Smart Building

The Role of IP-Based Systems and PoE in Smart Buildings

Sean McCarthy

Digital buildings, smart buildings, intelligent buildings, connected buildings – no matter what you call them, the sentiment is the same: A building with devices and systems that are designed to collect and share data to run as efficiently as possible without human intervention.

IP-based systems – also known as networked systems – are what make this idea possible. These systems use Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate with each other through IP addresses and data packets. All types of building devices can be IP-based:

  • Access control
  • AV systems
  • Building controls/HVAC
  • Digital signage
  • Fire/life safety systems
  • LED lighting
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Voice/data systems
  • Wireless access points (WAPs)

To function, an IP-based system needs access to power and data. When deployed in digital buildings, they offer many benefits:


Simple Scalability

Only need 15 surveillance cameras today? Then that’s all you need to install. If you decide you need more devices, the system can quickly and easily be expanded. If you decide that you need fewer devices, they’re easy to uninstall. The system doesn’t require you to install a certain number at a time.


Real-Time Notifications

Because they’re connected to the network, IP-based systems can send you alerts or notifications via texts, calls, emails – whatever you prefer – about potential problems, changes, etc. Want to know if one of your digital signage screens goes down? An IP-based digital signage system can tell you. Want to know if someone has breached your physical access control system? An IP-based access control system can tell you that, too.


Communication with Other Systems

IP-based systems are easier to connect and integrate to work and communicate with each other. An example: connecting fire alarm systems and digital signage. If the fire alarm system senses a potential event, the digital signage system – which can communicate with the fire alarm system – can display instructions and evacuation procedures.


Trusted Reliability

In legacy systems, one single point of failure could cause entire portions of the system – or the entire system itself – to stop working. Because IP-based devices are independent of each other, and have their own IP addresses, a single point of failure only impacts that one device. If one surveillance camera goes down, the rest of the cameras remain operational.


Remote Management

With IP-based systems connected to the enterprise network, they can be monitored and managed via a standard web browser. Wherever you can connect to the Internet – at home, at work, on vacation or at the store – you can keep an eye on building system performance.


Easy Maintenance

If an IP-based device goes down, it’s easy to perform troubleshooting or maintenance on that device without needing to take the entire system offline or waiting until off hours. In most cases, there’s no need for a middleware device; connections are created directly between the field device and the enterprise network.


How Does PoE Support IP-Based Systems?

Power over Ethernet (PoE) cabling systems can help you make the most of IP-based systems and devices. PoE allows you to use one cable to transport data and power instead of two separate wires/cables: one for electricity and one for data transmission. Carrying both through one cable offers many benefits for smart buildings that utilize IP-based systems:

  • Improved maintenance by making moves, adds and changes quick and easy – without having to take the entire system down.

  • Installation flexibility, allowing devices to be placed wherever it makes the most sense – without having to worry about where the nearest AC outlet is.

  • Increased reliability, with the opportunity to provide backup power to connected devices. If power were to go down, a single UPS unit supporting a PoE-powered patch panel could provide power for the devices using it.

  • Reduced costs due to the lack of AC outlet installation requirements – and everything that goes with them (permits, licensed contractors, etc.).

  • Energy efficiency, with fewer AC-to-DC conversion requirements.

Because of its larger-gauge diameter, ability to maximize power transmission and insertion loss margin that can handle heat generated from tightly packed cables, Category 6A cabling is recommended for PoE applications.


Belden’s 10GXS small-diameter cable delivers more than 100W up to 60C and 100 m channels. It supports 1, 2.5, 5 and 10GBASE-T without any deployment restrictions. It provides uniform heat dissipation, while its small outside diameter reduces cable space and weight by 25%.


Want to learn more about PoE? Watch our PoE webinar to hear about the real-world implications of deploying higher-wattage PoE on twisted-pair cabling.