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IP Convergence: The Technology Enabling Smart Buildings

high tech buildings in the city with colorful abstract lighting

A Smart Building is one that has the ability to share information between multiple building systems and use this to monitor automate and optimize various processes – from heating and ventilation, to air conditioning, lighting, and security.

The idea of a smart building is not new, but the constraints of technology meant systems were typically operated separately with siloized data. This made it difficult, if not impossible, to take a holistic view or respond proactively. IP convergence is the development that has changed everything.

IP convergence gives the capability to carry out a multitude of functions that previously needed their own platforms. Voice, data, video and TV can all be carried on the same network. Resources can be shared across applications, providing high levels of standardization, availability, reliability and improved safety.

IP devices and networks speak the same language end to end. This means no translation between sensors, devices, servers, operating systems, cabling. Devices and systems that work with ethernet IP are inexpensive and can be added or removed to networks easily. Suddenly, smart building connectivity is not only possible, but accessible.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) is an essential driver for IP convergence. On top of data and voice information, it can also supply power. This means only a single cable is needed connect to end devices.

Cabling Infrastructure Design for Smart Buildings

However, while connectivity and technology are making leaps forward, the technology infrastructure in our buildings has lagged behind. Attempting to plug a smart building system into a conventional cabling architecture will be complex and negate many of the benefits of the system, such as its flexibility and ease of upgrade. PoE is a game changing development and requires a fundamental rethink of how we design cabling systems.

Zone cabling is the answer to this problem. It is a modular cabling architecture designed to be flexible. In zone cabling systems, cables run stepwise from patch panels in telecommunication rooms to zone enclosures before reaching the active equipment. Devices, sensors and workstations can be added or moved easily because they are connected to a local work area outlet, not directly to a central hub or server. As upgrades or new technologies become available, devices become obsolete, or building usage changes, network alterations can be made rapidly and with minimal cost.

Planning a Zone Cabling Architecture

In order to be truly future-ready, zone cabling systems need to be carefully planned. Cabling specialists must consider the intended use of a space and number of workstations and devices, but also the ways in which the space usage might alter as occupancy increases or decreases or working patterns change. ISO/IEC and ANSI/TIA standards give many useful definitions and specifications. Site surveys are also invaluable for things like wireless connectivity and lighting. While it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future, a properly implemented zone cabling architecture will provide the flexibility and capacity to accommodate a range of possible futures.

Learn structured cabling

Molex Connected Expertise Solutions offers an industry-leading range of free training courses in structured cabling, with modules tailored for installers, consultants and end users. We also regularly publish technical documents on subjects such as PoE implementation and structured cabling standards.

To access our training and technical content, apply for access to our Customer Support Portal.