Combining technologies has allowed many systems to become part of the mainstream. One of the latest of these opportunities, is the conglomeration of power over Ethernet (PoE) with radio frequency identification (RFID). Thus far, PoE has been quite useful in aiding in voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) as a way power to VoIP phones. Wireless LANs have also benefited, because PoE can be used to power up all of those required access points.

The IEEE PoE standard, 802.3af, helped create acceptance for PoE in the marketplace, but due to its low power output, there is still hesitation. As it stands, PoE is really only useful for devices that consume 13 watts of power or less—keeping many LAN-related devices from being able to run off PoE-provided power. But those that can be powered up with PoE have an advantage; one example is RFID.

“PoE in general enables wireless devices to get power and data from the same cable,” said Igal Rotem, CEO and co-founded of PowerDsine. “A wireless LAN access point itself costs under $100. The cost of installing an access point with a dedicated AC power line is around $500. That makes the cost of installation much higher than the device itself.”

A cheaper installation is why PoE has been receiving rave reviews.

PoE continues to grow within the market. Rotem noted that last year in the global Ethernet market, PoE had a penetration rate around 8 percent. Hopes are that this year the range will be around 15 percent on a $120 to $150 million value.

RFID

RFID uses radio waves to transmit information. The technology’s usage has been steadily increasing. One of the key elements in an RFID system is the RFID reader, sometimes referred to as the transmitter.

Because the readers are instrumental in transmiting information between RFID tags and the back-end system—which houses and manipulates all of that identifying information—the readers are crucial elements, and they need constant, reliable power to make them run.

Since most RFID readers are hard-wired to the LAN using Ethernet, incorporating PoE into the cable run would be a good solution.

“PoE is an enabler to RFID and is helping the proliferation of the market,” Rotem said. This means that PoE can be installed easily as the LAN cable already has the inherent ability to provide power through the technology.

PoEPlus

An Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) study group focusing on increasing the power behind PoE is adding more momentum. Rotem said PoEPlus is “the code name for the next generation of PoE.”

It is a new, evolving standard that has just started getting coverage by the IEEE. In theory, PoEPlus would enable the most sought-after devices to be run on PoE. This is something the industry hopes will happen. The current PoE standard only allows for 13 watts of power per port, which is just not enough juice to get most devices up and running.

The PoEPlus solution would ramp that number up to around 40 watts or more—it is a preliminary number though so that figure is not yet set in stone. This increase would allow for devices, especially those that use LAN connections, such as laptops, print servers, PDAs and potentially even desktop PCs, to run using PoE.

Bundle up

Enterprising contractors who are just beginning to enter the RFID market may be able to do some double duty. By combining PoE with RFID, there is a chance that some new business opportunities may emerge.

Though combining PoE and RFID is still new, there are some striking similarities between PoE and RFID usage and the current PoE and wireless LAN access point usage. PoE has been successfully used to power up access points and Rotem believes that “exactly the same guidelines can be applied to RFID transmitters.”

Taking one’s combined knowledge of power and communication systems can prove to be a successful endeavor. If the concept catches on and users opt for this solution, because of the cost savings associated with eliminating electrical runs, contractors may be able to make up some of the difference by supplying the power through PoE.

Power is power, and a PoE run is still a cable run. It translates to money in the bank, just in a different way. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.