Office & Enterprise

Key considerations for Smart Buildings

Mike Holmes Feb 3, 2022



The push for office buildings to become ‘smarter’ poses several challenges for IT and facility managers on how to achieve that. This post looks at some of the main drivers that need to be taken into consideration when planning a Smart Building network infrastructure.

Towards a Converged IP infrastructure

The nervous system of a Smart Building is essentially a network. In the past a traditional network infrastructure had its IT department taking care of servers and computers on one side, and a facilities part looking after CCTV, sensors, access and environmental control systems on the other side - each operating independently from the other. Today we see both worlds converging into one single IP infrastructure. But this converged network needs to support a growing number of different systems, each with their own bandwidth and power requirements.

4 drivers to operate a Smart Building

Careful planning is essential to address this added complexity that comes with a converged IP network. Generally speaking we can divide the main drivers  to operate a Smart Building into four categories: Devices, Bandwidth, Wireless and Power.

The first driver is the escalation in volume and type of devices coming from the Operational Technology (OT) side of the business that gets installed in and around a building. Think here of a myriad of sensors, alarms, activators, humidity and temperature controls, and so on. These add a lot more devices, and with it different applications and complexity, to the network.

The second one is looking at the bandwidth requirements that we need to address. Bandwidth demand is still escalating, albeit at a slower rate than in the past. What will change is where in the office space this bandwidth will be needed. In the past most bandwidth requirements were needed at floor level to service computers and telephones. Going forward we will be putting less points to the desktop but we’ll be needing much more into the ceiling to cover the higher number of bandwidth needy Wireless Access Points (WAPs).

Third is the huge escalation in wireless connected devices and the changes in WiFi technology. We’ve seen the evolution of wireless data rates progress over the years from a few hundred megabits per second to tens of gigabits per second. The downside of this increase in data rates is that it reduces the reach that WAPs inside the building can cover. As a result more WAPs need to be installed to cover the same area and deliver the same amount of data these higher bandwidth devices demands.  

5G is more of the same. We see the data rates from 4G to 5G increase - and with that - the reach, especially inside buildings, decrease. So if we want to rely on 5G in the office, we have no choice but to place more antennas to cover the same area. Wireless may reduce the number of patch cords but with  all these WAPs and antennas requiring power and data connection things will soon become pretty crowded inside the ceiling.

Last but not least all of the above mentioned devices have to be powered somehow. We’ve seen several Power over Ethernet (PoE) versions being defined by the Standards in the last years, each consecutive one increasing the amount of power that can be delivered to the end device (e.g. from 12.95W PoE Type 1 to 71W PoE++ Type 4).

In addition to PoE you also have Single Pair Power over Ethernet (SPoE). Power is hereby running over a single copper pair instead of all 4 pairs with PoE.

Choosing the right copper cable in terms of grade and shielding to counter heating effect is important, regardless if you opt for PoE or SPoE.

These are some of the main drivers to consider when dealing with Smart Buildings. For more details and other drivers such as building conditions, watch our latest webinar recording.

About the author

Mike Holmes

Mike has worked in the cable industry for over 35 years. Following a period at Pirelli, he joined Alcatel in 1994 as the UK Product Manager for fibre and copper LAN cables. Since 2001 he has worked in various product management and marketing roles within Nexans in UK & Europe, and is currently Marketing Manager within the Telecom & Data unit.

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