A wide variety of networks are commercially available, and each has particular strengths and weaknesses. The differences arise from their basic designs. One simple issue is the use of the network to deliver power to the nodes. Some control networks will also supply enough power to drive some sensors and simple devices. This can eliminate separate power supplies, but it can reduce the data transmission rates on the network. The use of network taps or tees to connect to the network cable is also important. Some taps or tees are simple passive electrical connections, but others involve sophisticated active tees that are more costly, but allow longer networks.

The transmission type determines the communication speed and noise immunity. The simplest transmission method is baseband, where voltages are switched off and on to signal bit states. This method is subject to noise, and must operate at lower speeds. RS-232 is an example of baseband transmission. Carrierband transmission uses FSK (Frequency Shift Keying) that will switch a signal between two frequencies to indicate a true or false bit. This technique is very similar to FM (Frequency Modulation) radio where the frequency of the audio wave is transmitted by changing the frequency of a carrier frequency about 100MHz. This method allows higher transmission speeds, with reduced noise effects. Broadband networks transmit data over more than one channel by using multiple carrier frequencies on the same wire. This is similar to sending many cable television channels over the same wire. These networks can achieve very large transmission speeds, and can also be used to guarantee real time network access.

The bus network topology only uses a single transmission wire for all nodes. If all of the nodes decide to send messages simultaneously, the messages would be corrupted (a collision occurs). There are a variety of methods for dealing with network collisions, and arbitration.

CSMA/CD (Collision Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection) - if two nodes start talking and detect a collision then they will stop, wait a random time, and then start again.

CSMA/BA (Collision Sense Multiple Access/Bitwise Arbitration) - if two nodes start talking at the same time the will stop and use their node addresses to determine which one goes first.

Master-Slave - one device one the network is the master and is the only one that may start communication. slave devices will only respond to requests from the master.

Token Passing - A token, or permission to talk, is passed sequentially around a network so that only one station may talk at a time.

The token passing method is deterministic, but it may require that a node with an urgent message wait to receive the token. The master-slave method will put a single machine in charge of sending and receiving. This can be restrictive if multiple controllers are to exist on the same network. The CSMA/CD and CSMA/BA methods will both allow nodes to talk when needed. But, as the number of collisions increase the network performance degrades quickly.