New Year, New Decade… and Another Exciting BICSI Conference

Are you heading to Tampa next week for the 2020 BICSI Winter Conference & Exhibition? If so, congratulations to all my Northern-half-of-the-country friends who get to escape the deep chill for a few days!

Bicsi GroupIf you’re going, be sure to stop by and visit Berk-Tek Leviton Technologies at booth #737! Not only are we a great-looking group of folks (I mean, come on, look at those smiling faces!) , but we’ll be showcasing lots of new products and solutions, like Berk-Tek’s new line of extended PoE solutions, an all-new Cat 6A cable, and Leviton’s new Wireless Structured Media Center.

If you’re attending the full conference, you should also check out the presentations being given by some of our experts:

The Key to 400G: Technology, Infrastructure and Design for Making 400 Gb/s Ethernet a Reality
Presenter: Gary Bernstein, Leviton
It was just last year that 100 Gb/s was next-gen, and 400 Gb/s was theory. As 2020 gets started, 400 Gb/s is already a reality. It is enabling innovation and efficiencies with data center interconnects, core infrastructure, and research & education networks with enormous data loads. Learn how more cloud service providers and hyperscale data centers will migrate to 200 and 400 Gb/s to support the growing 50 and 100 Gb/s server speeds.
Tuesday, Feb 11 | 2:45 – 3:45pm, Ballroom B (Level 1)

Single-Mode Fiber: The Perfect Fit for the Evolving Enterprise
Presenters: Sean McCloud, Leviton & Todd Harpel, Berk-Tek
The demands of new and emerging technologies – 5G, BIoT, Wi-Fi 6 and DAS – present both opportunities and challenges for enterprise fiber networks. While legacy applications for single-mode fiber centered on service provider, data center and large campus applications, several factors have made an OS2 cabling infrastructure a recommended enterprise network solution. Increasing data demands, market shifts and increasing contractor capabilities are making single-mode in the enterprise the logical next step.
Wed, Feb 12 | 10:30 – 11:30 am, Ballroom A (Level 1)

Hope to see you there!

Remember your first Internet search?

When I was in college several years (OK fine, decades) ago, the Internet was brand new. I can remember sitting in a campus computer lab with my classmates (this was long before laptops and iPads), listening to a professor walk us through step-by-step instructions on how to do a web search. “Move your mouse to the bar at the top…this is called the search bar…type your search term…click on the little magnifying glass…” I’m talking bare-bone basics here; stuff a four-year-old knows how to do today.

Fast forward a couple decades, and we’ve moved beyond computer labs, through desktop PCs and iPads, and onto high-speed streaming devices and wearable wireless devices. Nowadays the average college student arrives on campus with 3-5 wireless devices, from smartphones to laptops to gaming consoles.

Many professors now require assignments and exams to be submitted online. Heck, even my son’s eighth-grade teachers give assignments that can only be completed online.

Girl on laptop in grassCollege and university administrators know that reliable, widespread wireless access is paramount in attracting students to their campuses. In fact, one survey found that 98% of college and university business officers believe that superior WiFi connectivity is mission-critical for the institution. Something that didn’t even exist on college campuses 25 years ago is now mission-critical. I don’t know about you, but that statistic boggles this old writer’s mind.

The challenge in all of this is how to get that mission-critical WiFi connectivity to extend throughout the campus. Dorm rooms and classrooms are pretty easy; they’re usually located within 100 meters of the nearest telecom closet.

But what about dining halls and large auditoriums? And how about outdoor spaces like walking trails and courtyards? This article in Campus Technology, reports that 25% of campuses now provide wireless coverage in common areas, a 4% increase from just one year prior.

Getting data connectivity and power to these locations is a challenge. You could build additional telecom rooms to install a switch every 100 meters, but that’s cost-prohibitive. Berk-Tek’s uLAN Extender Series offers another way, with both economical and feature-rich solutions for extending data and power to your remote device. Check them out here.

Giving Back for Good

People amaze me. I’m blessed to be surrounded by a village that really, truly cares about the people around them. Family members, friends, and co-workers alike continue to astound me with their tireless efforts to give back, lift others up, and help those less fortunate.

This time of year is especially filled with giving back. I could write an entire novel about the good deeds doled out by my fellow Berk-Tek employees. But for now, I’d like to just celebrate two recent accomplishments. And I really do mean accomplishments; pulling off these massive acts of goodness is no small task.

PFT Eye Drop 2019 - 2This first act quite literally went to new heights. If you’ve ever met former Berk-Tek President Paul Trunk, you know he doesn’t do anything halfway, and this was no exception. Earlier this month, Paul raised more than $11,000 for the VisionCorps Eye Drop 2019 fundraiser.

Paul, along with other participants, exceeded his fundraising goal in exchange for an opportunity to rappel down the 10-story Holiday Inn overlooking downtown Lancaster. In all, the “eye droppers” raised more than $167,000 that will go towards providing preventative, rehabilitative and employment opportunities to blind and visually impaired individuals.

Clothing Drive6Another Berk-Tek employee who gave big this season was Kelly McGinn. Kelly is a member of this year’s Core Class at Leadership Lancaster . In the course of just two weeks, Kelly collected and sorted an entire SUV-full of gently used work apparel to donate to local clothing banks. Because of her efforts, hundreds of people joining or reentering the workforce will have access to no-cost professional clothing to help jump-start their careers.

It’s people like Kelly and Paul, and all the other generous souls both at Berk-Tek and in our greater community, who really encompass what this season is about.

Wishing you all a peaceful and happy holiday season!

It’s Vegas, Baby!

Vegas pic for blogA few weeks ago, I went to Las Vegas for the first time ever. It was just as big and bright and exciting as I’d imagined; probably a little too exciting for this 40-something mom from the Pennsylvania ‘burbs. After 5 days in Sin City, I’m proud to report that I didn’t accidentally get married or lose my life savings at the blackjack table. A pretty good outcome if you ask me.

But enough about that. This is a technology blog, not a travel blog. And besides, you know what they say about things that happen in Vegas…

What brought me to Vegas in the first place was the BICSI Fall Conference & Exhibition, where Berk-Tek Leviton Technologies was showing off our latest and greatest solutions. One of the things I was most excited to share with the BICSI crowd was Berk-Tek’s new uLAN™ Extender Series. And it definitely drew a crowd!

I can’t tell you how many people came up to us and said something like, “I hear you have a new extended PoE product.” Or, “What’s this network extender I’m hearing about?” Or my favorite: “Where’s the new PoE thingy you guys have?”

What they were all asking about was Berk-Tek’s uLAN Extender Series – a new line of solutions that enables you to transmit data and power to devices located more than 100 meters from your switch.

At this stage of the game, most people understand the benefits of PoE. Being able to deliver power and data over a single connection is both convenient and cost-saving. But PoE has been limited to the standard 100-meter reach of Ethernet over a twisted-pair cabling system. What happens when you need to connect and power devices that are more than 100 meters from your switch?

For example, if a company wanted to add a security camera to monitor the parking lot, or a university wanted to provide WiFi in an outdoor common area, they would need to build another communication room or install a switch every 100 meters, which can be expensive.

Berk-Tek’s uLAN Extender Series offers another way, with both economical and feature-rich solutions for extending data and power to your remote device.

PG Kiosk 1

EXT-100 is the most cost-effective product in the series, perfect for when you need to hook up a single device that doesn’t need a whole lot of bandwidth (up to 100 Mbps). It supports PoE (15W) up to 2,000 feet and PoE+ (30W) up to 1,200 feet. EXT-100 is ideal for security cameras, VoIP phones and access control devices, both inside and outside the building.

PowerGIG™-OAC is an outdoor managed PoE switch that comes already-installed in a NEMA enclosure, so it can be used in any environment. Installed with local power, PowerGIG-OAC has four PoE ports that support a combined 240W of PoE, and up to 1Gbps transmissions. It’s equipped with easy-to-use management software, making it simple to remotely manage your PoE-powered security cameras, wireless access points, digital, signage, PoE lighting and more.

OneReach: This one isn’t new (Berk-Tek first launched it about 10 year ago), but it’s proven to be a very effective solution for extending the network. OneReach uses a composite copper/fiber cable to extend PoE a whopping 8,500 feet (roughly 2.5 km) if you choose the single-mode one-port option.

If you want to learn more about the all-new uLAN Extender Series, check out our website: www.berktek.us/extendedPoE.

If you want to learn more about my trip to Vegas, you’re out of luck. I’m not talking.

It’s an Honor Being Nominated…

… but it’s even better when you win!

va-winner-fn-4c-v1-hi-resWe’re beyond excited to announce our uLANTM solution was recently awarded a Vision Award from FacilitiesNet.com!

What is the uLAN, you ask?

The uLAN is an emerging ecosystem of utility applications (lighting, security, AV, HVAC, etc.) that traditionally haven’t been IP-enabled, but are now being connected and powered by the IP network.

Earlier this year, together with Cree Lighting and Transition Networks, Berk-Tek launched the first complete solution for connecting and powering the smart building’s uLAN. This coalition collectively offers the smart building’s nervous system: Cree’s SmartCast® Intelligence Platform is the brain, Transition Network’s PoE switch technology is the muscle, and Berk-Tek’s cabling, along with Leviton’s connectivity solutions are the nerves.

The Vision Awards recognize best-in-class products, systems and technologies in 10 different facilities management categories, judged by an independent panel of facilities executives. The uLAN won in the Smart Buildings/IoT/Software category.

This award is especially sweet.

We’re especially proud of this award because it’s a nod to the significance that cabling infrastructure plays in the smart building. The Vision Awards honor innovation and excellence in products that contribute to the efficient and profitable operations and management of institutional and commercial buildings. That’s not typically a sandbox that cabling plays in. But with increasing IP-enabled system convergence, that’s changing.

While the term smart building can mean many things to many people, the essence of a smart building is really about connections. These connections enable building systems to collect data about its occupants and environment, respond automatically to conditions and activities, and communicate with other systems both inside and outside the building.

The effectiveness and overall success of a smart building hinges on its ability to collect, share and analyze data. And it’s pretty awesome to be a part of that!

Read the full press release.

Learn more about the uLAN and our solutions.

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.

Continue reading

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.