Smart Cities Require the Right Intelligent Building Solutions

Date:   Sunday , January 29, 2017

Headquartered in the U.S., Siemon is a leading global network infrastructure specialist with a strong legacy and industry leadership of over 100 years. The entity leads the industry by manufacturing and innovating high quality, high-performance low-voltage infrastructure solutions for LANs, Data Centers and Intelligent Building Solutions.

Around the world, building developers, owners and operators are striving to reap the economic and environmental benefits delivered by Intelligent Buildings (IB). To support environmental initiatives, as well as the overall savings delivered through lower carbon emissions, reduced energy consumption, improved customer satisfaction and government incentives, the planning and construction of IBs are on the rise in India. At the same time, investing in the development of IBs is what will ultimately enable India’s Smart Cities Mission. It is therefore important to understand what makes a building an Intelligent Building and how they collectively come together within the grander scheme of a Smart City.

What Makes a Building Intelligent?

IBs deploy advanced systems and sensor technology to monitor, collect and analyse information from a variety of building systems and their devices - everything from occupancy, air quality and temperature sensors, to access control systems, surveillance cameras and life safety/alarm systems. This valuable information gives building owners, operators and other stakeholders an unprecedented visibility into a building’s operations.

The enabling technology behind an IB is a structured cabling system that converge low-voltage building systems and their devices onto a single unified network infrastructure. It supports common communications protocols such as Internet Protocol (IP). Rather than disparate platforms, the use of common cabling media and communications protocols over a single converged infrastructure supports system integration where information can be shared between systems and utilised to improve overall building control and management. As a result, facilities can optimize operations and maintenance, reduce waste and energy consumption, and enhance the overall building environment, ultimately improving customer and employee satisfaction, health and productivity.

For example, imagine a scenario where an employee enters a building with a badge and the access control system then communicates with the lighting system to illuminate his work space, with the company network to enable access and with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to adjust the temperature to ideal working conditions. Another example is where a motion detector is activated in a secure area, which in turn triggers a nearby surveillance camera to zoom in, doors to lock and an IP phone alert to be sent to security personnel.

The economic benefits delivered via converged, integrated building systems in an IB are endless. From a capital expenditure standpoint, the use of a single unified cabling solution reduces subcontractors. As a result, it lowers labour cost via one infrastructure deployment versus multiple infrastructures with different types of cabling. It also enables the consolidation of cabling to reduce unnecessary pathways and material cost. From an operational standpoint, the use of universal connectivity and cable facilitates less costly moves, additions and changes; while the ability of systems to communicate via common protocols improves security and can lower energy consumption by up to 50 percent.

The Benefit of Remote Powering

One of the key benefits of a converged infrastructure using twisted-pair copper cabling to support everything from voice, data and security, to building automation and lighting systems is the ability to deliver remote power to the end devices over the low-voltage cabling. Unlike traditional systems supported by 230 V 50 Hz, Alternating Current (AC) circuits running over electrical cable, ‘Power over Ethernet’ (PoE) delivers power to devices over familiar and user-friendly twisted-pair cabling. PoE is also considered a Safety Extra-Low Voltage (SELV) application with Direct Current (DC) levels that pose no safety risk when these systems are deployed or upgraded. It also offers additional savings since deploying PoE can save up to 75 percent compared to the cost to a traditional AC power run.

Today, PoE can be used to power everything from Wi-Fi access points, phones and digital monitors, to building automation controllers, surveillance cameras and even advanced LED lights. Today’s low-voltage LED lighting systems also offers the benefits of lower power consumption, less heat generation, lower carbon emissions, improved durability and longer lifespan compared to traditional lighting technology. Since LED lights are placed everywhere within an IB and can now reside on converged network infrastructures, they are also ideal for integrating with sensor technology, such as occupancy and temperature sensors. Information collected from the sensors is communicated by the networked LED lights and shared with other integrated building systems.

PoE is continuing to advance with Standards Bodies currently developing standards that enable the delivery of even higher levels of DC power than has previously been available to support an even broader range of devices. With these higher levels of power, there are some considerations. PoE can cause temperature rise in cable bundles and the potential for electrical arcing that can damage connector contacts. In extreme environments, temperature rise and contact arcing can cause irreversible damage to cable and connectors. Choosing higher-quality and specially qualified shielded category 6A and category 7A cabling systems can help reduce these risks.

Exceeding the operating temperature range for copper cabling, which is specified as -20°C to 60°C by ISO/IEC, can also have an irreversible effect on transmission performance. Since deployment of certain remote powering applications can result in a temperature rise of up to 10°C within bundled cables, the typical rule of thumb is to not install cables in environments above 50°C. This restriction can be problematic where temperatures in enclosed ceiling, plenum and riser shaft spaces can easily exceed these temperatures. Again, using higher-quality shielded category 6A and 7A cables that are qualified for mechanical reliability up to 75°C can help building designers overcome this obstacle.

The Foundation behind India’s Smart City Initiatives

By the year 2030, India’s urban areas are expected to house 40 percent of the population and contribute 70-75 percent to the county’s gross domestic product (GDP). With this rapid urbanization, initiatives are taking shape across India to address the need for infrastructure, investment and improving the quality of life. Smart Cities Mission, an initiative by the Government of India, aims to develop over 100 smart cities across the country. One of the core infrastructure elements of these smart cities includes robust IT connectivity and digitalization, which is the key to safety, security and energy savings as previously discussed.

While IBs are an inevitable component and foundation of any smart city, they must be interconnected to each other in a strategic manner for a smart city to truly function as such. Interconnected IBs can only happen if the building owners and operators (both public and private) embark on their IB initiatives as part of a larger ecosystem of stakeholders, supported by a collaborative environment, government backing and shared common objectives. When IBs are planned and constructed in this way, India’s smart cities will be able to come to fruition more rapidly, more efficiently and more successfully.