Reinventing an Industry: A new era of building electrification and illumination

By Jeff Beavers | Mar 15, 2024
Reinventing and Industry: A new era of building electrification and illumination
As of 1900, electricity represented less than 5% of power used in industry. That laid the foundation for rapid changes in the ensuing decades. 




As of 1900, electricity represented less than 5% of power used in industry. That laid the foundation for rapid changes in the ensuing decades. In 1901, alternating current greatly improved the prospects of electricity as a viable, cost-competitive source of power. 

Alternating currents’ influence on industry remained gradual, however, due to the expense of system replacement, technological obstacles and the fact that many utilities still only supplied direct current. 

A great leap forward

The emergence of voice over internet protocol in the late 1990s solidified the case for delivering voice and data on a single “data” network. With the advent of power over ethernet (PoE), the converged building­—power and control over the same infrastructure—has arisen as a viable option for building electrification.

Adding to PoE and continuing to increase the power levels and quantity and types of devices that can be powered by PoE is fault- managed power (FMP). Also known as digital electricity, FMP complements, or in some cases can replace, PoE. 

It can deliver 20 times more power than PoE, and 20 times further. PoE, whether IEEE standards-based or proprietary (e.g., X-PoE, which can send up to 120W) is limited to the standard (TIA-568) of 100 m/328 feet for the certified channel for balanced twisted-pair cabling (e.g., Category 6 cable), whereas FMP can deliver up to 2,000W as far as 2,000 m.

The emergence of FMP and PoE, and the integration of data-driven analytics with remote monitoring and control, promise to reinvent the way we electrify and illuminate our buildings and communities. This article explores the effect of these technologies and how they are ushering in a new era in building electrification and lighting.

Rapid change

In January 2020, tech entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis said that in the next decade, we will experience more technological progress and breakthroughs than in the past century.

Digital technologies such as FMP and PoE are a paradigm shift and represent a significant move from traditional power distribution systems. They leverage electronics and digital controls to deliver and manage electrical energy more efficiently and offer numerous advantages, such as the following.

  • Enhanced energy efficiency: Digital DC systems reduce energy losses that typically occur in AC distribution. This efficiency gains importance as global awareness of energy conservation grows.
  • Greater control: Digital electricity allows for precise control and management of electrical loads. This is crucial in today’s world, where we demand more flexibility in our electrical systems. Similar to our broadband appetite, our power consumption is insatiable—from EVs to computing with artificial intelligence applications. And ultra-low latency for real-time human-to-machine interaction and edge networks that place processing closer to the user/device continue the rapid proliferation of energy-demanding data centers.
  • Integration with renewable energy: DC systems align well with renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines. This facilitates the integration of clean energy solutions into buildings.
  • Reduced electromagnetic interference: AC systems can produce electromagnetic interference, which affects sensitive electronic equipment. Digital electricity’s cleaner, low-voltage DC power reduces such interference.
  • Integration with internet of things (IoT): FMP and PoE enable IoT applications within buildings, from smart thermostats to occupancy sensors, creating smart and responsive environments.

A new service model

Data-driven analytics play a crucial role in the transformation of building electrification and lighting. By harnessing the power of data, we can make more informed decisions, optimize energy use and enhance user experiences.

  • Energy efficiency optimization: Data analytics provide insights into energy consumption patterns, allowing building managers to identify areas for improvement. They can adjust lighting, heating and cooling systems based on real-time data, ultimately reducing energy waste.
  • Predictive maintenance: Through remote monitoring, sensors can collect data on the performance of lighting systems and electrical equipment. Analyzing this data enables predictive maintenance, preventing unexpected failures and reducing downtime.
  • Occupancy and user behavior analysis: Data analytics can track occupancy patterns within a building. This information helps optimize lighting, heating and cooling, ensuring resources are used efficiently.
  • User experience enhancement: By analyzing user preferences and feedback, building systems can be adjusted to create more comfortable and productive environments. Customized lighting, temperature and workspace layouts can improve the overall user experience.

The integration of FMP and PoE with data-driven analytics is empowered by remote monitoring and control systems. This combination offers a new service model for power and lighting in buildings with:

  • Real-time visibility: Remote monitoring provides real-time visibility into a building’s energy consumption, electrical infrastructure and lighting systems. Building managers can monitor operations from a centralized location.
  • Immediate response to issues: If a lighting system or electrical component malfunctions, remote control systems can automatically address the issue or alert maintenance personnel for a prompt response.
  • Optimized energy use: By remotely controlling lighting, heating and cooling systems, building managers can adapt to changing conditions and user needs, ensuring that energy is used efficiently.
  • Scalable solutions: These systems are highly scalable, making them suitable for a wide range of building types, from small offices to large industrial complexes.

Future possibility

Building electrification and lighting is teeming with possibilities:

  • Energy-efficient, sustainable buildings: The convergence of FMP, PoE, IoT and data-driven analytics will drive the creation of energy-efficient and sustainable buildings. This is crucial for addressing environmental concerns.
  • Cost savings: The reduction in energy consumption, simplification of installation and predictive maintenance enabled by these technologies will translate into significant cost savings for building owners and operators.
  • Integration with smart cities: Buildings will become integral components of smart cities, contributing to overall urban efficiency and sustainability.
  • New business models: Perhaps the most exciting possibility is the evolution of the service model for power and lighting as a service. Among the top challenges for facilities managers are staff shortages, maintenance backlogs, on-demand energy issues, poor compliance (workplace safety, OSHA and cybersecurity, to name a few) and rapid technological changes and their effect on operations. Electrical contractors will provide comprehensive solutions such as installation, maintenance and data analytics services.

Digital electricity technologies are reinventing building electrification and lighting. They are connected, smart and poised to meet the needs of an ever-evolving world with promises of energy efficiency, sustainability, enhanced user experiences and cost savings, initially and over the life of the building. Now more than ever, the clients and communities we serve will look to us as solutions partners.

For background on this topic, read “Convergence and the Tactile Internet: What contractors need to know about IT systems,” ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, January 2023. / thruer / thruer

About The Author

A man with short graying hair wearing glasses and a suit and tie, against a blue background

Jeff Beavers

Executive Director of Network Integration and Services, NECA
Jeff Beavers, RCDD, OSP, is the executive director of network integration and services for NECA and has over 30 years of experience in ICT and telecommunications industry. Prior to joining NECA, Jeff focused on design, engineering and integration for Black & Veatch from Oct 2010 to Feb 2022. He also served as BICSI President from February 2018 to February 2020. Contact him at [email protected].





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