courtesy of LAVA Computer Mfg. Inc.
Typical Cat 6 Ethernet cable
Typical Cat 6 Ethernet cable
Typical Cat 6 Ethernet cable
Typical Cat 6 Ethernet cable
Typical Cat 6 Ethernet cable

PoE benefits and applications for smart buildings

July 24, 2023
Power over Ethernet offers owners a flexible and reliable way to scale IoT devices and digital infrastructure in commercial and residential buildings.

In the rapidly evolving technology landscape, Power over Ethernet (PoE) has emerged as a game-changer, transforming the management of cables, power delivery, and network reliability in smart buildings. While many people associate Bluetooth with smart building systems, they often overlook the advantages and widespread applications of PoE.

PoE enables the simultaneous transmission of data and electrical power through Ethernet cables. The system infrastructure consists of power sourcing equipment, which injects power into an Ethernet cable; and powered devices , which receive the power and utilize it to operate network devices. By eliminating the need for a separate power cable, PoE facilitates flexible and cost-effective deployments.

PoE offers important benefits in various markets and industries, including surveillance systems, health care and medical applications, outdoor and remote deployments, hospitality and guest services, and digital signage. Smart home systems like Alexa may not be suitable for commercial buildings due to its potential for chaos and security issues, but PoE can be a solution in such scenarios.

PoE applications

The applications of PoE in smart buildings are diverse and can cater to various aspects of everyday life, including lighting, security, and HVAC systems.

Lighting control

PoE-enabled smart lighting systems provide customizable lighting options and advanced control features. Building managers can adjust brightness, color temperature, and automate lighting schedules to support efforts to reduce energy consumption. Because smart homes are currently more prevalent than smart commercial buildings, a building owner might benefit from consulting with a home automation company due to the similarities in technology.

Security and surveillance

PoE-powered security cameras, door locks, and access control systems offer building managers and security personnel real-time monitoring and stable security capabilities. These devices can be seamlessly integrated into the smart building ecosystem, providing connected control and management while ensuring reliable connectivity. With PoE, owners do not have to worry about systems malfunctioning during a Wi-Fi drop or wonder whether their signals will be intercepted or spoofed.

Climate control

PoE-based smart thermostats empower building managers to control building conditions and optimize energy usage for heating and cooling systems. When integrated with smart devices like occupancy sensors and weather data, these thermostats can deliver even greater functionality and efficiency. Similar to security and surveillance, guaranteed data supply ensures an uninterrupted experience.

Benefits of PoE

In today’s era of digital connectivity, the demand for smart commercial and residential buildings is rapidly increasing. These buildings offer enhanced control, convenience, and comfort to their occupants. PoE technology plays a crucial role in providing a reliable and efficient solution for power and data delivery within these smart buildings.

Easy Installation

PoE simplifies the installation process of power and data communications in smart buildings, particularly in retrofit projects. As mentioned, PoE transmits both power and data over a single Ethernet cable whereas alternating current (AC) power requires separate power cables for each smart device. A PoE injector or switch managers voltage on one end and the PoE adapter on the other. This eliminates the need for running multiple power cables, reducing clutter and eliminating the need for additional electrical outlets. Importantly, for PoE to work effectively, a Category 5 or above cable and PoE-capable adapters must be used.

Enhanced flexibility

PoE provides the flexibility to install smart devices anywhere within a space, as long as it is within 330 feet of an Ethernet port, regardless of whether a nearby electrical outlet exists. The installation of an Ethernet cord does not require an electrician, reducing cost and simplifying the process. Ethernet cables are often smaller in size and more flexible compared to typical AC power cords, making them easier to conceal or route through tight spaces. This flexibility enables optimal device placement and installation, maximizing functionality and convenience without compromising safety.

Improved cost efficiency

The cost efficiency of PoE can be best demonstrated through an anecdote. I once worked with a retail customer who received a quote of $9,000 (USD) for installing and adjusting three electrical outlets in their commercial environment. However, after considering our solution, they calculated that the cost would be only $900 to $1,200 for installing PoE. As a result, they opted for our PoE solution. This example highlights how PoE can offer substantial savings compared to traditional electrical installations.

Reliable power and data supply

When combined with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), PoE becomes even more reliable. A UPS provides backup power for a limited time when it detects a drop in AC power, such as one that may occur during a blackout or power glitch. By leveraging PoE, owners can ensure that their smart devices continue to receive reliable power and that data transmission is preserved. In PoE-enabled smart buildings equipped with UPS, critical devices like security systems, lighting, and essential appliances can continue to operate during power outages or disruptions.

Centralized control and future-proofing

PoE can scale, allowing for the addition or removal of smart devices. Compared to AC power, PoE requires less complexity in terms of rewiring, eliminating the need to re-pair or combine Bluetooth meshes or devices. This ensures a more streamlined process when expanding or modifying the smart infrastructure.

Furthermore, PoE ensures that the smart infrastructure remains adaptable and future-proof. As new technologies emerge, PoE can accommodate them without requiring significant changes or upgrades to the existing setup. This flexibility allows for the continuous evolution and integration of new devices and technologies into the smart building ecosystem. With PoE’s ability to handle various devices and data requirements, smart buildings can embrace innovations as they arise, making PoE a valuable investment for long-term sustainability and growth.

PoE offers a reliable and efficient solution for delivering power and data, simplifying installation, and enhancing flexibility in smart buildings. It can create connected experiences within a building, providing convenience, comfort, and control to its occupants. As the smart ecosystem continues to evolve, PoE will remain a crucial element in shaping the buildings of tomorrow.

Disclosure: The author is a provider of POE technology solutions.

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About the Author

Rostyk Wynnyckyj

Rostyk Wynnyckyj, co-owner and technical sales engineer at LAVA Computer MFG. Inc., based in Ontario, Canada. LAVA is a family-owned Canadian-Ukrainian technology manufacturer that designs and manufactures its products in-house, providing peace of mind to customers that value high-quality, innovative, and efficient technology products.

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