Frequently Asked Questions about the uLAN

Part 3 in our 3-part uLAN series

520132106-stack-of-game-cards-with-question-mark_FAQAs I mentioned in the first and second posts of this series, Berk-Tek hosted a webinar last month, where we introduced our uLAN solution for making the smart building simple.

We had a lot of interested viewers who asked some pretty great questions. The answers to those questions are below…

Can I use regular Cat 5e for smart lighting?

It’s not recommended. Even though your lighting doesn’t require a high-speed data connection, the PoE becomes a challenge. Remember that Cat 5e came about in the 1990’s, before PoE was even a thing. And when the first standard was passed, PoE allowed for 15W. Now with 802.3bt, we’re up to 90W. Most Cat 5e cables aren’t built to hold up to all that power and heat rise. That’s why we recommend – if you’re going Cat 5e – to go with a cable like LANmark-IP that’s specially designed to get the heat out.

Can the whole system operate under Cat 6 cabling?

Yes, Cat 6 will work, but it’s a matter of how well it works.  If large bundles will be the norm (>92 cables), and most will be energized with PoE, you need to consider the heat rise.  LANmark-IP is a 1Gbps cable with 22AWG conductors, which Berk-Tek has designed to support cable bundles of up to 720 cables with each cable energized to 100W.  For 10X the bandwidth for less than 2X the price, you could move to LANmark-XTP. It’s a 10Gbps cable with a discontinuous shield, so it doesn’t need to be grounded (UTP), and the shield acts as heat sync to efficiently dissipate heat. This cable will also support max bundles of 720 cables each with 100W.

Has the API been scanned through GSA IT (gov)?

(Author’s note: this question is asking about the open API technology available with Cree’s SmartCast software)

SmartCast (both PoE and wireless) is an approved technology, but IT approval for the API is done through an entirely different channel specific to the government entity. Cree Lighting hasn’t rolled out the API to any federal or state government customers, but would go down the approval path if a specific opportunity arose.  Connected systems (includes API and BACnet integration) have been implemented at a number of major defense suppliers, so Cree went through a rigorous approval process for those partners before anything was allowed to touch their network.

With the Cree system, do I need the SmartCast link to run it?

No. You can connect your system to your IP network, commission it, and run it with automated controls and analytics…without the Smartcast link. What that allows you to do is get your lighting system talking to your other building systems. Your HVAC system, for example: If you want your lighting sensors to tell your HVAC when to turn on and off, you’ll need Smartcast link’s open API to connect the two systems together.

May we use any managed switch?

You need a switch with at least 60W per-port capability to drive the larger light fixtures. We recommended the Transition Networks PoE++ switch because it offers the right balance of cost-effectiveness (25% less expensive than a Tier 1 switch), with PoE performance, tech support, warranty, easy-to-use software, etc.

For more information on the uLAN solution we’re offering in conjunction with Cree Lighting and Transition Networks, check out our resource page.

If you missed the webinar, you can still view the recorded version.

Making the Smart Building Simple

Part 2 in our 3-part uLAN series

Berk-Tek recently hosted a smart building webinar called The Emergence of the uLANTM in the Connected Enterprise. In it, we focused on the emergence of an ecosystem of non-traditionally Ethernet-enabled devices that, with the growth of the smart building, are now being connected and powered by the IP network. We call this ecosystem the uLAN, which stands for Utility LAN. You can read more about the emergence of the uLAN in last week’s post.

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Smart Building Connections that Matter

“As our phones and apps shape our thoughts and feelings, new technology is shaping the way we feel about comfort, security, and enjoyment of our built environment. We are connected to each other in a way that was never before possible and now we can connect to our environment.”

They believe in constant innovation to impress their clients

That great quote is from an even better article from IOT for All that discusses smart buildings and the impact they have – and will continue to have – on our lives.

Working for a cable manufacturer, I’m used to talking and writing and reading about…well, cable. The copper conductors, the jacketing material, the dBs above standard. X hooks into Y, then Y connects into Z….et cetera…et cetera…

But is that what really matters when we’re talking about a smart building? Yes and no. It matters that your cabling infrastructure – the nervous system of your smart building – is optimized to protect your data and deliver the power you need to adjust the lighting in patient rooms. It matters that the signal that gets sent from the fire detection sensors, is delivered intact to the mechanism that turns on the sprinkler system. All of that matters, of course.

But what REALLY matters is the effect all of that has on our daily lives; the way we interact with our environment and each other. What can be more important than creating an environment in which patients can heal faster, or where children can learn to the best of their ability? That is the mission of the smart building.

Berk-Tek has been studying the web of applications that work together to make a smart building smart. As more and more applications and devices are connected and powered by the LAN, organizations are investing heavily in network convergence.

Connecting and powering once-disparate building systems (lights, security cameras, sensors, and more) via the IP network improves efficiency, automates processes, and produces actionable analytics that can be used to improve user experience. But it also stresses your network with a lot more power- and bandwidth-hungry devices. How will that affect your core LAN? You can’t afford to have your WiFi network, workstations or phones go down.

Berk-Tek has a solution. Check it out here.

Don’t Take Our Word for It

BerkTek_6878I have a love-hate relationship with business jargon. That’s a lie. It’s a hate-hate relationship. I don’t understand why crossing the threshold of an office building makes people feel like they need to integrate jargon into their vocabulary. Just say what you mean, people. Use regular words and phrases. For example…

  • Let’s put a pin in that. = That idea is ridiculous, and I hope you forget about it before the next time we talk.
  • This idea could really have legs. = That is so far off course, that it might actually work.
  • Start with the low hanging fruit. = Please, please, please give me the easy stuff to do first.
  • Open the kimono. <Author’s note: I actually have no idea what this phrase is supposed to mean in the business world.>

All that ranting aside, there is one little piece of jargon that I’m going to allow for the purposes of this blog post:

  • Don’t take our word for it. = We know you have doubts about what we’re saying. That’s why we went to a third party to verify it for us.

In this industry, there are a lot of claims made – performance, dBs above standard, lifetime guarantees, etc. But how do you know what’s an actual claim and what’s just marketing fluff? (Don’t worry; I’m a marketer, so I’m allowed to use that phrase.) I

For example, when Berk-Tek first launched our Converged Application Score as a whole new way to evaluate a cable’s performance in real-world conditions, there were more than a few nay-sayers. I can’t say that I blamed them. Our product development team knew the score was legit, our TEK Center engineers knew it was legit, and everyone at Berk-Tek knew it to be a science-based way to evaluate cabling solutions. But not everyone in the industry was convinced.

I’m happy to announce that the nay-sayers no longer have to take our word for it, because our CA Score Process was recently third-party Verified by UL.

UL Verification is an objective, science-based assessment that separates fact from fiction. To earn UL Verification, a claim – such as the CA Score Process used by Berk-Tek to test cabling – has to pass extremely rigorous audit process that examines procedural documents, training records, equipment calibration, and system functionality. Click here for more information.

Heat is No Friend to Your IP Traffic

LizardMy son owns a lizard. A leopard gecko, to be exact. His name is Larry. I’m not kidding. Larry the Lizard.

Larry lives inside a 10-gallon glass terrarium in my son’s bedroom. Larry eats live crickets, which I am forced to feed it when my son isn’t home. I’m not a fan. Obviously.

But that’s beside the point here. The point of this post is the lamps that rest on top of Larry’s tank. Well actually, the point of this post is PoE. But we’ll get to that.

Larry’s tank has two lamps on top of it. One is a 75W heat lamp, and the other is one of those 25W blue bulbs that’s supposed to simulate night time. You see, we need to switch the lamps on an off a couple times a day to optimize Larry’s lizard comfort. This thing requires more maintenance than my children, I swear.

Anyway, the other day I knocked the heat lamp over when I went to turn it off. In my haste to save it from falling, I grabbed the metal dome and burnt the heck out of my hand. If I were a normal person, I would’ve shouted a few choice words, righted the lamp, and moved on with my day.

But I’m not a normal person anymore; I’ve morphed into a cable nerd. And in true cable-nerd fashion, my brain went right to power and heat and cables. Specifically, I cursed the fact that they don’t make those lamps out of something that dissipates heat a little better!

My mind then jumped to the display we have in the TEK Center at Berk-Tek, where we demonstrate how much hotter regular Cat 5e cables get than LANmark-XTP cables get when you run power over them.

There’s no way around it: when you run power over copper conductors, you generate resistance. Resistance generates heat. More power = more heat. Heat is no friend to IP traffic. It weakens signal strength, which can lead to errors. Errors lead to a slow network, which leads to unhappy customers, employees and guests. Nobody wants that!

The key to successful deployment of PoE is to minimize that heat rise. Berk-Tek cables are specially made for this. Check out more here.

Why AV over IP

This post is last in Berk-Tek’s AV blog series. Our first post focused on the HDBaseT Alliance and SDVoE Alliance, and our second let you in on the dirty little secret about my slow reflexes (along with the latency challenges inherent in AV systems). Before we dig into this final post (warning: shameless plug ahead), don’t forget to register for Berk-Tek’s upcoming webinar: 3 Key Essentials for Moving AV to the LAN on December 12.

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