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Ethernet Advances In Custom Channel

Ethernet networks and the Internet Protocol are gaining more adherents in the distributed audio and home-control markets.

Sister brands Graphite Five and Colorado vNet of Loveland, Colo., will attend the CEDIA Expo with their first distributed-audio systems, which distribute music, control signals and power over a CAT-5-based Ethernet network. Colorado vNet also uses an Ethernet network to centralize control of a home’s lighting systems.

Meantime, HomeLogic of Marblehead, Mass., will add control of home theaters and distributed-audio/video systems to its Ethernet-based home-control network, which integrates the control of all of a home’s subsystems, from HVAC to lighting. Music and movies, however, aren’t distributed over Ethernet cables.

Companies such as NetStreams, Polk and Imerge already offer products that distribute audio over an Ethernet network. In select products, companies such as Crestron, iCommand and Russound ship control signals over Ethernet.

More companies are adopting the IT-industry technologies to leverage the technologies’ economies of scale, stability and flexibility while offering systems with more expansion capabilities and less cost than other systems. The systems are also designed to simplify installation and programming by using IP-addressable components, including in-wall keypads, that connect in series rather than in star topography and are recognized automatically by the network.

When audio and video are transported over the network, source units can be plugged into the network in any location and be accessible from in-wall controllers.

The technologies also give consumers the flexibility to use remote PCs, in-home PCs, and wireless-802.11-equipped Web pads, Tablet PCs and PDAs to control distributed-A/V systems and other home subsystems.

Recognizing the potential, Colorado vNet will be here to launch its two Ethernet-based brands, Colorado vNet and Graphite Five. Both brands offer Ethernet distribution of music and control signals, and Colorado vNet adds control of home lighting systems.

The two brands are targeted to separate distribution channels. Graphite Five is distributed through ADI, the wholesale distributors of security and low-voltage products. Colorado vNet is targeted to builders and custom A/V installers, a spokesperson said.

Both brands distribute music, control signals and low-voltage power to in-wall and tabletop touch screens and keypads with built-in 2×35-watt amp, which in turn powers in-wall or in-ceiling speakers.

Music sources such as a CD player are connected to a module that converts the outputs to IP for routing via a standard Ethernet switch. The modules also digitize legacy analog sources such as FM tuners and cassette decks.

An optional component channels power signals onto the unused conductors of the single CAT-5e that runs to the touch-screen amplifier. Alternately, a separate power cable can be run to the touch-screen amp.

For its part, HomeLogic has been offering its OneHome systems-integration solution since 2003 to integrate the control of multiple home subsystems such as lighting and HVAC. At the Expo, it plans to integrate home theater and distributed-A/V systems into its solution, enabling users to control those systems via the company’s in-wall touch screens, wireless touch screens and wireless PDAs.