Glossary of Selected Home Automation Terms

IP (Internet Protocol) – Internet Protocol specifies the format (the layout) and the addressing scheme (how the system knows where it goes) in a network like the internet. It's used in other places besides the internet, and one of them can be a network that passes commands from remote control units to a media server or an automation control device.

IR (Infrared) – A method of transmitting remote control signals to electronic devices using infrared light, which is invisble to the human eye. Most consumer remote controls use IR. This method is strictly line-of-sight and cannot be used to control devices through walls or furniture. As a result, it is often used for home theater but rarely for home automation applicatons like controlling the lights or air conditioning. See RF for a common alternative.

Media Server, Multimedia, Multimedia Server – a computer-based device that provides audio or audio/video data (including “still” photos and text) to an IP distribution network, available to multiple locations. Dynamic content is delivered via streaming technology.

RF (Radio Frequency) – A method of transmitting remote control signals to electronic devices using radio waves. Unlike Infrared, RF is not line-of-sight and can operate through walls. RF is often used for home automation applications like controlling the lighting since the receiver/server may be in a different room from the lights. However, RF is not commonly used for Home Theater since Viewers are usually sitting right in front of the television they are watching and IR is more immune to interference. See IR for a common alternative.

Streaming, Digital Streaming, Streaming Technology – transferring data so that it can be processed as a continuous stream. Streaming originated as an internet technology, developed because most users don't have fast enough access to download large audio or video files in reasonable time. The data is converted from analog form to digital form (digitized data), which conveys much more information in the same bandwidth. The receiving device starts displaying the data before the entire file has been transmitted by collecting the data, which may arrive sporadically, and saving it in a buffer. It then passes the data along at a uniform rate. If the client receives the data more quickly than is needed, the buffer holds the excess. If the data arrives too slowly, its presentation will be sporadic unless a significant amount of it is received and buffered before playback begins.

Wireless – A system of controlling a device with a “remote.” The Remote Control can signal the device using either Infrared (IR), or