—your app is for when you’re away, and your control panel is for when you’re at home. The two work hand-in-hand to give you complete control over and access to your home.

man on app with smart hub and ping in background
Control your system from the app in and outside of the home.

Integrating smart control with your devices

When you’re shopping around for home automation and security devices, it’s important to remember that not all devices play well together. There are hundreds if not thousands of smart home devices, all made by different manufacturers and companies.

Combining a wide variety of devices may end up complicating the very things you’re trying to simplify. If you create a piecemeal system, you might find that your control panel only works for your security system, or you need a different app and login for each smart home device.

For that reason, an integrated system is the best way to go. With an integrated home automation and security system, you’ll be able to take advantage of the benefits that smart control provides.

Get control with Vivint

Vivint makes it easy to control your home wherever you are. Contact our smart home pros today at 855.822.1220 for a free consultation.

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Qualifying system purchase requires minimum $599.99 expenditure on equipment after all discounts have been applied, professional installation, and execution of Vivint monitoring services agreement. Click here for monthly service plan prices. DIY system purchases and reactivations of previously-installed systems not eligible for offer. Offer not available in all states or provinces. Equipment purchase may be financed separately subject to an agreement with one of Vivint's third-party financing partners. Monthly $1.48 cellular network maintenance fee applies. Taxes and local permit fees may apply.

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