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Stay up to date on the latest in intelligent building solutions, infrastructure, and innovations from Paige Datacom Solutions.
  • Products & Innovation
  • 01.20.2020

Smart Cable for Smart Buildings

The terms “smart” or “intelligent” are synonymous when referring to designing today and tomorrow’s commercial buildings.  A smart or intelligent building incorporates ICT-based systems, services and technology to reduce operating costs, optimally utilize space, and improve energy efficiency at all stages of its life cycle.  And smart buildings are one of the fastest growing segments in the enterprise market.  In fact, it has been reported by market researchers that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for smart component solutions and services will grow 11-15% in the next four years. 

 

Smart buildings require an intelligent infrastructure that can support an integrated network of building systems.  The cabling infrastructure becomes the foundation of a smart building.  But a smart building is only as smart as its infrastructure design and component choices. And because of the diversity of applications and their requirements and locations, network designers are looking at unique solutions, such as Paige’s long-distance GameChanger Cable™ to reach these devices.

 

Smart Applications

For over 30 years the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry has been designing and installing the cabling infrastructure for voice and data applications.  Data and voice structured cabling easily became standardized to address generic requirements.  Most installations were cookie-cutter designs as the cable was pulled from the telecom room (TR) to work area outlets located 15” above the finished floor for connection to computers and phones.

 

Standards were put into place so that manufacturers’ cable and connectivity could be interchangeable, versus previous proprietary systems. IEEE-802.3 deemed that due to bandwidth requirements along with allowing backwards compatibility, that four-pair copper cable be limited to 100 meters (m) from the active equipment. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) introduced power to be run alongside data within the same cable, which reduced the number of cables to the work areas, but the distance to the device remained limited to the same 100-meter rule.

 

IP cameras over twisted pair and fiber opened the floodgates for additional devices to jump on the network through the Ethernet protocol.  More network applications became IP-enabled, including wireless access points, access control, lighting and building automation systems.  The good news is that these applications when integrated with each other create a smart building which leads to energy efficiency, resulting in a better environment for the users and cost savings for the building owners. 

 

The challenge of designing the cabling infrastructure for an intelligent building is that the applications may have their own unique cabling and layout.  For example, some LED lighting fixtures are connected directly with a point-to-point copper cable while others are connected to a node and then daisy chained to the devices.   Other challenges are that these devices are not terminated to a work area outlet, but to a service outlet which could be in the ceiling or even waist height, and many located outside the 100m limit.  But where there are challenges, there are solutions.

 

Smart Standards

Standard bodies such as ISO, TIA and BICSI are addressing the unique requirements for structured cabling to help the designers, consultants and contractors install systems to build a reliable network.  ISO/IEC 11801-6:2017 is the international standard that specifies generic cabling within premises comprising of a single or multiple buildings on a campus and is in sync with the North American TIA standards from ANSI (American National Standards Institute). ANSI/TIA published TIA-862-B-2016 Structured Cabling Infrastructure Standard for Intelligent Building Systems to provide minimum requirements for intelligent building cabling to support applications that use Ethernet communication, as well as accommodate other protocols that are typically used between devices. Specific content in the TIA standard provides guidelines for cabling types, topology, design and installation best practices and test procedures.  However, this standard follows the other previous TIA cabling standards to deploy applications over the same generic structured cabling topology used for telecommunications applications.  The main differences are terminology, such as equipment outlet versus telecom outlet, and distributor rooms to denote the location of termination equipment, which might not always be in a TR.  Also, there are exceptions for coverage area topologies, such as a direct connection, as discussed in their Annex C.  But, once again, the copper twisted pair cable is limited to 100 meters.

 

BICSI delves deeper with their published ANSI/BICSI-007-2017 standard, Information Communication Technology Design and Implementation Practices for Intelligent Buildings and Premises.  This standard provides recommendations for design and implementation of the cabling system, as well as specific building system applications for any size building or premise. The BICSI standards leverages the requirements by TIA and ISO but goes more granular into the best practices for planning spaces, topology and media selection for the additional building applications.  In addition, the BICSI standard recognizes that in many instances, the cabling infrastructure and cabling selection may vary. According to the BICSI-007 standard, “Layout and selection of horizontal cabling should be planned to incorporate the deployment of numerous building systems that may utilize an IP network” In addition, BICSI-007 recognizes that “Some building systems may require cabling other than balanced twisted-pair or optical fiber because of system and application architecture or manufacturer requirements.  Horizontal cabling should be planned to accommodate future equipment needs, which includes transitioning from proprietary systems to IP-based structured cabling, increased system bandwidth requirements, and the need to provide or increase power supplied through communications media. Primary decisions for cabling type are often based on manufacturer requirements, signal type, distance and location, power requirement, and longevity of building occupancy.”   Currently BICSI looks at all options and is reviewing longer-distance copper cable options such as the GameChanger.

 

Smart Choices: Thinking out of the box

Since it’s a fact that the building applications out outside of the realm of computers and phones and now encompass wireless access points, security cameras and access control, to name a few, the distance will often be located well outside the 100m limits from the switch or cross connections.  Some designers consider a  zone cabling layout (which is a horizontal connection point  between the telecom room and the device), but even that alternative is limited to 100 meters. The answer for smart contractors and designers is to implement the long-distance GameChanger cable from Paige Datacom for both data and power.   

 

Often it pays (or saves) to exceed the standards. Many distances for intelligent building devices from the active equipment are exceeded by application-based cabling and requirements unique to the specific system. The patented GameChanger cable more than doubles the distance of Category 6 or Category 6A (shielded, unshielded or outside plant) out to 260 meters (850 feet).  And in keeping with best practices, as recommended by the BICSI standards which states, “Horizontal cabling for intelligent building systems should be tested as part of the building’s and premise’s structured cabling solution,” the GameChanger cable can be tested with most industry field testers.  Check out more information on testing the GameChanger: 

 

As the intelligent building systems expand and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to explode, more devices will require network connectivity.  In-the-know designers and installers will think outside of the box in selecting the appropriate cabling infrastructure to specifically address the application requirements and endpoints.  To see how GameChanger is the smart choice for intelligent buildings, check out our resources and our white paper

  • Products & Innovation
  • 12.18.2019

Scoring Big With GameChanger: Meeting stadium cabling challenges

‘Tis the season for sports fans to focus on football playoffs, bowl games and championships. High on their list are game tickets, travel plans and hopeful celebrations. Far from their minds are the intricacies on how the games are delivered, either in person or through media (either via the Internet or on live TV). Fans don’t care, as long as the network works. Rest assured that the technology team at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami, Florida -- the site of the Super Bowl on February 2, 2020 -- is testing all their network equipment and cabling infrastructure to assure system reliability for the more than 65,000 fans headed to the stadium and the more than 100 million, anticipating to watch the broadcast.

For those of us in the information and communications technology (ICT) business, it’s job priority #1 to make sure the network works. There are many challenges to designing and installing a reliable network cable plant in a stadium environment. Think about the many IP applications found in that environment – from digital A/V such as scoreboards and displays to IP security cameras, access control, LED lighting and all forms of data communications – digital antenna systems, Wi-Fi and even hard-wired computers and phones for rotating television affiliate stations and all their sports reporters. What would happen if in the middle of the Super Bowl, the network failed? The blame would most likely fall on the IT department, who would then turn to the the cable and connectivity provider.

Also, consider the size of the venue which includes thousands of seats, concession stands and of course, the heart of the game and focal point -- the field, which is 100 yards long and 53 yards wide with the two 10-yard endzones totaling a minimum of at least 55,000 square feet. Imagine running communications cable to devices on and off the field and figuring out methods to extend network cable past the standard 100-meter limit (i.e. as a reference the 100-yard length equals 300 feet and note that the maximum copper cable channel distances are limited 328 feet). Clearly, stadiums require long-distance runs and there are varying solutions for this scenario.

In addition, most new stadiums are multi-purpose – not just for one sporting event but for many diverse venues such as concerts, baseball, ice hockey or tennis. Careful planning goes into cable type, termination points and cross connections, such as the location of the telecom rooms and enclosures in relation to device requirements and flexibility to adapt.

Cost-effective Winning Solution

The diverse IP applications now require both data and Power over Ethernet (PoE) over a reliable low-voltage network. When it comes to designing the cabling infrastructure in stadiums, one of the biggest factors is the extended distances between the network switch and the device location. With all challenges, there are solutions and the decision comes down to, what’s most reliable and cost-effective?

The GameChanger™ long-reach cable has proven itself a winner in wide-ranging areas such as large campuses, airports, and of course, stadiums. GameChanger can provide up to 90W (Type 4 PoE) of power with 10 Mb/s up to 260m (850 feet) and 1 Gb/s up to 200m (656 feet) – twice the distance of the maximum standards’ defined channel length. In addition, GameChanger is a cost-effective solution. Recently, a third-party consultant compared GameChanger to a hybrid fiber solution and a typical Category 6 cable with extenders, in a 860,000-square-foot facility to provide data and power to 106 IP cameras. The longest cable run was 850 feet and the highest bandwidth for the video stream was 20 Mb/s. The options and cost comparison of the cable, connectivity and miscellaneous active components to provide the data and PoE from the switch to the devices included:

  • Hybrid fiber/copper system with power supplied, fiber connectors, repeaters and media converters: $126,570
  • Category 6 cable with repeaters/extenders: $104,525
  • GameChanger cable including surge protection: $22,305

Check out the details of this case study online here.


More Than Just for Football

 Most major stadiums being built or going through renovations to address burgeoning IP applications, specifically advanced digital A/V, also need to be flexible. Whereas a stadium hosting a major football game one week, may need to convert to multiple tennis courts the next.

“Converting a large football stadium to a tennis court, is a whole different ball game,” states David Coleman, Senior Vice President, Business Development of Paige Datacom, who is often faced with providing cabling solutions to many different facilities and environments. “You have to take into account the many factors of reconfiguration when changing the venue, which most likely includes different seating formations, as well as the different flooring surfaces and layouts,” describes Coleman. “Ultimately, when these changes are made, so are IP device locations. Therefore, the infrastructure, including the cable and pathways, needs to readily adapt,” he explains.

For a recent stadium conversion, the location of the IP cameras from a football field to tennis courts needed to be redesigned and the contractor was faced with changing the cabling and connectivity layout. Originally the contractor had looked at using extenders on the copper cable, but it meant that the termination equipment would be located under the 50-yard line. “That just wasn’t going to fly, because it meant pulling up the 50-yard line which would be damaging and costly to replace,” explains Coleman. “After looking at the options and showing him the GameChanger, he specified this cable as the obvious solution because of its extended distance capability and practical budget,” he adds. With a flexible and reliable infrastructure and cabling options, such as GameChanger, any application can be added to the network at any point by adding a simple connection to the switch.


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This blog post was written by Carol Oliver, RCDD, DCDC, ESS, BICSI President-Elect (2020-2022), President (2022-2024)
For more about Carol Everett Oliver, visit: www.ceocomm.com

  • Products & Innovation
  • 04.03.2019

Is it Time to Upgrade Your Pathways and Practice Proper Abatement?

No matter the type of transmission media, the cables will require some type of pathway, support or conveyance mechanism to get from point A to point B. Pathways come in a variety of configurations to support the cables that connect our end devices. All have limited fill ratios, and some get overfilled over time due to moves, adds, and changes and increasing cable diameters.

In the US, there is a code requirement to remove abandoned cable from these pathways and spaces. That is not always the most straightforward task as the cables that need to be removed often end up buried under other cables and are difficult to identify. So as these no longer in use cables sit in trays, then more cable gets added compounding the problem.

When performing cable abatement (removal of abandoned cable), one trick is to make sure that each generation of cable has a different jacket color. Even though this goes against color coding site specifications, it makes sense to change those specifications for different categories making the identification of what needs to be cut up and removed easier. For fiber, the cladding is a different color for most grades, although Erica Violet is relatively new. It is not always enough to try to count on various diameters to identify cables as the differences can be too subtle. Likewise, trying to read the rating on jackets in dark spaces isn’t always the best solution either. In some cases, one might be lucky enough to use old cables as pull strings for the upgrade, but that rarely works in filled pathways.

People tend to forget to audit their pathways. The thought is, “If the cable fits, there it sits.” But this could not be further from the truth. A tray is designed for specific weight loads and fill. The weights are supported via the tray support mechanisms and the tray itself. You can’t keep adding to it and not expect some failure at some point. Do pathways collapse? Absolutely. The cables at the bottom can also fail due to the twists in the pairs or macro-bends in the fiber.
As upgrades and additional cables are added to the cabling systems, it makes sense to take stock of the pathways provided and their limitations. It may make sense to run new pathways for new cable plants during the upgrade. This could include j-hooks, basket tray, ladder rack, plastic fiber tray or any other conveyance system in place. If there is no pathway system, now is an excellent time to add one to become standards compliant. Conductive metal tray systems must be attached to the appropriate telecommunications grounding system. Now would be a good time to check those grounding connections.

To properly audit your pathways, you don’t necessarily have to verify them all. Start with the most populated pathway. If that one proves to be good, then the pathway system should be good. If not, then work backward from most crowded to least until you know you are within the tolerances for each type of basket tray, ladder rack or hook systems.

To do this, get a count (as best you can) of the number of cables in the pathway. Remember 40% is considered full by the standards to allow for airspace between cables. Once you count the number of cables, find the weight per foot from the manufacturer and the O.D. of the cable. If the original cabling manufacturer is no longer in existence, you can relatively safely use the same from another manufacturer. Then go to the tray manufacturer’s website (or one with very close specifications) and calculate the fill.

If your conveyance systems are close to capacity, it’s time to either abate the old cable or add new/additional tray for new cabling systems. In some cases, you may be able to add additional supports for weight, but that won’t fix the problems of smashed cables at the bottom of the stack. In data centers, maybe this is a good time to make sure that older pathways are not zinc to avoid the problem with zinc whiskers. The same rules hold true for cabinets and wire management in the data center. Remember, these, too are part of your cabling conveyance system.

Cable abatement takes careful planning in a live environment. If your abatement project is large, it may make sense to temporarily relocate resources so that you can perform the replacement in a down environment or empty part of your data center. No matter how you do it, pay attention to your pathways before they fail. For assistance in pathway selection and evaluation, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Paige salesperson.

  • Products & Innovation
  • 01.29.2019

MTPL

The Modular Plug Terminated Link is now an acceptable standard. While some people have deployed this method anyway, there is not a bit of a blessing via BICSI 005 "Electronic Safety and Security" standard and also in the BICSI 033 "Information Communication Technology Design and Implementation Practices for Intelligent Buildings and Premises" that will publish later this year. the TIA0862 Building Automation Standard also recognizes the elimination of the equipment cord when a faceplate with an outlet isn't practical, safe and also allows for the use of a plug-terminated link (formerly known as a direct attached connection).

The problem with some of these configurations is that there was not an industry accepted test methodology. Previously people needed to use a coupler or patch panel at the other end which can skew the results because of the extra connection. In most testers, the connection at the other end was excluded. In ANSI-TIA 568.2-B draft includes a configuration for testing the MPTL. In this configuration, there is a cord attached to the panel in the telecommunications area, and an adapter is used at the far end test head that will allow the plug to be inserted and tested. The advantage here is that you can tell in the field if the plug is terminated to full functionality, and the link can be documented for the end user prior to the channel being turned over to live equipment. According to the standard, the tester shall use a permanent link adapter on the patch panel side and a cord adapter on the field RJ45 side. This means that intermediate couplers are no longer part of the test configuration. Available as a software update from nearly all testing manufacturers, the test is simple and quick once you purchase the adapter. Should the test fail, it is much easier to re-terminate to the plug at this time, than trying to troubleshoot intermittent noise, drops and other issues at a later date. Passing test results can be invaluable when troubleshooting.

For those of you that are using GameChanger cables, the testing parameters that are already in your favorite tester for the GameChanger cable, MPTL parameters are already considered and including in our parameters. There is nothing new, just a nod from the standards on the testing topology.

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  • Products & Innovation
  • 07.17.2017

Do 4 Pairs Equal an Intelligent Building?

There is no doubt that the “Internet of Things” is a hot topic these days. The growth of connected devices (whether they use the internet or not) is a reality. Devices have a wide range of communication options including good old TCP/IP, Ethernet, and WiFi which have become mainstream in most office buildings in whole or in part. However, there are many other communications at work in a connected intelligent building that will have very different requirements. These include M2M (Machine 2 Machine), Bluetooth, RFID and a variety of other near field and long range application and protocols, both wired and non-wired.

The strength of an intelligent building is the ability for devices of disparate systems to communicate. Often that means that IP is the protocol of choice. However, there are numerous gateways to allow communication between disparate systems with varied protocols. In fact, often the entire system communicates to a gateway or controller. The only connectivity required between those systems is Ethernet or some common denominator type of communication protocol from one application to another. There is no need for the end devices or endpoints of the systems to communicate directly. That being the case, there is not always a need to run 4 pairs to all edge devices. In fact, there is a likelihood that some edge devices will NEVER require 4 pairs.

The smartest thing to do when working on a smart building design is to look at the application, endpoint, and life of the infrastructure. For instance, do you really feel that a 2 pair ID device will be replaced with a full 4 pair device in the lifetime of your habitation in the building? Ask, does the end device communicate as needed? Starting from the endpoint provides a more effective use of copper and fiber. While there are those that believe that one should cable a building with 4-pair category cabling everywhere that thinking is short sighted and leads to wasteful spending that unnecessarily deplete natural resources. For many end devices, 2 pair or even 2 strands are all that is required. There is a myriad of 2 pair access control system end devices available today. There simply is no need to run extra pairs “just in case.”

What is really needed is a cohesive plan for the cable plant that is not fragmented by trade, but rather overseen by an entity that understands the communications needs of the building systems. Today, building contracts are bid by various trades often under multiple separate bids. For example, HVAC companies will respond to the cooling bids. They may never know what other systems exist in a building, or what the final goal for intersystem communications is or will be required. Often the thought of putting them altogether happens after the build.

Some building owners are reluctant to coordinate their systems in part due to the belief that extensive cabling rework will be required to make the communications possible. While it may be advantageous to add some devices to help make the building smarter, cabling or the number of pairs you have cabled to your systems should not be a hindrance for smart building projects both new and old. Evaluations should be based on what the edge device requires and the value the edge device brings to your intelligent building.

  • Products & Innovation
  • 05.04.2017

How SDN Can Redefine Whitespace

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is more than another TLA (Three Letter Acronym). It promises to allow rapid deployment and redeployment of networking resources not by the old fork lift method, but rather through software. If you think of the possibilities here, they are pretty amazing. Suppose you could design a data center and its whitespace contents once. Then once installed, perform moves and changes in software. Adds obviously would require more labor, so I’m not covering that in this blog.

Let’s assume that we engineer the space using CFD modeling and place equipment based on the room, balancing power and cooling needs for optimal efficiency. This is a complete change from the way many data centers are constructed and filled today. In fact, many data centers are quite the opposite. Rows belong to functions and/or departments. Sometimes groups of blade servers are installed requiring supplemental cooling. In many cases, the supplemental cooling wouldn’t be needed if the load could be scattered around the floor. So, what if……the hardware and location no longer matter?

CROSSING SILOS

I believe that SDN fans are missing a part of the bigger picture here! This is in part to some areas within the data center ecosystem not caring about others and also departmental silos that don’t foster the spirit of interdepartmental cooperation. For instance, new gear coming in and facilities is the last to know or server teams rejecting blade servers with a switch installed because they can’t or won’t share a box with the networking team. SDN could, however, be a game changer for facilities, networking and server teams. Storage teams may already be used to some of the advantages if they are using SAN fabrics in their deployments.

SDN could really drive a change in facilities and the management of whitespace with respect to power and cooling. With SDN, as long as the connectivity is there, the location of the equipment is no longer a concern outside of the number of hops a packet must take, but this too can be addressed by centralizing switches for use by the various servers. A limiting factor in top of rack deployments (where the switch is located in and serves one rack) is the number of hops between edge, aggregate and core that packets could take on their journey from one server to the next. With SDN, more centralized switches can be deployed and the traffic route(s) become software controlled.

Say that company A retires a server from the finance department. That server could remain in situ and be allocated to the HR network without change orders outside of a software help ticket. No need to do “what ifs” in DCIM, the location and floor was balanced at design. The server team simply asks the networking team to assign it to the HR network. The whitespace contents remain unchanged from a physical standpoint

I will admit that full SDN adoption is a ways off and standards are not fully in place at this point. There is also a concern of vendor lock in remains. But one thing is certain, the more centralized the equipment, the greater the possibilities. We may gain better control of our whitespace. Most importantly is that the companies operating in the open system environment will have a huge advantage over the proprietary solutions.

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