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Connectivity Jargon 101: What is Smart Home Technology?

Find Your Internet - Compare offers from the top Internet and TV providers in your area all in one place.

Linsey Knerl on July 2, 2020

Find Your Internet - Connectivity Jargon 101: What is Smart Home Technology?

If you’re shopping for new home tech, you’re likely going to encounter some confusing terminology, which is bound to lead to questions.

What does IoT mean?

What about Bluetooth?

What is smart home technology, exactly?

Let us break it all down for you. Here are the most common smart home technology terms you’ll come across when searching for tools in the technology age.

Assistant

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably talked to a voice-activated assistant before—whether you asked Siri for the weather or asked Alexa for a recipe.

These two popular voice assistants are changing the way we use the internet, making it easy to ask for directions while driving or call up the latest sports programming schedule. Not every brand has harnessed the full potential of voice assistants, but smart assistants are one of the fastest-growing home connectivity technologies, available not only on your phone but also as full home-automation hubs.

Google Home and Amazon Echo are just the start. Expect to see Facebook Portal, Google Nest, and other voice-controlled devices offer even more features as service offerings grow.

Bluetooth

If you need a quick and easy wireless connection between two close technologies, Bluetooth is the way to go. This technology is great for pairing your wireless headphones with your mobile device, for example, but it doesn’t work well with technologies that are more than 10 feet apart. Bluetooth might be good for a single room in your home, but if you want a stable connection over the entire length of your home, skip the Bluetooth and go with WiFi instead.

What’s a hot term today might not mean anything tomorrow, but learning the most popular terms can help you shop for the products that make life easier.

Ethernet

Not everything is wireless. Some gadgets work more efficiently when connected to the internet via an ethernet cable. This cable looks similar to a landline telephone cord, and it’s often used to connect devices straight to your internet modem. While many devices are phasing out this technology, it’s still used anywhere wireless internet isn’t offered to get a direct line to the power of the web!

IoT

Shorthand for the Internet of Things, this term is thrown around a lot to include everything from computers and tablets to some refrigerators and toasters. IoT is a broad category of devices, services, and technologies that describes the way your home’s devices talk to each other to automate your everyday tasks. If your microwave, blinds, and lights are connected to each other and the internet, they’re all a part of the IoT ecosystem of your home.

Router

The box that connects to your local internet service is your router, and it usually has wireless abilities as well as an ethernet option or two. Routers establish the network to which your other devices connect so that they can communicate with one another. If your kids are using their laptops upstairs while you’re watching your Smart TV downstairs, you’ll need a router to connect all these devices to the wireless internet. That’s why having an operational router is key to your IoT success!

Secure Network

Whether you’re purchasing something online, working remotely, or managing your bills on your computer, network security is key. Some public networks, such as those in stores and restaurants, aren’t secure and can compromise your data—personal or financial. Secure networks often ask for a password—sometimes called a “network key”—or they take protective measures like using two-factor authentication to ensure that no one enters the network who isn’t supposed to.

How can you keep a secure network at home? Three tips: keep your devices up to date, install malware protection, and use strong credentials.

Smart

The term “smart” no longer refers only to college grads. In your home, the fridge, TV, lights, even plugs can be smart.

How can a refrigerator be smart, you ask? Answer: if it’s connected to the internet and other devices.

A smart device typically uses a wireless connection to perform more than just their basic tasks. Sure, your fridge is designed to keep your food cold. But a smart fridge can take inventory of your food, monitor internal temperatures, and even order groceries for you through online shopping services.

Smart devices vary in their abilities, but if you see the term next to a device name, you can be sure you won’t be getting your grandparent’s version of a product.

Stream

If you watch television or movies or listen to music via internet services, congrats! You’re streaming! Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and Spotify are just a few of the most popular streaming services that transmit media over an internet connection rather than through a wired cable connection. It’s generally an easier—and sometimes cheaper—way to get the shows and music you want.

WiFi

Unlike cellular data, which is provided by your phone or internet provider, WiFi is broadcast through a wireless router. You can likely find this type of service at your local coffee shop, hotel, or airport, and if you want a fully connected automated house, you’ll need it at home, too.

The Bottom Line

Smart home technology is the way we customize our smart technologies to our preferences, hobbies, and needs in order to stay connected throughout our home.

Living in a world where smart home technologies are becoming mainstream means that essential industry terms will change frequently. Answering the question “what is smart home technology?” will become more difficult as these technologies evolve. What’s a hot term today might not mean anything tomorrow, but learning the most popular terms can help when you shop for the products that make life easier.

Linsey Knerl

Find Your Internet - Compare offers from the top Internet and TV providers in your area all in one place.

Linsey Knerl is an online/print journalist and corporate content writer with experience in small business, consumer tech, HR, senior health, and women’s health verticals. She is passionate about making even the most complex B2B and B2C concepts accessible for all readers. With an active social media following of over 22K on Twitter, she is committed to helping clients with all steps in the content creation cycle, from initial planning stages to promotion via social media. Linsey is also the social media chair of the ASJA.

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