Sensors are reaching every corner of the smart building, but the power infrastructure does not. Lighting has transitioned to low power LEDs opening up new applications that traditional power cabling does not cater well for.
Making a building “smart” can involve an expensive cabling retrofit. One technology is solving all these problems and fast becoming a cornerstone of the smart building – Power over Ethernet (PoE).
The principal responsibility of an Ethernet cable has been telecommunications. However, they are also capable of delivering enough electricity to support low power devices. These characteristics open up a world of possibilities for energy managers and facility managers because they allow Internet of Things (IoT) devices, not least lighting, to be placed without getting overly concerned about their proximity to present electric wiring. It essentially doubles the chances of easily powering a device.
In addition, with so many in-building systems now generating, sharing and ingesting data the underlying IP network is perhaps the single most important element in supporting any convergence initiative. IP networks also offer significant potential for the consolidation of multiple systems and communications networks, which have historically been built, run and managed on separate architecture by different administration teams.
“There is more lighting over IP [networks] now with Power over Ethernet (PoE) and PoE+ getting bigger and more powerful, and more systems are going to sit on that IP network whether we like it or not”, said James Hill from the IT services division of UK engineering and construction company NG Bailey http://www.ngbailey.com/.
One of the main advantages of utilising Ethernet as the main cabling technology is its ability to give each connected device its own IP address. By doing so, the universal cabling medium simplifies the management, configuration and maintenance of the connected devices while also allowing for better remote control. With Ethernet, network administrators and system integrators can also rely on the universal language of TCP/IP to troubleshoot devices helping maintain operational costs low.
In lighting, the transition to LEDs coincides with development of the IoT, and specifically the IoT in buildings, or the Building Internet of Things (BIoT), according to Memoori’s Lighting Controls report. The versatility of LED in terms of factors such as brightness, altering speed and colour variation, connected systems make more sense for use with LED than when conventional lighting technology is used. Lighting, through technology such as LiFi communication, is creating a raft of new commercial applications.
Given that professional systems typically control a large network of lights, the savings based on total cost of ownership (TCO) are usually far more significant than in the consumer segment. Connected lighting will produce lower installation costs and a lower TCO. Philips and Cisco have both evidenced a 50% reduction in installation costs for Ethernet-based connected lighting systems compared with conventional AC-powered systems, and their partnership announced in December is forecast to significantly accelerate the smart lighting industry.
PoE applications originally started with Voice over IP (VoIP) phones and wireless access points but have been steadily growing to include security cameras, RFID readers for secure entry, lighting control, power metering, as well as environmental sensors and controls. Within smart buildings PoE can be used for aggregation points for multiple wireless devices used for managing room lighting, occupancy detection, heating and ventilation control, and the wide range of external environmental sensors used to optimise building management systems. Smart buildings also are using the big data generated to help save energy and improve occupancy safety and comfort.
“The future is about digitising the entire environment, not just the BIoT but also the occupants, so they can interact and engage with the building and each other”, said Mike Hook, Executive Director at LMG, in one of Memoori’s interactive webinars last year. “We’ve done a lot of installations in five star hotels, now we are seeing demand for that five star experience in offices and commercial buildings”.
Hook suggested that while the past has been about efficiency, the future of smart buildings will be about the customised experience. PoE enabled smart buildings will not only make workplaces more energy efficient but the customised experience will help attract, support and retain the best talent in our increasingly digital workforce.
“Not only are we tasked with helping to digitise the workplace, attracting talent and making them more productive, we are also under pressure to do this at low cost”, Hook said. PoE is allowing a level of cost saving that is bringing about the BIoT’s mass market potential. “It’s going to be ubiquitous and it’s going to be cheap”, he added.
The continued development of PoE is making possible what might not have been so easy without it. In many ways, PoE is enabling the smart building.
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