HDBaseT: An Acronym Worth Learning

Posted by Brad Poarch on 03/05/2014

There may have been a collective “ugh” when the world learned of yet another electronics industry acronym -- HDBaseT – but the connectivity standard offers benefits for both consumers and businesses. For one thing, it’s simple.

Picture how many cables you typically have to plug into the back of a high-definition video display – video, audio, control, power and sometimes Internet. HDBaseT, which is supported by an HDBaseT Alliance of several major manufacturers, keeps it simple by offering connectivity for HD video, audio, Ethernet, some control signals and even 100 watts of power. Yes, power – meaning that, in some cases, an HDBaseT connection can substitute for plugging into a power outlet.

What does this mean for consumers? Well, you can basically connect all the things you like to connect via Ethernet through an HDBaseT switch. It will greatly reduce the tangled mess of cables behind most TVs, but perhaps more importantly it makes high-quality connections easier to achieve.

What does this mean for businesses? Well, businesses may be less concerned those cables nests behind TV and in equipment racks than homeowners are, but they often crave simplicity due to lack of connectivity options. Businesses often need to run a signal to a display that is extremely far away – much further than in a typical home environments. HDBaseT comes in handy because via Category 5e or Category 6 cable it can carry signals up to 100 meters. Picture a bar with a TV display in a remote bathroom or a corporate lobby with a random digital sign high up near the ceiling – HDBaseT’s ability to carry a signal long distances comes in handy. Those 100 watts of power don’t hurt in that situation either, since you can’t always find a power outlet up there.

There are valid reasons, however, for many folks’ guards going up when they hear about newfangled technologies. Sometimes the promise is far grander than the reality.

One obstacle can be lack of compatibility. Remember that HDBaseT switch we mentioned? Well, what if the products you want to connect don’t have them?

It’s a valid question, especially since the HDBaseT Alliance was only launched in 2010, and one that increasingly has a pleasing answer. During the Amsterdam-based electronics tradeshow Integrated Systems Europe 2014, the Alliance says that the flood gates opened and dozens of HDBaseT-compliant products were unleashed.

Onlookers were “amazed at how large the HDBaseT product ecosystem has grown in just the last year, with an impressive number of diverse HDBaseT-enabled products that will enable them to leverage HDBaseT for their residential and commercial projects,” said Micha Risling, Marketing Committee Chair for the HDBaseT Alliance. 

Consumers and businesses now have rich options for HDBaseT products including matrix switchers, audio/video distribution solutions, audio processors, transmitters, receivers, extenders, splitters, video projectors and, of course, video displays. 

So not all acronyms are bad. And, in part because of HDBaseT’s construction-friendly Category 5e and Category 6 connectivity, it’s poised to be around for the long haul.