The Ultimate Home Security Glossary

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

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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 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 security cameras provide greater clarity and an enhanced ability 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 locks are operating to protect the home.

Arm leaving (arm away): Activating a home security system to function while the homeowner 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 data 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 width=
Amazon Echo is 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 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 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, usually for the purpose of criminal activity, into a home, car, computer system, or building.

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 security 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 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 data 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 security cameras on the cloud rather than hosting it locally; this allows users to access and review footage from multiple devices.

Cloud-hosted video is a convenient way to access video whenever it is needed. Vivint Smart Drive is a cloud-based storage solution for footage captured from security cameras.

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

Continuous recording: Recording in which a camera records everything it sees 24/7/365, or as long as the storage device to which it is recording has capacity to accept and store footage.

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

Vivint SkyControl Panel arm security system at night
Control panels, like the Vivint SkyControl Panel, allow users to monitor and control 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 locks.

Detector: A device or object used for the purposes of detecting an object or substance; a detector sounds a signal or alarm when it detects the object or substance it is designed to detect.

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

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

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

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

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 a mobile device or security system control panel.

DVR: Digital video recorder; in terms of home security, a DVR security 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 data or 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 security 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 security cameras and sensors 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 Smart Home that listens to existing, interconnected smoke detectors in a home and sends a signal to 24/7 home security monitoring services when an alarm 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; may include smart 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 device.

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 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 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 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 device 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 control hub, voice automation, or mobile device.

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

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

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 operate 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 a mobile device, 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 security system can arm and disarm a security system and include a panic button that sounds an alarm and notifies monitoring 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 ability to view live video feed from security cameras on a mobile device or control panel is generally an option.

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

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Medical alert: A system designed to alert healthcare or emergency personnel of a potential medical hazard or emergency; with some home security systems, homeowners can use the control panel or a dedicated personal medical alert device to contact monitoring and obtain assistance with a medical emergency.

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 sensors, detectors, or security cameras, for example, that triggers or activates the devices when motion is detected, alerting of potential threat.

Motion sensor/detector: A device that detects 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 hub of a home security system that allows users to control 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 alarm 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.

Ping camera: An indoor camera created by Vivint Smart Home with a wide-angle lens that records activity, provides remote monitoring, 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 Ping Camera is an indoor camera with one-touch callout functionality
The Vivint Ping 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: Sensors hidden in the door frame to detect when doors are opened and closed, sounding an alarm 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 control their home security system from anywhere—arm their security system, close the garage door, monitor security camera video footage, for example—using a mobile device.

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 device used to boost the wireless signal between cameras or sensors and the control panel 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 Pros: Vivint Smart Home'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-sensored 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 front door security and allows for keyless entry via unique access codes or control 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 alarm is sounded should someone try to interfere with the system.

Two-way talk: Enabled by a microphone and speaker, the ability 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 monitoring activity utilizing a security camera or camera system allowing real-time observation and recording capabilities.

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

Vivint Smart Home app: An app that seamlessly integrates with a Vivint Smart Home system and allows homeowners to control 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 security 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: Device 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 security 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, 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 to a wireless receiver via a radio band; some wireless security 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.

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