Today, offices everywhere are reconsidering how to best use building space as people increasingly return to their desks, following the loosening of lockdown measures. As people get back to the office, there’s a need for solutions that support their bandwidth needs. Bring fibre closer to end users, introducing more Wireless Access Points and adopting new Wi-Fi standards (such as Wi-Fi 6E), and introducing new technologies such as Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) can help feed ever-increasing bandwidth hunger. At the same time, infrastructure and facility managers are looking for ways of becoming more sustainable.

Integration between building management and network infrastructure is becoming increasingly important to ensuring efficient use of power. This can be done by introducing a common language between systems. Bringing resources onto a shared platform can make it possible to truly leverage the combined intelligence of systems. By uniting LAN and Ethernet/IP cabling with related technologies such as Wireless LAN, Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) an ‘All over IP’ approach can be developed. This enables digital building automation and insights exclusively using Internet Protocol. In this way, buildings can be connected, monitored, and controlled digitally throughout. What’s more, devices and systems that work with Ethernet/IP technology are becoming comparatively inexpensive, and what’s more, the use of e Internet Protocol version (IPv6) allows an almost infinite number of devices to be addressed. What’s more, access controls and authentication measures incorporated in IP improve building automation security.

Smart building cabling should be a platform that is application-neutral and manufacturer-independent. Combining structured cabling for data networks with IP provides this perfect platform solution. ‘All over IP’ also makes the ‘digital ceiling’ concept possible. This approach extends the data network through an entire building’s ceiling in a ‘honeycomb’ fashion, making it possible to connect devices to building automation via zones with pre-installed overhead connecting points (service outlets). All you need to do is plug in network switches, sensors, controls, WLAN access points and other distributed building services, and they connect automatically.

Boosting bandwidth to Wi-Fi access points and desks requires building managers to make informed decision about consolidating fibre backbone. Do you take fibre up to each floor and run it on from there, or aggregate with copper between floors? If we look at the bandwidth required by new Wi-Fi standards and the lengths required to support end points in the building, they can either be supported by fibre or Cat. 8. The inherent limitations of copper are less important over short in building lengths.

Many systems already in place can be used to create an ‘intelligent’ building, and many new sensors can be added. To enable these devices, it is not necessary to use all 8 wires inside a Cat. 6 or Cat. 8 cable, for example. Using Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) means much less physical cable needs to be routed into areas where other cables might be too thick. Also, there’s less copper inside, reducing cost. This matches Smart Building technology requirements. If you look at developments in IoT and enterprise 4.0, we see traditional PLC technology moving to IP. SPE is much more suited to wiring such those systems than traditional Ethernet cabling solutions.

In short, convergence of building infrastructure is essential to enabling reduction of environmental impact and at the same time realise more comfortable, flexible buildings. Devices should only be fully powered when in use. For example, if a single person in a building is using one wireless point, the others might be shut down until that person starts to move around. Introduction of smart, converged networks means new energy-conserving technologies and applications can be introduced, such as intelligent management of building space, resources and LED lighting. PoE can power LED lighting throughout entire buildings and address each LED via its own IP address. Infrastructure companies can integrate more and more devices in their systems, leveraging the benefits of a unified network.

Of course, suppliers need to think along with each client about their current future needs, help build business cases, and ensure in-building networks can be grown in a modular way to accommodate changes in building usage or new functionality requirements. This also helps realise business cases and optimize Operations and Maintenance. By doing this with limited involvement of third parties, based on theoretical knowledge and a deep understanding of the practical aspects of project rollout, a supplier can take away customers’ technical and implementation concerns.