Understanding the power and benefits of future proof PoE cable infrastructure is at the core of physical, economic and digital innovation
The Built Environment Goes Digital with Power over Ethernet
Fri 7 Feb 2020 | Stuart McKay
New Intelligent Building concepts are changing the game for construction professionals, architects, design engineers and interior installation organisations. Ethernet and Power over Ethernet (PoE) is an integral part of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Building Management Systems (BMS) and supporting the development of working environments that are a platform for increased worker productivity, health, safety and connectivity.
Across the property value chain there is recognition that digital infrastructure must be embraced to improve sustainability while providing the types of intelligent connected buildings that people, businesses and communities require.
New standards are being developed as digital becomes a new value proposition for the building sector. Ethernet and specifically PoE infrastructure, which combines data communications and power delivery over a single Ethernet cable, is becoming the dominant technology platform.
Ethernet cable infrastructure for combined power and data communications solves smart building connectivity, power delivery, network topology and supports thermal management requirements. A new white paper from Panduit – (Power over Ethernet – Fixed Network Foundation Layer for 21st Century Smart Buildings), illustrates how PoE will streamline processes and improve building performance, while creating fully connected and environmentally sustainable working environments.
Professionals are turning to digital infrastructure to reduce energy use and lower greenhouse gas emissions and meet energy use requirements. New generations of digitally native architects and designers are leading the efforts to attain net zero emission buildings. They recognise that technology capable of reducing installation costs and driving operational efficiency will be embraced.
BIM & BMS – Building Information Models and Building Management Systems
As BIM models advance and become interoperable this is driving evermore technology integration into building operation. Ultimately the goal is to develop interoperability between BIM, BMS, IT, IoT and manufacturing based on open standards. As this evolves, one estimate is that more than one billion sensors and connected devices will be deployed globally in buildings by 2021, alongside the billions of mobile connected devices brought into buildings by tenants, workers and visitors.
This integration of devices into buildings will require cabling infrastructure which meets or exceeds the latest communications, power and thermal standards, and which does not add to network complexity and cost. The latest standards from the IEEE are PoE++ are IEEE 802.3bt TYPE 3 and IEEE 802.3bt TYPE 4. This is driving the adoption of PoE for integrated communications and power as the network standard in new builds and in the replacement networks in refurbishments. The latest standards provide PoE delivering up to 99w over twisted pair cables, enough to power the latest lighting, wireless access points and more.
Big changes in how buildings and occupants interact are being enabled by PoE cable infrastructure. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says “By combining BIM with the Internet of Things we can start to gain a living picture of our buildings. For the first time in history, the planning of the architects and designers can be verified and compared with the use of the building, with tracking over time as the use of the space and its occupiers’ changes. Bringing together all this data, we can gain new and better understanding of how our buildings actually work.”
Ethernet represents the core infrastructure standard for combined communications and power which will provide plug and play connectivity for easy deployment of app-based sensors and devices which will make up the digital building.
Power and Data Network Infrastructure for the Long Term
The pace of change in consumer technology and endpoint IT continues to accelerate. So, it is vital to choose a standards-based technology with a clear roadmap. Ethernet is the local area network communications de facto standard for data. PoE runs over the same copper cable as the LAN, providing decades of stable, high performance network infrastructure.
Buildings are becoming digital with an infrastructure that supports all of the various applications to optimise operations. Building Management Systems are becoming more advanced, with applications which run and manage HVAC, water, lighting and security are constantly developing, becoming more responsive and smarter. This expansion of capabilities meant the control of these applications being transferred onto the data infrastructure plane. Now, PoE is extending to powering and communicating with an ever-growing variety of physical devices.
In a security context, public and private multiple and single use buildings require evermore security and access control. Schools, hospitals, government and other public buildings must balance the needs for accessibility and security by ensuring a building’s physical security at access points and through the expansion of video monitoring. Another change is that the future direction of buildings in urban environments is upwards. That means major changes to modern buildings as multi-use and shared environments become ever more common.
Low voltage cameras, embedded sensors, kiosks, wireless access points, physical access points, digital signage and displays are being deployed in ever greater numbers. Market forecasts show an explosion in the number of devices about to enter buildings. Wireless access point numbers alone are forecast to expand by 30% per year until 2027. Kiosks and digital screens will become ubiquitous in multi-use environments. According to a report on the Global Kiosk Market, published by KBV research, the global kiosk market will reach $5.4 billion by 2024, at a growth rate of 26.4% CAGR.
High performance cable infrastructure is the base layer for these smart technologies. All these different devices need to run over a single network which provides power and data. With lower installation costs, fewer hazards and more flexibility, PoE is a proven, viable, cost-effective solution.
A single network has positive implications for ease of installation, lower maintenance and better performance and interoperability between different building elements. PoE is a simple means to power digital building infrastructure devices over the same network. Factors affecting cable infrastructure cost and operations include locations, runs, distances, connections and cable fill and these key factors effect performance and OpEx management in digital buildings.
New topologies for network infrastructure will provide direct connections from Telecom Rooms (TR) to the device allowing the switch to directly control the power and data communication to the device. Common challenges within the TR are crowded cable pathways and bulk is an issue as cable runs and access is becoming a serious concern as the number of connections increases cable and port densities. Solutions such as smaller cable diameters, angled connectors, and high-density patching help address these issues. These innovative solutions release space that would otherwise be used for cable management, to make room for active gear or switches.
Panduit’s Category 6A cable with MaTriX technology features an integrated tape that gives the cable advanced thermal properties for handling the heat rise within cable, which is caused by PoE. A digital building requires PoE cables in new physical environments; in ceiling voids and under floor spaces. To operate effectively at scale cable infrastructure flexibility becomes ever more important.
In the built environment, too many networks remain siloed and separate. This approach is no longer suitable for the new era of intelligent buildings. The new generation of architects and engineers have the responsibility for delivery of the next generation of smart digital buildings. Understanding the power and benefits of future proof PoE cable infrastructure is at the core of physical, economic and digital innovation.