Article
Commercial office buildings have been becoming smarter for several decades, now. Building management systems (BMS) have become both more sophisticated and affordable for owners. However, the need to support both data and power for connected equipment has kept wiring as a substantial line item in installation budgets. Now, thanks to wide adoption of low-power LED lighting, fixtures – and their sensors – can be connected to both power and building automation networks by a single Ethernet cable.

Power Over Ethernet Meets Two Needs with a Single Cable

Chuck Ross
Commercial office buildings have been becoming smarter for several decades, now. Building management systems (BMS) have become both more sophisticated and affordable for owners. However, the need to support both data and power for connected equipment has kept wiring as a substantial line item in installation budgets. Now, thanks to wide adoption of low-power LED lighting, fixtures – and their sensors – can be connected to both power and building automation networks by a single Ethernet cable.

Called “power over Ethernet” (PoE), this approach uses Cat 5E and Cat 6 cable to provide both power and connectivity. The installation savings can be significant over traditional approaches. Electrical wiring is completely eliminated and, because Ethernet is a low-voltage distribution system, electricians aren’t required to run the cabling. And because the power being supplied is direct current, which is what LED lamps and fixtures require, both transformers and their related energy losses can be eliminated.

The ongoing operational advantages of PoE lighting could be even more significant, because fixtures and sensors all become networked data points in these internet of things (IoT) designs. PoE fixtures can come equipped with onboard sensors for ambient light, occupancy, power metering and even air quality, including humidity.

Finally, because lighting is everywhere in modern commercial buildings, these PoE-networked fixtures also can become key components in managing HVAC, security and other building systems. Occupancy sensors, for example, can let a BMS know when it’s appropriate to dial back air conditioning in a conference room that’s been unoccupied for a pre-set time period.
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