Remote powering equals opportunity

Oct. 1, 2016
This editorial is being written less than two weeks after the conclusion of BICSI's Fall Conference and Exhibition, which took place September 11-15. 

This editorial is being written less than two weeks after the conclusion of BICSI's Fall Conference and Exhibition, which took place September 11-15. As an attendee of the event, I came away having heard one overriding theme throughout the week: remote powering technologies represent a significant opportunity to professionals in the structured cabling trade.

No fewer than five presentations made during the conference included remote powering as a significant focus, and in some cases it was the primary focus. I use the term "remote powering" here rather than Power over Ethernet or PoE, because I view remote powering as a superset of PoE. All PoE is remote powering, but not all remote powering is PoE. One of the most-discussed applications for remote powering nowadays is lighting. Some, but not all, lighting systems that can be powered via twisted-pair cabling use PoE as the powering technology. Whether they use PoE or another mechanism, these systems open up new opportunities for providers of twisted-pair cabling systems, particularly including the professionals who design and install these systems.

Another reason I use the term "remote powering" rather than "PoE" is that despite the term's widespread use in the industry and close association with the IEEE 802.3af and 802.3at specifications, as well as the forthcoming 802.3bt specifications, "Power over Ethernet" has not been trademarked by the IEEE. A device does not need to comply with the "af" or "at" specifications in order to carry the term. In August 2014, published an opinion from The Ethernet Alliance's Steven Carlson titled "Why the industry needs a PoE logo program." In it, he explained that the term PoE does not "belong" to the IEEE and told a cautious, true tale about the implications of that fact. "Unfortunately, the success of PoE led to products that took shortcuts with the standard, or simply ignored it ... Many cheap 'PoE injectors' appeared on the market. These units did not have any of the IEEE standardized features ... In many cases the voltage was not the correct IEEE standardized voltage, or the power supply could be switched to different output voltages." Carlson pointed out that an online search of "Power over Ethernet" yields "a frightening array of non-standards-based products."

Yet the term PoE proliferates just like the technology does. And that is why I believe remote powering, including 802.3af-, at-, and bt-compliant technologies, represent such an opportunity for you as cabling professionals.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
[email protected]

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