It is the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart buildings where devices converge onto a common IT infrastructure, allowing low-voltage building systems like voice, data, security, AV, lighting, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) to communicate with each other via Internet Protocol (IP). This provides significant cost savings and sustainability over the life of the facility while improving overall user experience, wellbeing, and productivity. To ensure this, it is essential to make sure the devices and the infrastructure and well cabled and connected. To understand the cabling challenges and its role in IoT and smart infrastructure, Ankita KS, senior technology journalist, from EFY Group had a chat with Valerie Maguire – Global sales engineer at Siemon, USA.
Q: How is the Internet of Things transforming the data transmission industry today? How is Siemon trying to contribute to this?
When Siemon looks at emerging technologies, like the Internet of things (IoT), we always look at it through the eyes of someone who supports the telecommunications industry. The main technology that drives our products is hyperscale data centers and infrastructure that supports the IoT. A lot of IoT devices are connected to the network but for this IoT device to work correctly, it’s important to have a robust wired infrastructure. So, we are very focused on balanced twisted-pair and optical cables that help in better communication. From the patch panels to the wire management to the cables themselves and to racks to power distribution units, the entire ecosystem is crucial for allowing communication between the end devices and the data center. For example, we designed Z-PLUG to support high-performance connections at IoT Devices and support cabling systems having category 6A, category 7A and category 8 performance with headroom for connections back to the data center.
Q: What are the design challenges that you faced while building solutions for intelligent building and smart infrastructures?
One main essential in intelligent buildings in the support of remote powering. The main challenge Siemon faced is in designing cables that deliver a hundred watts of power without much loss. When products have high resistance or have bad thermal properties, a little bit of energy is lost, and that loss energy appears as heat. So, making sure that all the products we develop to perform properly when deploying power was a challenge. Siemon makes cables that operate 15 degrees higher than required by standards. So instead of operating up to 60 degrees Celsius, our cables operate up to 75 degrees Celsius. Our cables also have increased thermal stability.
Another challenge for us in product innovation is to make products that are slimmer and lighter and perform better than the competition. So, we develop our products with a little built-in margin for performance. One good example is our fully shielded connector solution called TERA®; we named that system based on its theoretical capabilities of supporting terabit per second connections. It was developed in 1999 and it was way ahead of the time. Even today it surprises us with its capabilities; it is not only a good connector for balanced twisted-pair Ethernet, but it’s also ideal for RGB transmissions that require significantly reduced propagation delay skew. In intelligent buildings, it’s often not worth installing four pair cable to support low-cost devices that operate over one or two pairs. By utilizing the cable-sharing capability of the TERA cabling system, we can be economical by using one cable to support multiple 1- and 2-pair applications.
Another challenge we faced with the intelligent building was the accommodation of devices that are no longer at the desktop, meaning located in a ceiling space that can be difficult to access or in an exposed location. So to help people who are not telecommunications installers, wireless experts, or IoT administrators connect to these devices, Siemon designed an RJ45 modular plug that has an integrated printed circuit board that completely eliminates the problem of the split pair so anyone can terminate this plug and achieve category 6 A performance, which is extremely important to support Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6.
Q: How are you gearing up for Wi-Fi 6?
Wi-Fi 6 is almost ready. It’s going to be published at the end of this year and every single Wi-Fi 6 router will have two Ethernet ports. The correct cabling for this is category 6A, which supports Wi-Fi 6 feeds without any concern about installation, noise in the environment, or distance. Siemon is educating our customers and has been working closely with standards and getting guidance incorporated into TIA (Telecommunication Industry Association) and ISO (International Standards Organisation) standards. We are also monitoring this technology very carefully.
Q: How to select the right cabling plant for smart buildings?
Broadcom recently gave a statement that they think a typical family of four will have 50 connected devices at home by 2022. This means that the cabling plants should be able to support the transmission of all these devices. If you have a substandard cabling plant, the devices may interact with each other but cannot be accessed remotely. There will be retransmissions and collisions. You will have to understand that the life of an Ethernet wireless access point in an enterprise environment point could be just 18 months. So, customers should ensure they select a cabling plant capable of supporting multiple generations of Wi-Fi technology. With smart infrastructure and IoT into the picture, you should select a cabling plant that supports voice, data, IoT, and is secure and operates on low voltage.
Q: Can you brief about the advantages of Power over Ethernet (PoE) Lighting? How is it being accepted in the Indian Market?
PoE lighting has many advantages over all different perspectives from adjusting to circadian rhythms for employee preferences to cost and energy savings. It uses very low wattage – typically 30 to 60 Watts for ceiling troffers, which provides opportunities for energy savings. Another advantage of PoE lighting systems is the ability to integrate these systems with other intelligent and building solutions. The lighting can be integrated with security, biometric, and other strategies to enhance the intelligence of the building from the cabling perspective. With PoE lighting, it is easy to plug and play the fixtures to replace them, upgrade them, or swap them out.
Siemon recognises India be to very early adopters of PoE lighting. We have some partners and use cases in India. We are closely working with CISCO as a digital building ecosystem partner. This brings us a lot of opportunities to work with multiple other manufacturers who offer PoE solutions.
The real challenge in PoE is being able to talk to new building owners in the very early construction phase because one of the disadvantages of PoE lighting is that it’s difficult to retrofit. So, if you really want to incorporate PoE in your plant, it ideally must be done before the building goes into place.
Q: How different is India in terms of going digital when compared to the global scenario?
Siemon clearly recognises that India has the desire to be known as a digital country and India’s interest in technology is recognised globally. For example, the opportunities here in India for supporting telemedicine are incredible and it is absolutely driving Siemon’s interest in working with clients in India. Especially because for Telemedicine to work properly, you need to make sure that you have the cabling infrastructure in place that allows for digital imaging to transmit. You may not be aware, but if you look at a complex PET/CT scan, this could be a file that’s an excess of 30 Gigabytes in size. So, you need to be able to move around that file around accurately. There is a lot of outsourcing to Indian doctors and Indian radiologists assisting with diagnostics and interpreting medical imaging. It’s key to have infrastructure that allows us to move these files. So, India is a country that has been recognised digital from a global perspective and looking to align itself with the highest possible technology in IT infrastructure. Siemon has invested heavily with our team here in India to support our data center customers, make partners, and support this impressive growth.
Q: What is your business plan for the year 2022?
I’m an electrical engineer and I’ve been with Siemon for more than 20 years. My mission is to support my sales team in understanding standards and technology and so they can support our customers understanding the direction of the industry and making informed cabling decisions. I don’t want to drive sales, I’m driving education. So, if I tell you where the standards are coming from with respect to Wi-Fi 6 and its capabilities of the chip manufacturers and where we are with Ethernet, you can connect the dots yourself and say, I better install two category 6 A cables to every wireless access point. I am the chief editor of the single-pair 10BASE-T1 Ethernet standard and I was also the editor of the category 6 A standards. So, I’ve been at the forefront of new technology. As an editor, I am often the first person in the world to see new technology. I immediately share updates with our engineering team, who build features into our products and then I share what I’m aware of with customers so they can make the best cabling decisions.