In the not too distant future, office walls will be missing a familiar face; that surprised emoticon we’ve come to rely on to power everything we use. That’s right; outlets could very well become a thing of the past. Like the pay phone, pager and rabbit ears, this trusted technology is on the verge of being replaced by something faster, sleeker, and more efficient – Power over Ethernet (PoE).
While we refer to it here as Power over Ethernet lighting, in reality this technology can be used to power much more than just lights; HD security camera systems, business phone systems, data networking, smoke detectors and more can all be powered and managed by PoE technology.
How Power Over Ethernet, or PoE, Works
Do you remember Super Bowl XLVII? The thrilling contest between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers was suspended during the third quarter for 34 minutes because of a power outage. The Ravens, who had been leading up to that point, ended up losing 34-31. The outage plunged the Superdome into darkness and left fans at home wondering what was going on. Interestingly, when the lights went dark, the stadium’s WiFi connection did not because it was powered by PoE, which had a PoE switch and battery power as a backup.
Had the Superdome been running its lights and cameras on PoE, there would not have been an outage and the outcome of the game may very likely have been different.
Today, a single Cat6A cable can power Internet and network connectivity as well as lights and security systems. When a USB switch or PoE switch is installed, connected devices (including lights) can receive the power they need to function; they also use less power and can be managed more efficiently.
FIG. 1. Network-connected lighting and sensor hubs can deliver new functions anywhere lighting is used and turn lighting off when it is not needed.
A PoE switch works by having power over ethernet functionality built into it. When you connect devices to a PoE switch, it will automatically detect whether that device is PoE compatible and if it is, will enable power to that device instantly.
Super Bowl XLVII is just one example of the value that PoE lighting can bring to a building. Cabling costs are reduced, fixture life is extended and facility usage is optimized.
Benefits to Running a PoE Powered ‘Intelligent Building’
Doug Hunter, Senior Account Manager for Panduit in Nebraska and industry partner with Miller Electric says that higher density PoE is widening the devices that can be powered and controlled from a single cable.
“The benefits on the LED side of things are that there is much less cost in terms of installation – one connection instead of two (electrical and Ethernet); and, tunable LEDs on a PoE can be adjusted for brightness, hue and usage. Other devices like HD security cameras, robotic arms for use in medical applications and digital signage can all be controlled more efficiently through PoE.”
Another benefit is that all of the technology powering a facility’s connected devices can now be maintained and controlled through the electrical closet. That notion excites another industry partner with Miller Electric, Brendan Gross, Vice President for Data Power in Omaha.
“The part about PoE that gets me excited is how things are changing inside the building. The electrical closet becomes the backbone of the facility and is filled with cable that controls and powers security, racking, cabling, lighting, networking, phones and data. In a very real sense, the new intelligent building has the same power and cooling availability requirements as a data center.”
Additional benefits to installing PoE technology in a facility include:
- Fixture longevity can be extended 10, 20 or even 30 years as less voltage runs through them.
- LEDs can communicate to each other without the need for access points.
- Lighting sensors can be harnessed to monitor room temp, analyze traffic patterns, free trapped workers and capture assailants.
- Greater flexibility in work area usage
- Safer and cheaper installation
- Potential cost savings when installed in a green environment
“With PoE in place, you don’t have to assign an office to a person,” says Doug. “Lighting and temperature can be controlled by users wherever they sit, anywhere in the building. It consolidates a lot of your current technologies and makes it easier to manage and more efficient.”
Even better, the technology is smart, so it remembers the lighting and temperature preferences of individual users and can automatically apply them wherever that user logs in throughout the facility. Miller Electric Vice President in charge of Low Voltage Services, Tom Parks, agrees that PoE offers a significant advantage when it comes to efficiency in office lighting, “As the move to LED as the choice to light office space continues, and the adoption of energy codes requiring electronic control by more municipalities becomes reality, PoE is the obvious choice to mirror these two environments.”
Who is Qualified to Install PoE Technology
If you or your IT department has already been thinking about PoE and implementing it for your organization, now might be the right time to migrate to a PoE environment. Other ideal times include construction of a new building and major retrofits or remodels. As with all sensitive technologies, whom you choose to install PoE impacts the effectiveness and value you can derive from it.
“There is not any other organization in Omaha positioned to succeed with PoE better than Miller Electric,” says Brendan.
“You can’t just be an IT company and do this. You must have electrical expertise. Miller is poised perfectly to help clients interested in PoE because they have expertise conducting large scale and small projects and have low voltage, engineering and electrical expertise on staff. Plus, they’re Gold certified by Panduit and are a certified Liebert reseller, which enables them to provide the top tier products required to support PoE technology.”
For their part, Data Power supplies the equipment PoE requires to operate (surge suppression, custom switch gear, UPS systems in both single and redundant states, high efficiency transformers, and power at the rack level) and intelligent monitoring for all that equipment. Panduit supplies the infrastructure solution tested and proven to provide 70 watts per port of power. Miller Electric employees undergo extensive training with Panduit to be certified to install this kind of cable in the safest and most efficient way possible.
Power Over Ethernet Streamlines Your World
What the Internet of Things (IoT) brings to your home, PoE brings to your office. On an enterprise scale, it allows all connected devices to operate and be managed more efficiently from both a cost and environment perspective.
If you’re pondering a move to PoE, talk with Miller Electric about the best way to design and power your system.
How could you apply PoE at your business or organization? How much time does your facility or IT staff spend managing the lighting and temperature preferences of employees? How could that be improved by reducing your cabling from two sources down to one?