Dispelling the concerns about PoE

Dispelling the concerns about PoE

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The makeup of networks in today's connected buildings is changing rapidly. Whether its intelligent lighting and HVAC systems, security cameras or smart sensors, the number of endpoints on a network is growing all the time.

But in addition to wired or wireless data connectivity, all these devices will also need to be powered, and this can create a headache for deployers if they are trying to add low-power connections throughout an existing building. 

A common solution to this is Power over Ethernet (PoE). While the ability to deliver power and data services through a single cable is far from a new concept, it's something that many installers may be relying on much more heavily in the coming years as the number of connected devices on their networks continues to increase.

However, this may often come with a degree of uncertainty or concern about the implications of the technology, particularly surrounding issues such as electrical safety.

Uncertainty over PoE

This was a topic that was raised at a prior ratification of the US' National Electric Code (NEC) in 2017. In a recent article, CommScope engineering fellow Wayne Hopkinson noted there was an effort by some participants to portray PoE as a potentially dangerous application.

He said that, while these efforts were not completely successful, it is natural that there remains some fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) about the technology, so it is up to the industry to help educate deployers about the capabilities and limitations of PoE, as well as any potential for harm and how this could be avoided.

While Mr Hopksinon observed worries about PoE are not on the same scale as some higher-profile technological advances, such as AI and robots, the process for dispelling any myths is likely to be similar, as once people have the chance to see it in practical use, any worries can be addressed.

"As with most technologies, once the FUD is addressed, there is more acceptance. The same can be true about power over data cabling," he stated.

To this end, CommScope has been working hard to demonstrate the benefits of PoE and answer any concerns network deployers may have. The company stresses that the technology is nothing to be afraid of, as long as it is handled in the right way.

Ensuring strong PoE education

That's why the company earlier this year sought to promote the safety aspects of PoE at the 2019 National Fire Protection Association Conference & Expo, where the 2020 version of the NEC was being ratified.

At the event, CommScope demonstrated the safety of its PoE-based switches, as well as giving several talks and courses on the safety of the technology.

CommScope has also opened a PoE lab to test the effects of PoE on structured copper cabling in real-world environments, using commercially available and pre-production PoE-powered devices to help further dissipate the FUD that may still surround the technology.

As these applications become more ubiquitous in the coming years, powering devices from security cameras and phones to digital signage, LED lighting networks and Internet of Things sensors, it will be vitally important for deployers to have faith in the technology, and a full understanding of what they need to do to ensure the safety of their systems.

Commenting on the announcement of the PoE lab last year, Ernie Pickens, senior vice-president of enterprise solutions at CommScope, said: "Next to the data transport itself, PoE is the most important enabler of devices that use structured cabling in enterprise buildings today, which is critical as IT managers look to drive more value out of their installed copper cabling plant and connect more devices."

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