Cabling on a Shoestring

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Feb 15, 2004




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It doesn’t always take cutting-edge technology to launch new applications, although that certainly has been the case for the most part in low-voltage in recent years. Security applications, for example, using an existing Ethernet, or the Internet, have fostered emerging transmission options that have end-users coming back for more.

Emerging markets in signaling and transmission include:

• The continued use of specialty cable designs and use of preexisting cable infrastructures, unshielded twisted pair (UTP), the Ethernet and other existing and retrofit networks.

• Interactive fire protection, heightened supervision and smart monitoring.

• Closed-circuit television (CCTV) for remote monitoring, especially in large corporate environments and proprietary central corporate security offices.

Specialty cable design and deployment is an emerging market. Specialty cable is a combination of conductors that may use coaxial and UTP to provide specific connection capabilities. Multimedia cables that bundle combinations of Category 5e, UTP and RG6 coaxial have been developed for residential use, for example. But best of all, infinite miles of UTP, fiber optics and other cables have already been installed for communications applications in commercial facilities around the world and these too can be put to use. Where demanding or harsh environments often test the limits of coaxial cable, advances in video technology allow for signals to be sent via fiber optics, UTP or existing Ethernet connections.

For proprietary networks or commercial or institutional facilities, sending video images has become more popular, with a number of ways to accomplish this. The days of relegating video signals to coaxial cable only are gone, as are the problems associated with this medium such as signal degradation and interference.

At a large manufacturing facility in Minnesota, for example, the existing voice-data wiring was put to good use. Category 5 cabling was run from the cameras to the company’s existing phone/PBX system in each building. Information technology personnel and integrated systems technicians spliced into existing Category 3 wiring for the continuation of the video system run. The system was spliced from building to building and the wire runs averaged about 50 to 60 feet with some of the furthest cameras as much as 3,000 feet away. But the big plus for this customer was the fact that with this scenario and the ability to piggyback off existing phone lines and the communications system, an outreach of the application was possible at a much more affordable cost.

Network software and hardware devices continue to play up the theme of using the existing or retrofit infrastructures in many places where UTP, fiber optics and other cables are already providing communications.

Mike Marshall, sales manager for Cpak in LaGrange, Ga., an integrated systems provider, was presented a challenge recently when asked to upgrade an aging surveillance system in a massive, fortified structure. The Troup County Jail was a difficult environment to run coaxial cable, but the customer wanted to upgrade from videocassette tapes to digital video recording and storage. Marshall opted to use a form of unshielded twisted pair technology to transmit video signals via a product called Network Video Technology, made by the company of the same name.

Network Video Technology, according to Marshall, uses UTP and is a form of that transmission, run over Category 5E. This method allows “one cable to do the job,” and requires running less cable—which reduces installation costs. In addition, it offers greater distance and good integrity for video signals.

Video transmission over existing and wireless networks is growing in popularity. According to The Siemon Co., Watertown, Conn., the recent development of digital video allows systems to operate over twisted pair and fiber optic cables, with image streams stored in a digital format as opposed to tape. This “new breed” of video allows Internet Protocol (IP) transmission of the video signals in a combined voice/video stream that can be viewed in real time.

Monitoring fire alarm signals, having them monitored for a customer, or establishing a proprietary monitoring facility are also “hot spots” in signaling and transmission.

For example, via the Internet or an Intranet, facility managers can access information on their fire alarm panels directly from their computers, with technology from Honeywell Automation & Control Solutions’ NOTIFIER division. The NOTI-FIRE-NET is a Web-based-service which allows operators to “cross-examine” systems, on or off site, said Dave Tamulevich, Network Product Manager. “This added convenience and accessibility allows them to obtain and analyze data needed to make sound decisions in the event of a trouble condition or alarm.”

New transmission and signaling options, coupled with software and digital technology and innovation, puts the end-user closer in touch with their systems and services and the facility which they protect. Using cabling to manage an array of services and other parameters makes sense, especially when the infrastructure is already in place and you have the expertise to extend its usability. EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or [email protected].


About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.





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