The exciting tech you don’t yet own

Single-pair cabling promises to bring the intelligence of sensor-based networks from your automobile to your building.

In a current television commercial from automaker Nissan, the spokesman tells viewers, “The most exciting tech you own is in your driveway.” The commercial focuses on the car’s ability to see objects around it, and even to brake by itself if necessary. Nissan calls this suite of capabilities IntelligentMobility.

The technology that Nissan says resides in their vehicles and in your driveway is based on sensors, and the automotive industry has been at it for years. Many of today’s automobiles can be viewed as moving Ethernet networks. In 2015 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) completed the IEEE 802.3bw standard, which specifies 100Base-T1—100-Mbit/sec Ethernet over a single twisted pair for automotive applications. A gigabit-speed version, 802.3bp 1000Base-T1, followed in 2016 for automotive and industrialenvironments.

This technological development that is prevalent in the automotive industry is a forerunner to the single-pair cabling and single-pair Ethernet that soon will be available for use in local area networks. In September, at the IEEE’s request, the ISO/IEC global cabling standards-development body selected single-pair connector interfaces, one for use in industrial and the other for use in commercial-office-typeenvironments.

The interface design that was chosen for commercial environments is an LC-style connector developed by CommScope. The company’s engineer senior principal, Masood Shariff, championed its connector through the ISO/IEC’s selection process. He told me that the single-pair Ethernet network in an automobile supports upwards of 200 sensors. That technology comes at a cost, of course. Nissan’s commercial’s boast about their capability, not their affordability. When discussing the implementation of this type of technology into an office environment, Shariff quickly pointed out, “The magic is in obtaining the functionality, affordably.” He assured that prototypes of single-pair cables and connectors are in advanced stages ofdevelopment.

A joke within our industry says that we have been 18 months away from intelligent buildings for the past 18 years. Today, we’re more than 18 months behind intelligent automobiles. It’s about time building spaces catch up. The development of single-pair cabling technology puts us on that proverbial road. On the actual roads we travel daily are automobiles that serve as examples of the capabilities and opportunities that lie ahead of us.

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