As a trade editor, I am not allowed to have favorites. No favorite people or companies in the industry, certainly. You expect me to take a journalistic approach to the people and companies I cover, not an ol'-boy approach. But I hope it'll be OK with you if I admit there is a technology with which I have kind of an affinity. It's Power over Ethernet. I remember the baffled looks on faces when I first heard the concept described at a BICSI Conference, which probably was in the late 1990s or 2000. A primary takeaway for me was that we were really talking about Power over Ethernet cable, because it was the cable that was going to be the actual transmission medium.
Looking in the mirror, I realize the reason PoE is one of my favorite technologies is that it was "there for me" as the market scraped bottom in 2001 and 2002. PoE was one of the few technologies that forged ahead from concept to commercialization during that dark economic time. Being eager to discuss emerging technologies, I befriended PoE right through its offical ratification by IEEE in 2003. So there is my full disclosure.
Following PoE has turned out to be like Clark Griswold's membership to the Jelly of the Month Club; it's the gift that keeps on giving. The article that begins on page 11 of this issue details some of the technological progressions of PoE as well as similar technologies UPOE and PoHDBase-T. Among the points raised in the article is the stress placed on the twisted-pair cable that will support upwards of 100 Watts to a powered device.
When the 802.3at specifications (completed in 2009) were in development, I had the opportunity at another BICSI Conference to learn about the standard's progress. A fellow attendee asked at what point the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association, producer of the National Electrical Code) was going to begin paying attention to PoE, considering its increasing voltages and wattages. My sources tell me that today, in 2015, the answer to that question is: Now. The NFPA is working on the 2017 Code and as part of that process, is considering what if any requirements to put in place for the direct-current voltages and wattages delivered to network devices by twisted-pair cable.
We've heard it many times: Following standards, albeit a best practice, is optional. Following the Code is abiding by the law. PoE, my friend and the gift that keeps on giving, may give us more than we ever expected when the 2017 NEC is published. We promise to keep you posted.
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