Specifications and applications mark intelligent building systems

Sept. 1, 2013
As the TIA works to revise and rename its standard covering building intelligence, more opportunities arise to use intelligent systems.

From the September, 2013 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

As the TIA works to revise and rename its standard covering building intelligence, more opportunities arise to use intelligent systems.

by Patrick McLaughlin

A task group within the Tele-communications Industry Association’s (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) TR-42.1 Subcommittee has completed some initial work toward modifying the TIA-862 standard from its current "A" revision to a "B" revision. As we have reported over the past several months, the likely change that will be immediately noticeable in TIA-862-B will be its title. Specifically, whereas the 862-A standard is titled the Building Automation Systems Cabling standard, 862-B very likely will drop the word "automated" from its title and add some form of the word "intelligent" or the phrase "intelligent building."

Based on information coming out of TR-42.1, the title change will reflect significant differences in the standard’s content. When TR-42.1 holds its next meeting, in October, it may gain approval for the 862-B draft specification to enter the balloting process. Indeed the work of bringing a consensus standard to fruition is just beginning. More, and more-detailed, information is sure to follow. For now, the group creating the draft standard has established a purpose and scope for it. Initial documentation from the task force states that the standard’s purpose is "to enable the planning and installation of a structured cabling infrastructure for intelligent building systems. The intent is to support applications that use Internet Protocol (IP) communication and accommodate other protocols that are typically used from controllers to devices."

Early thoughts

Additionally, the early documentation describes the standard as specifying "a generic cabling system for intelligent building systems that will support a multi-product, multi-vendor environment. It also provides information that may be used for the design of intelligent building system products for enterprises." It then offers: "Intelligent building systems are typically used for monitoring and controlling building systems such as building automation systems (BAS), security and access control (e.g., closed circuit television, electronic door control), energy management (e.g., HVAC, lighting/power control), and other ‘low voltage systems’ (e.g., audio/video paging, service/equipment alarms, non-voice/data communications)."

If anything similar to that wording makes it into the final standard, it will be clear that building automation systems are recognized as one of many building systems covered--as opposed to BAS’s current status as 862-A’s primary focus.

As we described previously (see "Are intelligent buildings NATO or a go?" June 2013), the 862-B standard is likely to permit and describe the direct-attach cabling method--as the current 862-A specification does. Other technology topics in the current plans for inclusion in 862-B, in some shape or form, are Power over Ethernet, automated infrastructure management, and intelligent lighting systems. Each of these technologies, and several others along with them, is an element of the technical ecosystem that is an intelligent building. As such, each progresses along its individual technological evolution while remaining a contributing factor to one of the ultimate goals of intelligent buildings: efficiency.

In the spotlight

While technology evolves, business does too. And this summer the business of intelligent lighting systems took a turn when CommScope (www.commscope.com) acquired Redwood Systems (www.redwoodsystems.com), a provider of light-emitting diode (LED)-based lighting systems. Redwood’s platform has been cited as an example of a building system that has IP in its DNA and is tailor made to be part of an overall intelligent infrastructure. When announcing the acquisition, Redwood described its technology as a "smart building platform that powers and controls lights with a high-density sensor grid." The company claims its platform typically improves energy efficiency by 75 percent over traditional fluorescent lighting systems in an office-building environment, and by 90 percent in data centers. Among the system’s characteristics that allow it to achieve these efficiency levels are granular monitoring of space use, temperature and power consumption, Redwood says.

When the acquisition was made in July, CommScope said it was "intended to strengthen [our] position in intelligent building infrastructure solutions, enabling the company to provide one of the industry’s most comprehensive and automated infrastructure management platforms."

About a month after the acquisition was made, Redwood upgraded the platform to its third generation. "The new Gen-3 platform includes a new Engine-3, new environmental sensors and a director to centrally store available building data," the company said, adding, "A software upgrade to a cloud-based data warehouse is in development. This will give facilities managers and data analytics firms the ability to analyze real-time and historic data across multiple campus locations."

Redwood further explained that through its newest platform, its LED lighting system "delivers the optimal amount of power to an LED fixture and simplifies field installation. With 70 percent more power per channel than the previous model, one engine can power and control significantly more lighting. New RJ45 input ports on the engine’s front panel enable standard category cable to be quickly connected and provide power, control and communications with lighting fixtures and sensors. Additionally, the new architecture will be able to support two LED fixtures on a single CommScope Category 6 cable, further reducing the installed cost."

CommScope’s senior vice president of enterprise solutions, Kevin St. Cyr, commented about the importance of data analysis to achieving efficiencies: "While big data has taken the IT industry by storm, the ability to act on this explosion of information can transform almost any industry. This is especially true with commercial properties that use sensors to collect data on energy and operational information. But without a robust analytics function to make sense of the data and turn it into something applicable, it is essentially useless. Redwood can now offer its customers a best-in-class means to both collect and synthesize the data for actionable insights."

Lighting, of course, is just one of multiple building systems that is incorporated under the umbrella of an intelligent building. And as evidenced by the business and technology news relating to Redwood, any of those systems is subject to change. As such--and shifting focus back to the under-development TIA-862-B specifications--the initial documentation quoted earlier also includes a precaution about the deployment and administration of such systems. "The diversity of services currently available, coupled with the continual addition of new services, may result in cases where limitations to desired performance occur," the documentation reads. "When supporting specific applications over these cabling systems, the user is cautioned to consult application standards, regulations, equipment vendors, and system and service suppliers for applicability, limitations, and ancillary requirements."

Whether or not any of the above-quoted information makes it into the approved TIA-862-B standard is yet to be determined. The consensus process by which the TIA produces standards may result in minor or major alteration of the statements. Even if that happens, their gist remains relevant. Cabling systems installed to support intelligent buildings will have to be well-planned and well-performing to allow the efficiency improvements that hold such promise in these environments. ::

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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