The Stack Archive Opinion

Smart buildings lighting the way to productivity growth

Wed 26 Jun 2019

The intelligent building is a sleeping giant, in terms of its capability to deliver productivity boosting advantages to technologically switched on organisations. Stuart McKay, Business Development Manager at Panduit Europe, one of the world’s largest physical infrastructure suppliers, discusses the benefits of smarter working environments

The theory has been with us for over 20 years, and in the same way that voice over IP (VoIP) drove exciting changes in enterprise telecommunications networks, PoE structured cabling is shaping up as the platform that defines new building capabilities.

The modern building needs to accommodate a variety of smart devices and systems to meet the needs of the business. Video cameras, lighting and environmental sensors, wireless access points, security devices, and LED lighting are all connected to a converged IP network infrastructure using a backbone of structured cabling. To power and control these devices, that same structured cabling delivers Power over Ethernet (PoE) from a PoE-enabled IP switch. When you add in control systems, applications, and analytics, the final result is a digital building.

There are a variety opportunities and advantages that digital lighting and other PoE based systems offer not only to the organisation, but also, the employees within and around the building. In a digital lighting system, each light links to the building’s IP network. This is the structured infrastructure that is creating the backbone of all connected buildings, allowing all connected systems to communicate, share data, analyse and adapt environmental parameters to optimise work centres and maintain high levels of security across facilities.

People and systems can now interact, with individual lighting fixtures delivering intelligence to the management systems that allows a wealth of data to be gathered and shared on current occupancy, activity patterns, temperature and even external light levels.

Gartner research recently stated that ‘smart lighting has the potential to reduce energy costs by up to 90 percent.’ Dean Freeman, research vice president at Gartner, stated ‘To successfully achieve the lowest electricity cost, in addition to achieving safety and security and enhancing the office environment, lighting product managers at technology and service providers will need to implement five key strategic phases to smart lighting: LED lighting, sensors and controls, connectivity, analytics and intelligence.’

Building and facilities managers are moving closer to having the tools and capabilities to effectively deliver highly controllable IP connectivity, with mobile handsets and secured wireless devices utilising software apps to control their individual workspace. All intelligent building systems benefit from being able to link to and communicate with sensors and other systems. These linked systems are generating data that can be used to enhance efficiencies within the facility.

Infrastructure Matters

The growth of digital lighting and the wider connected building services management systems is defined by their interconnectedness and this is the characteristic that is driving the increase in IoT. This new interconnected business world, is having a seismic effect within commercial and public buildings (such as schools and hospitals), where the integrated systems communicate and are powered over Ethernet structured (PoE) cabling.

International Standards based structured cable, such as Category (Cat) 6 and Cat 6A, are essential to ensure an organisation’s technology systems run at optimised levels and have bandwidth to accommodate upgrades. Cat 6A cabling system is optimised to support all current and near future applications, making it the choice of forward thinking building management, however, not all intelligent lighting systems require Cat 6A performance, but other systems, such as the latest generation wireless access points (WAPs) do. Structured infrastructure provides building operators the opportunity to design and install with the future and peripheral upgrades in mind. There may be situations within a building where it appears to make sense to run two types of cable, for example Cat 6 for lighting and Cat 6A for everything else. However, with a planned building strategy, a transparent single type cabling policy has to be considered for future growth and productivity requirements.

Key requirements for the intelligent building’s tenants will be the ease and availability of connectivity for wired and wireless computing systems. With the massive increase in BYOD (bring your own devices) in the workplace, office environments need to support a wider selection of desktop and mobile devices accessing the corporate environment. Smart building owners and tenants appreciate the mobility that PoE computing solution offer when mobile devices and desktop systems need to be moved, added, changed and upgraded.  Another aspect of PoE deployed computing is the cost and massive energy saving potential as PoE ready systems, offer low energy thin client computers, which consume half the electricity of a normal mains powered desktop computer. PoE therefore eliminates the need for mains cabling, and these systems also benefit from their speed of deployment, once again as they do not require mains electricity. The reduction in mains power requirement reduces the time-delay to installation as power cable routing is not required. No mains requirement also reduces floor and desk cable clutter around workspaces.

Structured cabling systems for larger buildings often utilise a fibre optic backbone, offering high capacity data throughput, and connecting the organisations data room or main distribution facility to the telecommunications rooms. The latest international standard OM4 and OM5 fibre cabling systems provide the capabilities that any building can rely on for the foreseeable future.

Intelligent systems and algorithm enabled environmental systems are now demonstrating their potential to provide business aware solutions that contribute to organisations’ hard profitability in operational costs saving, as well as the intangible benefits of higher workforce productivity. The developments coming to market demonstrate that this giant is finally waking up to its potential.


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