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What is an Arduino Ethernet Shield used for? Answered

I am wondering what an Arduino Ethernet Shield is used for.  I understand that it helps to connect the Arduino board to the internet, but could someone provide a specific example that it is used for?  What is the difference between an Ethernet Shield and the XBEE?


As others state:
The arduino by itself can do some neat stuff, and it gets even MORE powerful when you include external communications. You can stick with usb, but if you want to access say...a sensor...from 12 places on your network (or the entire interwebs) then ethernet is the way to go. It's *the* de-facto network standard for most every computer with a wired connection in the world. Some use proprietary components, (other options include fibre or wifi) - but by and large you'll have a hard time finding a computer without ethernet over rj45 (utp) cable.

an xbee does similar, but instead of wired, it uses its own built in protocol to beam serial data over the magic invisible tubes of the em spectrum.

What a lot of people do not realise is you can connect computing devices together without going to the internet. This is sometimes called an intranet. We have a computer lab set up that way.