Early on, we declared 2017 to be the year of the digital building, and there has definitely been a move in this direction as predicted. In fact, according to Deloitte, sensor deployment in commercial buildings could potentially grow by 79% between 2015 and 2020.

Support for Internet of Things (IoT) is growing, bringing standalone building systems onto one platform. Because all these systems and devices are being connected on a single IP network, they can be integrated to gather data, make automatic adjustments and provide intelligence and analytics for informed decision-making to reduce operating costs and energy use, increase occupant satisfaction, improve safety and reduce time spent on troubleshooting and maintenance.

In some cases, existing infrastructure is already being put to the test due to cloud adoption. As augmented and virtual reality move into the workplace – whether office settings, hospitals, hospitality environments or educational institutions – and more devices join the network, demands placed on infrastructure will become more intense. (And even though this newer technology isn’t widely deployed yet – check back in a few years.)

What demands do these digital buildings place on cabling infrastructure? A well-designed, high-performance cabling infrastructure is what brings IoT and digital buildings to life. All of the data (and power, in most cases) required for these devices and applications is traveling via the network’s category cabling. Without it, devices wouldn’t be able to communicate to each other, gather and relay important information or be controlled and adjusted remotely.

As digital buildings take over, it’s important to keep in mind the demands they place on a structured cabling system.

Demand No. 1: More Power Needs

Digital building cabling will, without a doubt, need to support Power over Ethernet (PoE). This cabling technology safely transmits power and data over a single standard network cable, allowing devices – cameras, lighting systems, wireless access points, etc. – to be deployed anywhere. This allows remote control and data collection on one infrastructure. As device complexity continues to increase, the amount of power these devices need also increases (up to 100W in some cases). Outdated cabling systems won’t be able to safely and successfully carry this power level.

Demand No. 2: Increased Temperatures

Running more power inside a network cable can increase the cable’s internal temperature. When cables get hotter, insertion loss increases. This can cause unplanned downtime and may ultimately damage the cable, hurting its long-term performance.

If cables are tightly packed in trays and pathways, temperatures could rise even more because they can’t dissipate. When a cable’s temperature exceeds the recommended level, it may need to be de-rated – which means it won’t reach the full length promised.

Demand No. 3: More Bandwidth

More people connecting to your network with their phones, computers and tablets to control building systems, communicate and stream content; new types of building systems (lighting, HVAC, surveillance, etc.) connecting to and transmitting data via the network; more applications running at once in real time – all of these things translate into the need for more bandwidth! (Just think about the problems some sports stadiums have with connectivity during big games – it’s the same idea.)

Keep in mind that a lot of the technology that will be connecting to our networks in the future hasn’t even been invented yet – and we don’t know how much more bandwidth these innovations will require. Investing in a cabling system that has ample bandwidth for current applications – but room to grow for future applications – will pay off in the long run and ensure uptime.

Demand No. 4: More Cables

Depending on the setup of your current network infrastructure, it’s possible that an upgrade or a move to a new cabling infrastructure to support a digital building will require higher numbers of cables (and perhaps larger pathways and runways as a result). If this is the case, smaller-diameter cables can help save space and make installation faster and easier.

Demand No. 5: More Uptime

As more systems, devices, people and applications connect to the network, the impacts of downtime are profound. Reliable, high-performance cabling that maintains insertion loss performance and preserves its physical integrity during installation can ensure that business processes continue, revenue keeps moving forward and productivity remains high so that everyone – and everything – that needs network access can have it.

Category 6A Cabling from Belden for Digital Buildings

To ensure that the bandwidth and power requirements of digital buildings can be met, Belden recommends Category 6A cabling. It can meet many of the demands mentioned above, supporting:

  • Higher performance and faster speeds
  • Emerging applications like next-generation Wi-Fi, higher-power PoE and HDBaseT
  • Enhanced thermal dissipation to maintain appropriate cable temperatures

To learn more about the challenges that digital buildings and IoT may bring to your network, download our white paper, “Internet of Things: The New Convergence and the Challenges It Brings.”

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