Forward-Looking Cable Infrastructure and SMART Building for The FutureRita Mailheau
If you happened to jump on the Amazon site this past weekend, you might have noticed something new. Amazon has started to roll out their Alexa compatible ecosystem. The next stage in the Internet of Things (IoT) apparently is not more connectivity to the Internet, but the ability of devices to talk to one another. One interesting addition to this somewhat predictable gadgetary body is a microwave. I mean, what good is having a digital assistant, security cameras, car access, and a sound system if you can’t have Alexa heat your burrito while you enjoy it? We predict this little device will amass a small fortune for Amazon. Can’t you just see the junior engineers suggesting it when their project leaders asked which products they wanted to develop next?
As September 2018 winds down, get ready. We are poised to enter 2019 and the IoT is mushrooming into reality before our eyes. It’s no longer just a list of predictions from research houses like Gartner or Frost & Sullivan.
Manufacturers are excitedly releasing their pre-holiday product lines, and inadvertently opening a window into the spectacular future. With Pandora’s box now open, it shines a light on what lies ahead for us infrastructure folks. We need to prepare for the next level of IT networking.
A New Approach to Cable Installations
Cabling a home is one thing, but cabling in an ever-shifting office building or campus where the needs are in constant flux requires greater design flexibility. With that in mind, installation experts are turning their eyes to the ceiling, literally. The real estate above our heads offers the greatest forgiveness and ease when it comes to redeployment options.
One such technique that planners are relying on is the universal connectivity grid (UCG). A group called CommScope has developed this innovative methodology and in this article, Versa will explain some of the reasons it’s catching the attention of weary IT and facility managers.
To understand the importance of this new approach, let’s consider some of the expanding technology that office networks currently support.
- Wireless access points
- Security and access control systems
- Facility management systems including lighting and temperature controls
- Energy tracking
Building design professionals are on the search for a better, more flexible approach to help them pre-plan for the inevitable changes that occur throughout the life of buildings. What was once a lunchroom may convert to a lab as other space maxes out and customers driven projects come to a business. However, as technology increases at a more rapid rate, more modern solutions for cable management, like raised floor systems and access floors, are becoming more and more commonplace.
Let’s begin with the traditional method.
Traditional Commercial Building Networks
Traditionally, building networks consisted of 2 networking-infrastructure segments called point-to-point. The vertical distribution, called the backbone, acts like the trunk of a tree and is a place where cabling for the floor converges.
The horizontal distribution acts like branches and reaches out to specific networks across each floor within the building structure. The problem is that office structures are highly changeable and when a space needed to be reconfigured walls, notoriously, needed to come down in order to re-cable for the new needs of that area.
The next “generation” of cabling relies on consolidation points and common pathways to run cable around the circuit of a floor. The zone system allows facilities managers greater flexibility but still requires designers to utilize predetermined pathways.
Any distances beyond the 100m Ethernet limit could be handled with fiber-optic cabling and then linked through a media converter technology to less expensive and often preexisting Ethernet cabling. Any wireless networking would be done on the fly.
The vertical portions might run along centrally located points like near stairwells or elevator shafts and then spread outwards. Zone cabling definitely covers more ground from a pre-thought perspective, but many a facilities worker or installation contractor still had a lot of cables to pull when walls needed to shift.
Thankfully, there’s an easier approach that gets the bulk of the work done ahead of time and provides the spatial support for great infrastructure as needs arise within a business.
The Universal Connectivity Grid
The UCG approach takes zone cabling a step further. It distributes a honeycomb or grid of cells across the entire ceiling the length of the building. This construction is uniform and pre-integrated. Further, it deploys low voltage technologies like PoE and preplaces wireless access points.
These zones are fully staged to support all of the SMART building systems that are being retrofitted these days:
- Fire and security alarm systems
- Access controls
- LAN cabling
- Lighting systems
It simplifies changes and ongoing operational costs can be reduced.
UCG is a smart move toward the the next stage in device support. As you’ve seen and as Versa has mentioned in a number of our posts, pre-integration is the move of all technology. It’s what customers are seeing with Alexa and Amazon’s new wave of digital assistant lifestyle products and it’s the direction that infrastructure is taking to support the device rich landscape we see in front of us. For those of us that love technology, these are exciting days.
If you’re in the process of constructing a bid or home project and would like a little help putting together your product list, we’re always happy to assist.