Ethernet-based systems can apply to home entertainment systems or whole-house automation solutions. By definition they are solutions employing IEEE standard Ethernet Cat5e cabling to accomplish hard-wired communication between a central controller and external components of the core system. The external components can be slave controllers, human interface devices such as touch panels, A/V components such as multi-channel amplifiers or matrix switches, or relay/sensor sub-controllers.
Examples of Ethernet-based systems are TiVo for multi-room entertainment control and Control4 or Life/ware for whole-house automation systems.
The core components of these systems plug into a home Ethernet data network and use it as the backbone connection between the central or master controller and other system components. This class of system may also include standard interfaces such as Ethernet WiFi (IEEE 802.11b/g) for communication between the master controller and other components, RS-232 for serial communication with a subsystem or device from a different manufacturer, or infrared emitters for control of off-the-shelf audio/video components such as TVs, A/V Receivers, DVD players, etc.
Because these systems use hard-wired Ethernet, communication between components is reliable and fast. Technical support comes from one source for the core system and can use the Internet to inspect the state of system components and upgrade device software or firmware, and installation may be more robust or simpler as certain information can be downloaded to the automation system directly from the manufacturer.
On the flip side support for other popular sub-systems or devices may be either non-existent or not include all the features of the device. Also, the installation cost in an existing home without a hard-wired Ethernet network in place may exclude these systems from consideration all together.