ICT Infrastructure for Smart Buildings: Webcast Overview

May 19, 2023
Peeling back layers of building intelligence and sustainability considerations to provide an in-depth examination of the practical measures ICT professionals must take to maximize the intelligence and sustainability of a smart building.

On May 11, Cabling Installation & Maintenance (CI&M) hosted a webcast entitled “ICT Infrastructure for Smart Buildings,” delivered by experts from AEM Precision Cable Test and CommScope. The presentation peeled back layers of building intelligence and sustainability considerations to provide an in-depth examination of the practical measures ICT professionals must take to maximize the intelligence and sustainability of a smart building. As reckoned by webinar moderator Patrick McLaughlin, editorial director of CI&M, in introductory remarks, the seminar's mandate was to investigate and prescribe the functions of the ICT infrastructure that is effectively the "central nervous system of a smart building."

To kick off proceedings, McLaughlin recounted how buildings account for approximately 40% of all energy consumption in the United States, and account for a similar percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. As echoed by the now on-demand webinar's summary, "The road to achieving sustainability starts with these facts, and the advent of smart buildings is a step in that direction. More than other properties, a smart building relies heavily on its communications infrastructure to enable the interactivity among building systems that is the hallmark of intelligent operation. But there is much more to equipping a smart building than simply choosing a cabling system."

Featured technical experts

The webinar's featured technical experts included: Ronna Davis, LEED Green Associate, Strategy and Technology, Enterprise Building and Campus, with CommScope; and Steve Cowles, RCDD/NTS, Product and Customer Care Manager with AEM – Precision Cable Test. 

Ronna Davis has been in the networking and telecommunication industry for 26 years. She has been with CommScope for over 16 years and has held positions in product line management, sales, and the channel. She is currently on CommScope's Strategy and Technology Team for Buildings and Campuses. Davis chairs the TIA SPEC, Single Pair Ethernet Consortium. Prior to CommScope, she worked in the design and construction of telecommunications networks for eight years and in wholesale distribution for two years. She is a LEED Green Associate, and member of the Ethernet Alliance. Ronna holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Marketing.

Steve Cowles is the product line manager for AEM Precision Cable Test solutions. He has been involved in the voice/data industry for over 30 years, the last 20 focused on test equipment applications for copper/fiber certification, as well as WiFi, PoE, Ethernet and xDSL systems. Steve has been a BICSI member for 27 years and holds the RCDD and NTS credentials.

ICT for Smart and Sustainable Buildings

In opening remarks to her presentation entitled, "ICT for Smart and Sustainable Buildings," CommScope's Davis said that "smart buildings aren't the goal; smart buildings are the vehicle to reach our sustainable imperative." In deploying smart buildings, she noted that methodology, architecture, and interoperability all must be considered. She said that that siloed systems are frequently seen in legacy deployments, with not a lot of concern given interoperability, but that software will be key to integration going forward.

Looking toward 2030, in her presentation Davis identified factors of densification, deployment speed, and sustainability as three main obstacles that owners and operators of smart buildings are facing. Davis in her talk demonstrated how getting over these hurdles, in terms of designing, deploying, and managing a structured cabling system, often becomes a contest of traditional LAN / IP cabling architecture vs. building edge infrastructure technologies.

"The traditional LAN IP cabling architecture is tried and true, but sometimes traditional methods fall short," she said. "Traditional architecture begins to break down when trying to justify some of the space allocations being set apart, with telecom rooms on each floor being connected via individual cable runs, and many devices located several hundred meters from TR... Right now, where we are with the pace of business and how fast networks are evolving, that is an obstacle."

Addressing the relentless need for more data and more power, Davis noted that as the "network is now responsible for powering more devices, we can now look at network as power delivery system. We also know the ceiling space is where it’s going to be deployed." She went on describe how "convergence is the goal, but not always the right solution for every customer, so there's a need to be inclusive," noting how moving to a more modular design removes risk and increases sustainability.

Focus on low voltage hybrid power and fiber networks

As an alternative to the traditional LAN IP cabling architecture, Davis described how low voltage hybrid power and fiber networks rely on three primary components to streamline the design and installation of cabling plants. These components include power sourcing equipment (48 VDC); hybrid power fiber cable; and DC powered and fiber capable endpoints.

Davis went on to describe how two pillars of building edge infrastructure technologies are comprised of 48 VDC hybrid power and fiber deployments; and Class 4/ Fault-Managed Power System (FMPS) hybrid power and fiber deployments.

She pointed out that 48 VDC hybrid power and fiber systems are inherently low voltage, as a well-established power sourcing type with limited current and larger copper conductors to distribute power, and can power up to three devices of endpoints, safe from shock hazard.

For their part, Davis noted that new power source systems for Class 4/ FMPS hybrid power and fiber deployments include both the power source and receiver for higher power delivery up to 450V. Higher voltage and pulsed power delivery makes for smaller copper conductors which can power up to 50 endpoint devices, safe from shock hazard.

What are the implications for Power over Ethernet (PoE) with these systems? Davis noted that both 48V DC and CL4/ FMPS deployments enable PoE at the edge, but that endpoint adaptation is required with each system. 

Assuring Infrastructure Readiness Across Smart Building Technologies

AEM's Steve Cowles' presentation, "Assuring Infrastructure Readiness Across Smart Building Technologies," gave special focus to testing considerations. focused on key drivers for smart building systems, and covered the internet of things and test parameter considerations.

Providing a primer on communication technologies testing, Cowles' talk covered cabling and connectivity test considerations for Four Pair Ethernet, Multi-Gigabit, Single Pair Ethernet, and Fiber Optic connections. The presentation also examined the pros and cons of wired vs. wireless network connectivity implementations, reviewed alternative powering technologies in the context of testing, and grappled with the topic of smart building reporting.

Cowles reckoned key ICT drivers for intelligent buildings systems at the BAS/BMS level to include areas of power, lighting, security, surveillance, energy efficiency, sustainability, measurement, monitoring, HVAC, utilities management and more. He noted that all smart building systems combine many disparate building systems into a single platform, optimizing operations, maintenance and overall cost.

As the smart building's overarching enabling technology, Cowles described how "IoT technology means many different things to many different industries." As a result of IoT technology, he noted that, as times have changed, building systems are now deployed in a unified manner and centrally managed, with many more technologies to oversee.

The bottom line is that power and data running on the same wire requires more testing, and that test parameter considerations for smart buildings have also changed. Cowles described how testing needs have evolved alongside the modern network infrastructures of today. He said that new, necessary questions technicians must ask now include those such as: Could noise on the link affect overall network performance? Will this link support the multiple link speeds required? And: Is this link capable of supporting power over the same wire the network data needs to run on? 

In other highlights, Cowles' highly detailed presentation covered resistance requirements for channels to be compliant for PoE delivery as specified in the ANSI/TIA-568.2-D and TIA TSB-184A D3.0 standards. The presentation also investigated Category cabling factors for installing IoT connected devices on a legacy system across parameters of >1.5B Cat5e/Cat6 outlets and >70B meters of Cat5e/Cat6 installed cable.

On the topic of ensuring multi-gigabit link speed, Cowles noted that many IoT connected devices require a specific level of link speed in order to operate efficiently. He said building stakeholders can ensure they’re getting the best performance possible from their investment only by testing. 

The presentation cited Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) as an important test to provide site managers with visibility into headroom. "SNR based testing means you are testing under load to simulate as much of a real world environment as possible," said Cowles. He emphasized that if PoE will be deployed, it’s a good idea to test with both traffic and power running simultaneously on the wire.

On the topic of Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) for smart buildings, Cowles noted how SPE has been used in automotive applications for many years, due to the technologies overall reduced weight, volume, and low cost. Such factors make SPE an attractive option in enterprise building and factory deployments. Cowles emphasized that over traditional architectures, SPE cabling and connectivity is lighter, lower cost, and supports longer distance (1k meters), while supporting the Power over Data Line (PoDL) power delivery method and following 802.3cg standards for for single-pair Power over Ethernet (SPoE) operation.

On the topic of ensuring fiber-optic links within ICT systems, the presentation described Tier-1 certification methods for multimode and singlemode optical loss testing in terms of assessing for characteristics of length and propagation delay, dual ended loss, and single ended loopback loss.

Cowles next discussed hybrid powered optical fiber, including testing of such cables under parameters of integrated loop resistance testing and voltage measurement. He emphasized that Tier-2 optional certification adds an OTDR trace to the technician's steps, and that any "OTDR trace does NOT replace Optical Loss Test."

In the presentation, he described how hybrid powered optical fiber's construction combines a fiber cable with a copper pair under the same jacket, where the copper pair is used to provide power to remote devices or PoE extenders. In terms of testing, Cowles noted how in hybrid powered optical fiber testing, resistance measurement of the copper pair provides assurance that it will carry the power, and cited the time savings in testing the fiber and copper wire simultaneously.

The above webcast wrap-up is intended only as a summary of certain presentation highlights. The full webinar contained more detail on more facets of the topic, including a plethora of high-quality images, graphs and tables illustrating foundational technical information over numerous slides. Check in here for on-demand viewing and attendance. 

In the following recent video, AEM's Steve Cowles, RCDD/NTS, sits down for an episode of his Tech Talk podcast with guest David Stenger, global product line manager for powered fiber solutions at CommScope. The discussion characterizes hybrid powered fiber cabling solutions as combining high-performance, low-latency fiber-optic data connectivity with copper low-voltage DC power connection. During the discussion, Cowles examines how the AEM TestPro’s fiber-optic measurements provide Tier-1 certification per industry standards, as well as DC resistance and voltage measurements on a hybrid-powered fiber in a single test, assuring not just the quality of the fiber, but also the integrity of the copper pair after installation.

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