Despite its appearance on a few consumer receivers and projectors recently, HDBaseT has, until now, been mostly a technology used by custom integrators to create advanced distributed AV systems that avoid the headaches involved with long runs of HDMI cable. HDBaseT carries uncompressed 1080p or 4K video signals, high-resolution lossless audio, Ethernet, power, and two-way IR or RS-232 control signals over a single Cat 5e/Cat 6 cable, and although HDBT matrices have appeared from companies like WyreStorm and HydraConnect, HDBaseT was really designed as a point-to-point system, intended for use with a transmitter and receiver. All of that is changing with HDBaseT 2.0.
The new HDBaseT 2.0 spec, just announced this morning, is designed from the ground up to offer a more affordable, more connected distributed solution, designed for consumer installation. It still retains the HDBaseT 5Play foundation, but the new spec — dubbed HomePlay — goes beyond that and is positioned as the plug-and-play foundation of the entire connected home. As such, HDBaseT 2.0 will also cover networking, switching, and control point capabilities, with simple point-to-multi-point connectivity and multi-stream support.
HDBaseT 2.0 also adds USB 2.0 capabilities to the mix, and since multi-point connectivity is built into the spec, distribution systems will be cheaper and easier to produce at consumer-friendly price-points.
How consumer-friendly? Joseph Palenchar at TWICE expands on the information provided in the press release, with information directly from Micha Risling, marketing chair of the HDBaseT Alliance:
A HomePlay switcher, which will be compatible with existing HDBaseT-equipped TVs, will transport audio and video in HDMI form over a home’s previously installed Ethernet cables to different TVs throughout the house from such connected sources as HDMI-connected Blu-ray players and video servers, USB-connected PCs, HDMI-connected game consoles, Ethernet-connected security cameras, and even Wi-Fi-connected devices. The switcher could be controlled for a Wi-Fi-equipped tablet or smartphone.
In a three-bedroom middle-class home, [Risling] sees the potential for a switcher with three HDBaseT outputs, an HDMI output, a couple of HDMI inputs, an HDBaseT input, and Wi-Fi and Ethernet inputs. The switcher could also have USB outputs.
HomePlay switchers might compete with current 4×4 matrix switchers costing a couple thousand dollars, Risling said, but not with the 8×8, 16×16, and 32×32 switchers that constitute the majority of HDBaseT switchers sold through the custom residential and commercial markets into much larger installations.
No word yet on when we’ll start seeing HomePlay products appear, but to keep up to date on developments, check out the HDBaseT Alliance Facebook page.