Cabling Installation & Maintenance (CI&M)recently conducted the following Q&A discussion with Carol Everett Oliver, RCDD, ESS, DCDC, regarding present hot topics in the information and communications technology (ICT) sphere. An ICT consultant and frequent contributor to CI&M, Carol is principal of CEO Communications, and also currently serves on the BICSI Board of Directors as its president-elect.
Matt Vincent, CI&M: Carol, I have a question regarding BICSI if you don’t mind answering. What’s the outlook for the hybrid live-virtual BICSI Fall Conference 2021 this August in Las Vegas? What can ICT professionals expect to see in the way of seminars, training and new product displays?
Carol Everett Oliver (CEO): Thanks for the interview Matt! Good to talk with you again. Regarding the upcoming conference I, for one, will be excited to attend in person. At this time, I can’t provide an official statement from BICSI yet because the conference is still in the planning stages, so it is too early to comment on specifics. But personally, I think the outlook is very positive.
According to the BICSI conference website, the education sessions will include topics like Data Center technology, Intelligent Buildings , Smart Cities, Internet of Things and PoE, as well as new and emerging applications. I am sure we will hear more about the conference in the coming weeks and as we get closer to the conference, which is scheduled for the end of August.
CI&M: Thanks, Carol, for that information -- we will be watching for updates. One more BICSI-related question: As a professional with decades of experience in the ICT industry, what are your thoughts on being elected the first woman president of an organization like BICSI?
CEO: I believe I was elected based on my experience and career accomplishments over the past two decades. I volunteered on several BICSI committees and contributed in many ways to BICSI and the ICT profession. But yes, I feel honored to be BICSI’s first female president-elect. And it was interesting that the same year I was elected, the Independent Electrical Contractors association also elected its first woman president.
I may be the first female BICSI president-elect, but I will certainly not be the last. This year 50 percent of BICSI’s annual award winners were women. I encourage others, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, and otherwise to consider participating in BICSI groups such as the Women in BICSI group, the Emerging Professionals and Students group, and the Mentorship program that all foster involvement and career advancement.
I’m so excited to see so many other women are getting involved in BICSI and the ICT industry, making themselves and our profession better and being recognized for their hard work and accomplishments.
CI&M: Thanks Carol. Now we turn to questions on a few ICT industry “hot topics” that I’d like to get your personal and professional opinions on...As you may know, CI&M recently conducted its Connect 2021 Virtual Event, which is now available for on-demand viewing. The focus of this 3-day webinar series was cutting-edge deployment strategies and technologies for data centers -- including co-location, high-density, and edge applications -- and enterprise networks, including standards for intelligent buildings and site selection. What’s your current perspective in each of these segments?
CEO: Personally, I really liked the virtual event's panel format to get different views from different experts. I also liked how it was laid out to have one day addressing data centers, the next on intelligent buildings, and the third with vendor-focused presentations. That made it very well-rounded, yet focused on the two biggest moving targets in the ICT industry – data centers and intelligent buildings. And sprinkled with updates on standards and other informative topics.
Speaking from my experience, data centers come in many different forms, shapes and sizes, and each has a purpose depending on the needs of each business: small, in-house data centers such as those housed in an onsite telecom room, which can be in the form of a server placed at the edge to provide processing power to specific applications, to hyperscale and colo facilities. Individual business owners have to decide what will fit their current and future needs as well as considering the cost and long-term return on investment.
The decision is to build in house or buy space in large colo space. An in-house data center facilitates the data processing and storage capacity is kept close to the applications, also called edge processing. All types of commercial businesses will always have in-house telecom rooms to support onsite administration and applications that to provide processing without incurring latency issues. But businesses often outgrow their own in-house computer equipment and data storage in their telecom rooms. And it’s pretty costly to keeping up with software and hardware changes not to mention high utility costs and investment in UPS systems to prevent downtime.
Colos provides a peace of mind that the data is secure and from what I have heard, the cost to select a reliable colocation service provides a better return on investment and growth plan in the long run. What’s even more important is that every company has to have a disaster recovery plan which is usually off site – this is another advantage to colo. These are all reasons why colocation service providers are expanding more rapidly than enterprise in-house data centers.
As for intelligent buildings – well, this is my sweet spot, as I have been talking about this, writing about this and giving presentations on this topic since the first IP security camera attached to the network was introduced two decades ago. As we are seeing more building applications jumping on the network – such as LED lighting, HVAC controls, security and every type of monitoring system you can think of – this will definitely impact the ICT industry in a good way! More network building applications mean more low-voltage cabling and expertise for our designers, contractors and installers.
The BICSI standard for intelligent buildings, ANSI/BICSI-007 provides a design guide for system integrators, contractors and even architects. And implementing an integrated network just makes sense as it is way more efficient than siloed applications. It’s better for the occupants within the building and saves a lot of energy costs.
I participated in a panel discussion at the BICSI Virtual Winter Conference and we addressed many ways to implement an intelligent building such as forming an ecosystem with partnering companies and also to understand what that means as far as the return on investment. It’s a win-win, as a case study was presented that showed a 39% savings in utility costs.
CI&M: Endeavor Business Media, parent company of CI&M, recently launched its Smart Buildings Technology brand – the website is now active, with a new magazine to follow in June. From where you stand, what are the hottest trends in smart buildings deployments right now? How fast do you see the uptake rate of these technologies accelerating?
CEO: I find that’s forward thinking and really progressive to dedicate a Smart Buildings brand and website, as it is truly an evolving market and I think the biggest growth area for enterprise ICT and will be a great resource for your audience. I read that in the next five years intelligent buildings are expected to have a compound annual growth rate between 15-20% per year (depending on which study you read), but I think it might be bigger in the enterprise space -including office buildings, schools, healthcare and hospitality.
Employing intelligent building applications – such as sensor technology for lighting, HVAC controls and other building services – was a growing trend before we all were put into lockdown due to COVID, which certainly crippled a lot of construction. COVID has presented more opportunities to increase integrated applications because when we all return to the office or schools or other businesses, we are going to be seeing more sensors and more touchless applications.
Being able to monitor and control these devices from remote locations is a huge advantage. And Power over Ethernet is really opening doors for ICT to be able to provide data and power to all these devices over the same cabling.
CI&M: A perennial topic for us at CI&M has become 5G and corresponding deployments of fiber and wireless broadband technologies. News from the past year suggests the COVID pandemic did very little to slow the advancement of 5G technologies. Thoughts?
CEO: If anything, I think COVID has contributed to the implementation of 5G or at least increased the desire to implement. COVID certainly tested everyone’s network bandwidth, speed and latency. We all have several mobile devices – tablets, phones, laptops that need fast connectivity to the network and don’t want to put up with latency.
For anyone out there with children who were home and doing schoolwork and streaming videos while simultaneously the parents were working from home and attending virtual events or virtual meetings, we learned the importance of emerging 5G technology. It’s just a matter of when and where the service providers will have the capability to provide this.
Also, I am seeing more and more fiber to the home and fiber-to-the-X (anything) being installed, which will add to making the deployment of 5G, from the service provider to the cell towers and to residential spaces, a reality.
CI&M: We recently published your new blog about OSDP technology for internet-secure access control applications. Can you provide some perspective on the state of IoT technology and where it intersects with physical security/access control, and also audiovisual applications?
CEO: IoT, which of course stands for internet of things, literally means anything, or any application or device with an IP address, that can exist and be integrated on the network. OSDP is just one of those applications and I did the blog for one of my clients. It’s a new access control protocol from the security industry (or SIA) that allows digital capabilities for access control. OSDP allows bi-directional communications with advanced data encryption whereas the previous Wiegand-style protocol was only one-way -- which made it vulnerable to hackers.
Security is huge in the deployment of intelligent building applications, and I am not just talking physical security such as cameras and door locks, but security of the network as well. Same with A/V and wireless access points. AV on the network can take many forms such as digital signage and even digital advertising, which can target commercials to be run in specific demographics.
We also need to realize that even though all those different types of IoT devices are talking to each other through network connection, that it’s still not all structured cabling, such as the OSDP cable which is specific to access control (such as door locks), and that also there are some differences with the topology (such as the layout and distances).
In ICT, we all live and breathe "star topology," which is point-to-point, or even using a midpoint such as in zone cabling, but some applications are laid out in a tree or bus topology and can be connected through daisy chaining. If I had a crystal ball, I would say that eventually there will be ONE IP cable (such as twisted pair or fiber) -- because history repeats itself (I was around when voice was separate from data) -- but for now we need to realize there are still application dependent cables and unique systems even if they can reside on one IP network.
CI&M: Thanks for taking some time to chat with us, Carol. Look forward to seeing you down the road this year!