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Welcome to the PoE Powerhouse: Advancements continue to extend building connectivity

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Mar 15, 2023
SHUTTERSTOCK / ALWIE99D
The stage is set. The growth of IP-connected network devices has driven the need for faster data rates and increased power. Continued advancements in power over ethernet (PoE) enable systems integrators to effectively extend their building connectivity to more devices and services for the customer.

The stage is set. The growth of IP-connected network devices has driven the need for faster data rates and increased power. Continued advancements in power over ethernet (PoE) enable systems integrators to effectively extend their building connectivity to more devices and services for the customer.

Different devices are being leveraged across enterprise networks, perpetuated by the adoption of the latest PoE++ standard with its 90W capabilities (IEEE 802.3bt).

With PoE, a single cable powers a device or system, eliminating the need to run separate wiring, yielding significant labor and infrastructure savings. In addition to delivering power to more devices, end points and solutions across the enterprise or campus environment, PoE also provides service and maintenance savings, with remote power management availability.

Ready … connect

IP-connected network devices, intelligent end-points and edge-smart internet of things (loT) connections have opened new possibilities for integrated system solutions beyond traditional security and network access points. PoE-controlled devices now include Wi-Fi access points, LED lighting, IP phones, wireless security, digital signage, POS terminals, smart locks and building sensors, electricity/gas meters, access control, fire detection, audio, video, building management and industrial automation—and the list continues to grow.

Industry 4.0 and the industrial internet of things is further fueling PoE specs in the field. Manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies are deploying smart edge devices, sensors and controllers to provide business intelligence and logistics through PoE connectivity.

For systems integrators, PoE represents the ability to bring new services and devices to the end-user. It won’t be used everywhere, but it’s a practical way to integrate more products—especially where installing additional infrastructure is impractical or impossible.

David Coleman, vice president of datacom and marketing at Paige DataCom Solutions, Mountainside, N.J., said PoE is enabling new adoption of security, networking and lighting applications by making installations easier, faster and less expensive.

“With power coming over the same low-voltage data cabling installed by low-voltage technicians, the qualified available labor pool increases, the number of subcontractors on a job goes down and the upfront time and costs follow suit,” he said. “Recent trends in PoE include Class 4 power circuits which now enable an even greater amount of high(er) power applications to be delivered over twisted-pair copper cables.”

Class 4 power systems

The 2023 edition of the National Electrical Code includes the addition of Article 726 “Class 4 Power Systems” for the first time. Designed to address the need for increased power capacity and safer power delivery, Class 4 circuits are an improved format of electricity called fault-managed power, sometimes referred to as digital electricity or smart power. Coleman said Class 4 power systems will further perpetuate PoE expansion. 

“This standard opens the door to many more applications to be served over PoE. Like [with] other new technologies or standards, a common barrier is simply the education gap that may exist among manufacturers, installers, specifiers and authorities having jurisdiction for code enforcement,” he said.

According to Coleman, there are already a few Class 4 systems available on the market, and adoption of the technology in the NEC will lead to more options.

“Unlike other circuits where safety depends on power being limited by the power source voltage and circuit wattage, Class 4 systems maintain safety through technology. The voltage of a Class 4 system can be up to 450V AC or DC, which is technically a dangerous level of voltage,” Coleman said. “However, in a Class 4 system, power is delivered as energy packets between a transmitter and a receiver at about 500 packets per second, with a handshake between the transmitter and receiver that monitors each packet for a fault condition.”

Due to its efficiency, versatility and safety, PoE is becoming the preferred technology for delivering power to connected edge devices, according to “Power over Ethernet (PoE): The Fact File,” published by CommScope in 2022.

“PoE will likely also be considered as increasingly important as a stable backup power source for converged edge devices where uptime is critical,” according to Comm-
Scope. “For example, an HD camera may feed data to multiple applications such as security systems, people counting, machine learning analytics and occupancy sensors. By combining and centralizing power and data at the network switch with dedicated power circuits, PoE simplifies and automates troubleshooting and management.”

PoE has become a powerhouse in embracing emerging technology, and the perfect way to expand your systems integration business with additional services and device connectivity.

Header Image: shutterstock / alwie99d

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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