Home Automation Terms Defined

By Crystal Watts | Posted July 16, 2014

In the world of Control4 and home automation, some terms may not be entirely clear to those who are just being introduced to the smart life. For example, we talk a lot about creating “scenes” to fit your lifestyle and “zones” in which you can listen to music. But what do those words actually mean?
We define these terms as well as some other commonly used terms for you below, so that you’ll be more prepared for discussions with your dealer about planning your Control4 system. And if you’re unclear on any terms that we don’t cover, just let us know and we’ll try to clarify them for you in the Comments section below.
4Sight® (with Anywhere Access)
 4Sight with Anywhere Access is a subscription service offered by Control4 that allows you to control lights, adjust temperature, view cameras and more from virtually anywhere you have 3G/4G or Internet access, directly from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Home automation is not just about giving you control over one specific aspect of your home, like your lights or televisions. It’s about many of the devices in your home being programmed to work in unison to create events (or scenes) that work to fit your specific lifestyle. For example, maybe you leave the house for work in a rush each morning and often forget that pesky closet light, to adjust the temperature, or to arm the security system. Automation allows—with the press of one button—for all of those things to happen simultaneously.
CAT5 and CAT6 are types of cables used in many wired networks. Your home computer network may use some of these to connect to the Internet modem and network router. Your Control4 network uses them for controlling wired home automation devices.
Control4 Composer is software you and your authorized Control4 dealer can use to help program your home automation system. Composer ME (Media Edition), a free download, helps you add audio and video playlists to your system. Composer HE (Home Edition), available for purchase, lets you configure devices and schedule events and notifications. Composer Pro (available only to Control4 dealers) is the software your dealer uses to build your system from the ground up.
The controller is the “brain” of your home automation system. Whether you're automating one room or a whole smart home, every Control4 home automation system starts with a controller. A controller is what makes it possible for everything to work together.

Director is the software on the controller that communicates with your home automation devices.
When a dealer adds a device to your Control4 system, corresponding drivers are installed to communicate relevant information about that device to the other system components. Hundreds of manufacturers have developed drivers that allow their products to interoperate with Control4, and more are being added every day.

Distributed Audio
Whole-house audio and distributed audio (multi-room audio) allow for playback and control of music throughout an entire home or building, or in selected zones within the home or building. Depending on how your system is set up, different users can listen to different music sources in different zones. Or, one source can be played throughout all zones, so you can walk from room to room and listen to the same music via in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.

Distributed Video
Whole-house video and distributed video (multi-room video) allow for video playback and control to multiple rooms. Depending on how your system is set up, different users can watch different video sources in different rooms. Or, one source can be played in all rooms with a connected TV.
When your dealer is setting up or adding on to your Control4 system, various devices need to be configured within the programming software (Composer Pro). To configure a device, it must be identified to the system as a unique device. The programming software can identify some devices automatically, but your dealer may need to manually identify some of them by pressing certain device buttons. If you see your dealer walking around your house pressing each light switch button several times, he could be identifying the device to the system. Or, he might just be bored.
Infrared (IR) is a wavelength of light that’s not visible to the human eye. Some home electronics, like remote controls, use pulses of IR to send command codes to TVs, DVD players, and other devices.
List Navigator
A list navigator is a remote control’s text menu which you can use to control your home automation system.
Mesh Network
A mesh network has several networked devices that “talk” with each other, instead of communicating only with a central access point or router like common wireless computer networks do. Because mesh network devices can talk directly to each other, they need very little power for communications. A Control4 system uses, in part, mesh networking (specifically, ZigBee networking) to make it all work. A Control4 controller contains the programming for your home automation system, so each mesh network device also communicates with that controller by sending and receiving messages across the mesh of devices. You can think of it like a group of people talking to each other by walkie-talkies instead of using a central telephone switchboard.
A navigator is a device you can use to control your home automation system. Touch screens, remote controls, and menu screens displayed on TVs can all be navigators.
Operating System (OS)
An operating system tells a computer how to work. Your laptop computer, tablet, and phone have operating systems, and any controller in Control4 system does, too.

Prewiring is installing network cables throughout your home before finish work, like wall coverings, are applied. Your home automation network can use a combination of wired and wireless technology to communicate with controllers and devices. In some cases, wired devices are preferred to avoid wireless connectivity problems and to support high-speed network communications. If your home is prewired, adding wired devices later is much easier, faster, and cheaper.
Remote Access (Anywhere Access)
When you're away from home, the Control4 app can connect to your system using 3G/4G cell service or WiFi giving you complete control of your home while on the go. For example, if you forgot to close the garage door, turn off some pesky lights, need to check in on a camera, or let someone in your front door, you can do it easily and simply without calling a neighbor or coming home. (For this service, a  subscription to 4Sight is required).

Adding home automation to an existing home without a major remodel or new construction. Home automation systems like Control4 can be added using a home’s existing electrical infrastructure and wireless technologies.

A scene is a combination of controlled events which are activated at the touch of a button. If you choose to automate a scene, it can trigger based on a certain time of day or some other event, like a garage door opening or a pressing a specific button. For example, a “Dinner” scene may cue up a pre-specified music playlist while dimming the overhead lights to 75% to set a relaxing mood for eating, drinking, and conversing.

From time to time, new software is available for your Control4 system. The new software (actually the Control4 operating system) can provide improved performance, new features, and support for additional devices. Your Control4 dealer can set up your system to update itself automatically or only when you request it.
User Interface (UI)
A user interface is what you use to control a machine or system; for example, a remote, a keypad, a touch screen, even a mobile device or personal computer can be used to control your Control4 system. You can use any of these to trigger specific events to happen within your smart home.

A type of low-power wireless network that allows compatible ZigBee devices to communicate with each other, instead of a central access point (a mesh network). The more ZigBee devices in your home, the more robust the network mesh. We recommend a maximum of 125 ZigBee devices per controller.

Zones are selected rooms or areas within the home that have the ability to play music. For instance, the dining room, family room, backyard, master bedroom and den could all be examples of zones. Control4 provides the ability to add a room to a zone where music is already playing or play separate music in each zone.