Until recently, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were exclusive to computers, network-related devices and VOIP telephones. Today, however, this is no longer the case, partly as a result of the drive towards ‘Intelligent’ or ‘Smart’ Buildings, Grids and Networks.
What does this mean for cabling and connectivity?
‘IP Convergence’ is a fact: cameras, access control, lighting and TVs, as well as cars, home appliances and parking meters are now getting IP addresses. Similar developments are taking place in the area of Building automation, where we’re seeing automatic centralised control of systems such as ventilation, air conditioning, heating, lighting and access using a building management system or building automation system. An ‘Intelligent’ or ‘Smart’ building is controlled by this kind of system. Benefits include improved usage and lifecycle of assets, reduced energy consumption and operating costs and increased comfort for occupants.
Network technology is being challenged to keep up. By focusing on three key areas related to Intelligent Buildings – People and devices, building conditions and network flexibility – it is possible to realise a digital transformation to ensure cabling, connectivity and networks hold up in an increasingly demanding environment. Let’s take a closer look at each of these aspects:
People & devices
Ten years ago, a typical office would be equipped with some PCs, VoIP phones and low-bandwidth wireless devices… 1G was enough bandwidth for most requirements. Today, however, bandwidth demand is boosted by HD video, wireless devices and building control and automation systems. Internet of Things applications in the Cloud mean these systems are more integrated in the network. When specifying cabling, you need to consider the type and level of performance users and devices require. Now and in the future.
Wireless is an important contributor to increased bandwidth demand. As speed and bandwidth go up, reach goes down and more WAPs are required to cover the same surface area. Performance requirements also depend on emerging standards, which drive requirements for bandwidth and power over the network. Using Category 6A for each Wireless Access Point (WAP) is recommended, making multimode OM4 fibre a likely minimum requirement for the backbone.
Increasingly widespread Power over Ethernet (PoE) supports higher levels of power to larger devices. The next generation can provide up to 90 Watts and power devices such as monitors, although elevated temperatures will increase heat (and noise). Higher-grade cabling makes it possible to realise significant energy efficiency gains and reduce heat dissipation.
Which specific conditions exist in your building or buildings? Which distances need to be bridged? If these aren’t factored in and there is no clear understanding of requirements for each section of cabling, there is a risk of underspecifying – meaning poor performance and reliability – or over specifying – and unnecessary costs. Functional requirements must be considered, as well as practical aspects such as available space and pathways, security and reaction to fire.
Increased bandwidth demand means distances supported by a (multimode) fibre backbone must be carefully considered. Traditional copper cabling has an inherent 90-metre length restriction. For hospital or campus LANs this can be a costly hurdle, but high-grade multimode or even single mode fibre in a Fibre to the Office (FTTO) set-up can bring significant savings. FTTO can also be useful in wherever space is limited and structural changes can’t be made.
Temperatures, chemicals, Electromagnetic Interference, crushing, pulling, exceeding the bend radius and moisture can affect the performance of network equipment and cabling. Knowing the environmental factors at different locations helps find solutions that improve performance where it counts, without compromising in other areas.
Cables in buildings and civil works are now assessed with regard to their ‘reaction to fire’, with different demands specified for cabling in different areas. This must be factored in when choosing solutions. For copper and fibre cables, different fire performance classes and three additional criteria (smoke production, flaming droplets and acidity) are newly defined criteria in the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and cabling must be specified to the appropriate level.
Deliberate or accidental disconnection can disturb operations or cause full-scale system failures, bringing costly fault tracking and repair. Automated Infrastructure Management systems are indispensable in pinpointing the physical location of the devices involved. At logical level, security and encryption should allow for high-level protection against cyber-attacks.
There is also demand for improved building energy efficiency. However, as we add more hardware to accommodate current and future needs, energy usage can only go up… The challenge is to reduce power consumption as more devices are added.
Defining current and expected building and network requirements, as well as related items such as energy consumption, maintenance, installation and administration, and deciding how much redundancy you need, makes it possible to design and build cost-effective digital infrastructures. Ample bandwidth reserves and redundancy are also essential. How much redundancy do you need to maximise availability at distributor and user levels?
Building usage, applications and the number of people can change over time. Working with adaptable Service Consolidation Points (SCPs), mainly located above the ceiling, is widely considered best practice. From here, workplaces and devices such as WAPs and cameras can be connected.
Today’s vast, complex and constantly evolving systems need automated monitoring, control and asset management. To satisfy compliance and legal requirements you’ll require network device recovery, incident management, status reports and audit trails. Precise mapping of switches makes it possible to track and repair faults or configuration errors fast, saving considerable time tracking and fixing faults. Automation and central management helps reduce operational costs, improve asset management and utilisation and simplify service deployments.
Saving money by opting for ‘just adequate’ cabling and systems can affect network performance and building ‘smartness’, but using the highest performing cable for every inch of the network is costly and pointless. Selecting the correct type and quality for each part of the network really pays off in the long run.
Nexans have been active in the Irish market for over a decade with Kellihers Electrical/CT Electric as their sole distributors over that time. With 22 branches nationwide and a dedicated data team they are ready to help with whatever project you have.
For more information on Nexans products in Ireland contact Kellihers Electrical Data Communications Team.
Email:Valerie.McHugh@rexel.ie Mob: 087-2494282