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Jonathan Mariano headshot

How Can Ethernet Empower Innovation?

Earlier this week, Cisco Canada unveiled its Innovation Centre in Toronto.   The Innovation Centre serves both as a showcase and as a testbed for Cisco and its partners for integrating networking and building technology. Cisco covered travel costs to Toronto, for me to learn about their Smart+Connected concept and technologies first hand, including the Innovation Centre. Some of these innovations may be invisible (as is nearly any building technology), hidden behind walls or ceiling tiles or back rooms.  Yet, others are quite visible and a little more tangible. Which of these innovations might influence sustainable building?

Power over ethernet
When you think of ethernet, you would usually think of digital data transfer via internet or internal network.  However, ethernet can also carry low voltage electricity.  The combination of data and power over one piece of wire has the potential to revolutionize building technology.

Not only will there be savings, from not needing additional copper lines to power low voltage devices, but these devices can be part of an integrated network.  You can then monitor, measure, and control a device usage.  This may even help you get a LEED certified building, obtaining a few credits by taking advantage of not installing copper wire.

Innovative lighting
One visible example of power over ethernet (PoE) comes from a Cisco partner, Nuleds LED lights.  As a comparison, conventional lighting requires copper wire to transfer the energy.  Conventional lighting just requires too much power - ethernet would not be able to handle it.

However, Nuleds LED lights at the Innovation Centre are powered over ethernet.  These LED lights require a fraction of the wattage, and generate minimal heat when compared to conventional lighting.  And since these LED's are attached to an integrated network, it is simpler to monitor, measure, or control energy usage than if it were powered over copper.

Networked venting
No, I am not talking about venting your sustainability frustrations on Facebook or Twitter. This innovation is something we can’t see, but we might be able to feel its effects.  Delta Controls has created a vent that can not only be adjusted by a network, but powered by the network. Hidden within the ducts, you may find this device allowing more or less air through the building as part of an HVAC system.

Real-time responding and optimizing
So how are all these network devices, from lighting to HVAC, and other building technologies controlled?  The common network protocol is something we use every day, every hour, if not every minute of our lives, IP (internet protocol.)  At the Innovation Centre, the lighting and HVAC were controlled through a VoIP landline phone.

A touch screen comes up on the phone, with the option to adjust the HVAC system and turn on and off the lighting system.  Here is an sustainably insider tip for the lighting, 75% lighting output and 100% lighting output are barely distinguishable.  How much energy (and money) can you save, if you just use a fraction of the lighting output?  By the way the ability to control lighting or HVAC is not restricted to the landline phone.  You can possibly get an app on your iPad or iPhone to do the same function.

The most innovative thing is that the system is also self-aware, so to speak.  For example, an ambient light sensor can sense the daylight coming through windows, and adjust the lighting accordingly.  How is that for real time responding and optimizing?

Empowered innovation
This is just a sampling of the integrated networking technology at Cisco’s Innovation Centre.  What other opportunities can power over ethernet and integrated networking bring to benefit sustainability?  How else can real time feedback from a building, help save not only money, but the environment?

Jonathan Mariano headshotJonathan Mariano

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.

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