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The Ultimate Home Security Glossary

Feb 27, 2018|


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Deciphering home tech terminology is not always easy. The Vivint team has assembled this home security glossary with the definitions and answers you need to understand home security, right here under one roof.


1080p (HD): Describes an image that contains 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution; devices that have 1080p resolution or higher are considered high definition (HD) and provide quality picture quality for the price.

24-hour security: A round-the-clock home security system that may include indoor and outdoor security cameras, sensors and detectors, and 24/7 alarm monitoring support to assist residents in responding to emergency situations.

4K (HD): Sometimes known as ultra-high definition, 4K is a high-definition resolution that has twice the vertical and horizontal resolution of 1080p (high definition); 4K surveillance cameras provide greater clarity and an enhanced capability to zoom in for greater resolution to help identify persons and objects.

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AC power: AC stands for alternating current, which means the electrical current is capable of reversing directions; it powers most everyday electronics due to its ability to transform high-powered currents to low voltages.

Access code: Also referred to as an entry code, an access code is a series of numbers that provides access to a home as opposed to traditional keyed entry.

Alarm event: Occurrences that trigger a home security system alert that generally include burglary, panic, medical, fire, and duress.

Alarm system: Electronic security system for the home that detects and notifies homeowners of unwanted activity and other threatening situations such as gas leaks, fire, or even flooding.

Arm (system): The process of activating a home security system so that components including sensors and smart home locks are operating to protect the home.

Arm leaving (arm away): Activating a home security system to function while the user is away, in which case all sensors, both indoor and outdoor, are armed for maximum protection.

Arm staying (arm stay): Activating a home security system to function while homeowners are home; generally only exterior sensors are armed in this case.

Artificial intelligence (AI): The intuitive component of smart home devices that learns a homeowner's behaviors and transforms sensor information into experiences that match a user's needs.

Amazon Echo: A smart speaker developed by Amazon (also referred to as Alexa) that can be controlled with a user's voice; integrated into a home security system, Echo enables users to voice control certain functions such as arming a security system.

Amazon Echo smart speaker used by mom and daughter
Amazon Echo is a smart speaker that enables voice control of some aspects of home security systems and smart homes.

Automation: Interconnected devices and appliances that automate tasks around the home--anything from shutting off appliances to closing the garage to locking doors or adjusting temperature.

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Backup battery: Provides power to a device, system, or home when the primary power source is unavailable or non-functioning; a backup battery integrated with a home security system ensures alarms will sound and the smart home control panel functionality is not compromised during an outage.

Bandwidth: The amount of information or frequencies something—generally an Internet connection—can hold at a given time; an Internet connection from a service provider with a larger bandwidth, for example, can move around more information at a faster rate than a connection with a lower bandwidth.

Biometrics: Measurements or calculations that reference distinct human characteristics (e.g. facial recognition, fingerprint, iris recognition); biometrics can be used for identification or access controls.

Break-in: Forced entry into a home, car, computer system, or building, usually for the purpose of criminal activity.

Burglary: Unlawful entry into a home or building with the intent to commit theft.

Burglar alarm: An electronic device that sounds an alarm when someone attempts unlawful entry into a building, car, home, or some other premises.

Bypass: Going around an existing system to gain access—an important consideration when installing a home alarm system in terms of preventing intrusions, break-ins, and burglary.

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Carbon monoxide detector: Also known as a CO detector, it determines the presence of this toxic gas and sounds an alarm to notify home occupants to prevent poisoning from exposure and even, in some cases, death.

CCTV: Stands for closed-circuit television, also known as video surveillance, wherein cameras are used to send signals to a specific set of monitors—unlike broadcast television, for example, where the signal is openly transmitted.

CCTV camera: A video surveillance camera or system of cameras with video content feeds that are transmitted with a closed system for authorized users.

Cellular connectivity: Also referred to as a mobile network or radio network wherein communication is wireless. This technology enables the components of a home security system to communicate with each other and the control panel, ensuring the home is connected and secure.

Chime: A ringing sound on an electronic device, providing an audible method of alerting users to a notification or alarm so they can respond to any concerns or potential emergency situations regarding their home and security system.

Cloud: A remote location for storing and accessing information via the Internet rather than on a computer's hard drive-essentially "the cloud" is another term for the Internet; files (like security camera footage) are sent to and stored on the cloud as opposed to a personal computer to allow content to be accessed from multiple devices.

Cloud-hosted video: A method for storing video footage from surveillance cameras on the cloud rather than hosting it locally; this allows users to access and review footage from multiple devices.

vivint smart drive
Cloud-hosted video is a convenient way to access video content whenever it is needed. Vivint Smart Drive™ is a cloud-based storage solution for footage captured from your home security cameras

Comprehensive home security: A system for protecting the home that integrates multiple wirelessly connected devices such as cameras, sensors and detectors, and provides automation of key components along with remote management capabilities for the user. A system may be hardwired, run on batteries, or both.

Continuous recording: Recording in which a camera records everything it sees 24/7, or as long as the storage location to which it is recording has capacity to accept and store footage.

Control panel: The hub of comprehensive home security systems that allow users to manage the entire system from one intuitive dashboard, including arming/disarming the system, securing smart locks, or closing a garage door.

Vivint Smart Hub Panel arm security system at night
Control panels, like the Vivint Smart Hub Panel, allow users to monitor and manage the features of their home security system.

Cybersecurity: Methods, techniques, technologies, and practices designed to protect programs, networks, data, computers, or systems from damage, unauthorized use, or attack.

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Deadbolt: A locking mechanism engaged by turning a knob rather than relying on spring action; it can be unlocked only by turning a key or accepting an access code in the case of smart home locks.

Detectors: Gadgets or objects used for the purposes of detecting an object or substance; detectors sound a signal or alert when they detects the object or substance they are designed to detect.

Digital surveillance: Surveillance of data, computer activity, data transfers, or even physical activity with CCTV security system cameras.

Disarm (system): The means by which a homeowner deactivates their home security system using the control panel or, in some cases, a mobile phone or tablet if the system connects to a mobile application.

Dispatch: In terms of home security, the act of home security personnel requesting emergency services for homeowners if they can't be reached when, for example, an alarm signal sounds indicating a break-in or fire.

DIY security: A smart home system wherein the owner must install individual hardware components and gadgets and ensure everything is connected and working together. With DIY systems individuals can hire security companies for an additional layer of support with their systems.

Door sensor: Detects when doors are opened or closed, sounding an alarm if triggered while a security system is armed.

Doorbell camera: A doorbell and security camera rolled into one that allows homeowners to see and speak with whomever is on the doorstep from mobile devices or security system central monitoring station.

DVR: Digital video recorder; in terms of home security, a DVR system digitally records footage from surveillance cameras when motion is detected.

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Electronic surveillance: The use of electronic devices to watch, monitor, or record people or things.

Emergency: An unexpected, often dangerous situation that generally poses a threat to safety, property, health, or even the environment; emergencies usually require swift intervention to mitigate damages, injuries, or even death.

Encryption/Encrypted: Converting any information from a readable format into code to prevent unauthorized use or access.

Ethernet: A system for connecting a limited number of computer systems on a local area network (LAN) with protocols in place for the sharing and transmission of information.

Exterior camera: A surveillance camera strategically placed to monitor and record activity on the exterior premises of a property.

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False alarm: An incorrect report of an emergency situation or notice of a serious occurrence that fails to happen.

Field of view: The angle through which cameras and detectors can see and detect motion.

Fire alarm: A device that detects and sounds a loud noise to warn in the event of fire.

FireFighter: Sensor developed by Vivint that listens to existing, interconnected smoke detectors in a home and sends a signal to 24/7 home security supervising services when an alarm signal is sounded.

Flood sensor: A sensor designed to detect and send notification of extreme shifts in moisture.

Freeze sensor: A sensor designed to detect and send notification of extreme shifts in temperature.

Front door security: Fortifying the most vulnerable part of the home against potential intruders. This may include smart technology locks, door sensors, outdoor cameras, and a doorbell camera.

Front door security protects the entry to your home
Front door security is essential to protecting the primary entry to the home and may include features like a smart lock, doorbell camera, or door sensors.

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Garage Door Controller: A device that allows individuals to close or open the garage door by flipping a switch on the garage wall or with a remote controller; smart garage door controllers enable opening and closing with a mobile phone or tablet.

Glass break sensor: Detects when a window has been broken, sounding an alarm if triggered while the system is armed.

Google Home: A smart speaker developed by Google capable of integrating with some home security and home automation systems; offers voice-powered management control via Google Assistant, its built-in virtual personal assistant.

Google Home in the kitchen
Google Home is a voice-controlled smart speaker that can control some aspects of home security like arming a system or closing the garage door.

Guest codes: Individualized access codes for family or guests used for entry into homes with keyless smart home locks.

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Hardwired: Connected electrical components through cables or electrical wires; connection to a computer through a direct circuit rather than a wi-fi network connection.

HD: High definition video of higher quality than standard definition, generally with either 720 or 1080 scan lines per frame coupled with a wide-screen format.

Heat sensor: A sensor designed to detect and send notification of extreme changes in temperature in the home.

Hidden camera: Camera hidden from view that allows individuals to monitor and record activity inside and outside the home undetected; many hidden cameras offer portability, night vision, and motion activation.

Home alarm: A security gadget designed for the home that detects intrusion, sounding an alarm to preempt potential burglary, theft, and property damage.

Home automation: Also known as domotics, involves the control and automation of home features, appliances, activity, and security with a central monitoring station (or hub), voice automation, or mobile devices.

Home security: Securing your home against potential theft or burglary, which includes both security hardware (e.g., security cameras, locks, alarms, sensors and detectors, lighting) and personal security measures (e.g., not hiding keys outside the home, making sure doors and windows are closed and locked).

Hub: The central control panel for a comprehensive smart home that allows users to manage the entire system from one intuitive dashboard, including an alarm system, lights, and locks, for example.

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Indoor camera: A camera installed inside the home, with some models (like the Vivint Indoor Camera) providing video recording capabilities, night vision, motion detection, two-way talk, and remote supervision access.

Infrared surveillance: Surveillance with cameras equipped with smart infrared radiation (IR) that alters the levels of a camera's infrared LEDs when distance is a factor so that objects and people are not overexposed and the picture is clear.

Integration: Consolidating multiple home security devices to work together seamlessly on a single platform.

Interconnected: As with a home automation system, individual smart devices function cohesively, working together as a unit to secure a home on a connected network.

Intrusion: The act of intruding or being intruded upon; wrongful entry, taking possession of, or seizing the property of another.

IP: Short for Internet protocol; a set of rules dictating the format of data transmission over the Internet or other network.

IP address: A numeric label assigned to any device (e.g., computer, switch, printer, router) connected to a computer network that communicates via Internet protocol.

IP surveillance camera: A camera that can be wirelessly connected to mobile devices, enabling users to remotely monitor property; many offer two-way talk capabilities and motion detection, delivering detailed security footage.

IoT (Internet of Things): The idea of connecting everyday devices like home appliances or vehicles to the Internet and in some cases to each other, creating a connectivity that enables these devices to work together and exchange data.

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Keypad: Pressable numbered button interface; keypads allow homeowners to create custom entry access codes for family and friends.

Key fob: A wireless, remote control device not unlike the controls that come with a car. Key fobs for a home alarm system can arm and disarm a security system and include a panic button that sounds an alarm and notifies security support in the event of a break-in or other emergency.

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LED: Stands for light-emitting diode; it's a semiconductor that produces light when an electric current passes through it, producing light 90 percent more efficiently than traditional, incandescent lightbulbs; LEDs are commonly found in electronic devices and often serve as notification lights.

Live video feed: Real-time video footage; when installing a smart home security system, the capability to view live video feed from security cameras on a mobile smartphone, tablet, or control panel is generally an option.

View live video feeds with the Vivint app
Live video feeds enable users to see what security cameras are recording at any time, and from any enabled electronic device, including smartphones.

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Mobile notifications: Information regarding the status of a user's home security system sent directly to their mobile device.

Monitoring: Home security monitoring specialists available 24/7 to assist with and respond to emergencies.

Motion activated: A built-in mechanism in motion detectors, sensors, or security cameras, for example, that triggers or activates the devices when motion is detected and alerts of potential threat.

Motion sensor/detector: Devices that detect motion, particularly human movement, generally as part of an overall home security system that sends alerts or notifications to users.

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Night vision: Technology that improves users' ability to see in dark and low-light conditions; especially helpful in terms of home security camera surveillance at night.

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Outdoor camera/outdoor security camera: Security cameras that provide outdoor surveillance-monitoring and record activity and send notifications of movement, potential breaches, and intrusions.

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Panel: Also control panel; the central monitoring station of a home security system that allows users to manage the entire system from one intuitive dashboard, including arming/disarming alarms, lights, and locks, for example.

Panic pendant: A small, portable, remote device designed to transmit a signal from any location within range of the security system so the user can receive help and assistance during an emergency situation.

Perimeter protection: Fortifications such as security fencing and gates, video surveillance and detection, access control, and intrusion detection. For example, designed to help prevent intrusions and potential criminal activity such as theft and burglary.

Phone security: Simple measures users can take to ensure the security of the data on their phone such as using a screen lock, installing a security app, turning off tracking when not necessary, and avoiding the installation of apps that require several pieces of personal information.

indoor camera camera: An indoor camera created by Vivint with a wide-angle lens that records activity, provides remote access, enables two-way talk, allows users to call out with one touch, sends mobile notifications, and can be integrated as part of a comprehensive smart home system.

Vivint Indoor Camera is an indoor camera with one-touch callout functionality
The Vivint Indoor Camera is an indoor camera with one-touch callout and two-way talk functionality.

Porch pirates: Thieves, who often follow delivery trucks, stealing packages from customers' doorsteps as they're delivered.

Power supply: A hardware component that provides power to electrical devices, including those in a user's home; a home security system may be powered by a home's electrical power supply, batteries, or a combination of both.

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Recessed door sensor: Motion sensors hidden in the door frame to detect when doors are opened and closed, sounding an alert if triggered while the system is armed.

Recorded video: Video recorded and collected from indoor and outdoor security cameras used for reference in the event of breaches, break-ins, or burglary, for example.

Remote access: Provides a homeowner the ability to manage their home security system from anywhere—arm their security system, close the garage door, monitor security camera video footage, for example—using a mobile smartphone or tablet.

Remote surveillance camera: Allows homeowners to monitor activity and camera footage from a computer or mobile device no matter the user's physical location.

Repeater: A gadget used to boost the wireless signal between cameras or detectors and the control hub of a home security or home automation system.

Resolution: The image clarity of indoor or outdoor security cameras; the higher the number of pixels, the greater the resolution.

Router: An electronic device that connects a network of computers to the Internet wirelessly or with hardware.

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Security camera: A video camera for indoor or outdoor use that monitors and records activity for the purposes of improving security and preventing potential residential crime.

Security company: An organization that provides home security systems, often coupled with professional installation, smart home automation, and security monitoring support.

Security system: A method for fortifying and securing the home with interconnected devices functioning on a single platform to protect against potential emergencies such as intrusion or fire by sounding an alarm.


  • Security sensors: Sensors for the home that detect intrusion. These sensors notify users of abnormal activity, glass breaks, and the opening and closing of doors and windows.
  • Safety sensors: Sensors for the home that notify users of the presence of smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide and monitor changes in moisture, water level, and temperature.

Silent alarm: An alarm that is inaudible to an intruder but notifies the authorities and the home security provider of the intrusion.

Smart device: An electronic gadget, often connected to other devices, that functions somewhat interactively and autonomously; can include smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, and other personal electronic devices.

Smart home: A residence with lighting, heating, security cameras, and other electronic devices that are interconnected via the Internet and complete tasks throughout the home; components are controlled and activated by a control panel, voice commands, or a mobile device.

Smart Home ProsVivint's team of highly trained, certified professionals who expertly take customers from consultation to installation of a smart home, which includes home security features.

Smart lighting: Lighting designed for efficiency, convenience, and security that can be integrated into a smart home system and controlled and adjusted through a central hub, voice commands, or a mobile device; motion sensor exterior lights and indoor lights can be set to make it appear inhabitants are home even while away which can help deter potential break-ins.

Smart lock: A lock designed for the home that allows users to lock and unlock doors through voice commands or remotely with a mobile device, and provide friends and family entry through personalized access codes; smart locks can be integrated into a comprehensive home security system.

Smart locks protect your front door
A smart lock provides enhanced protection at your front door security and allows for keyless entry via unique access codes or permission from a smartphone.

Smart speaker: Wireless speakers that respond to voice commands, many of which feature Bluetooth, NFC, and artificial intelligence (AI) and can be incorporated into a smart home system to give users voice control over the home and its functions, including home security options.

Smoke detector: Protects against fire by sounding an alarm when it detects not only smoke, but also extreme temperature changes in the home.

Status: The state or condition of circumstances or things; several home security systems offer a mobile app that provides status of a user's home through alerts and notifications sent directly to their mobile device.

Surveillance camera: A camera or system of cameras that can be installed indoors or outdoors to increase security and help prevent intrusion, theft, or other crimes.

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Tamper (protection): Ensuring a security system and its components cannot be compromised or damaged and that an alert is sounded should someone try to interfere with the system.

Two-way talk: Enabled by a microphone and speaker, the capability to have two-way conversations via a camera and a mobile device from a remote location.

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Video surveillance: A means of surveillance utilizing a security camera or camera system allowing real-time observation and recording capabilities.

Vivint: Provider of smart home products and services that include home security, professional installation, 24/7 monitoring support, and the Vivint app that allows users to manage their systems remotely.

Vivint app: A mobile application that seamlessly integrates with a Vivint system and allows homeowners to manage their system from anywhere. With the app, alerts and notifications are delivered straight to a user's mobile device.

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Water detector: Sensor that notifies you of extreme shifts in moisture within the home, not just water levels, making it possible to preempt severe flood damage.

Wide-angle security camera: A surveillance camera with a lens that provides users a wider field of view. A greater scope means fewer cameras may be required.

WiFi-enabled: Indicates that devices can connect to the Internet if a local WiFi connection is available; essential when linking the components of a home security system to be able to communicate and operate on a single platform.

Window lock: Devices used to secure windows to prevent intrusion as part of a home security system. Some windows come with locks while others require installation to increase protection and safety.

Window sensor: Detects when a window has been opened or closed, sounding an alarm if triggered while the security system is armed.

Wired: In terms of a home security system, devices are hardwired into the home's electrical system and sometimes even its landline.

Wireless: Individual sensors and detectors, rather than hardwires, connect smart devices and enable them to communicate wirelessly to the control panel or hub.

Wireless communication: Sometimes simply referred to as wireless, data communication or transfer of power or information that takes place wirelessly without an electrical conductor connection.

Wireless IP camera: A digital video camera often used for surveillance as part of a home security system that sends and receives data using the Internet and computer networks.

Wireless security camera: A closed-circuit television (CCTV) that sends video and audio content to a wireless receiver via a radio band; some wireless surveillance cameras do require at least one wire or cable for power, but are able to transmit wirelessly.

Wireless security system: A home security system with sensors throughout the home that communicate wirelessly to the central control panel or hub.

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Z-wave: Provides wireless connectivity for smart home devices without WiFi interference; with Z-wave, the more interconnected products in the home, the stronger the network.

Zone: Denotes the coverage a single sensor provides; a home security system is divided into zones, so when one alarm is triggered, users are informed as to which zone is under duress by an attacker or other issue.

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