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A Brighter Digital Future Courtesy of Power over Ethernet Lighting

Alexandro Jimenez | 08/10/2020

Among the greatest innovations in lighting technology was the introduction of the light-emitting diode (LED) fixture, best known for its ability to provide quality lighting with lowered energy costs.


Commercialized lighting has evolved to include LED technology, and while the luminaires have received most of the attention to date, it’s the lighting controls—including Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) lighting—that will ultimately be a game-changer for manufacturing.  


Industrial-facility owners and operators are becoming increasingly interested in PoE lighting for energy management and enhanced performance. Analytics provided by a PoE solution can have a significant impact on sustainability and cost-saving strategies. Much like the IoT, PoE systems enable greater data collection and real-time insights into production costs, operational efficiency, and potential problems on the manufacturing floor.


The concept might seem complicated, but PoE isn’t just for lighting experts. Professionals responsible for planning, building, installing, operating and maintaining localized power-generating facilities and equipment need to understand what it is, how it works and why it might be a strategic asset in order to make the best decisions for their project.


Here is a PoE crash course…


What is it?


PoE lighting utilizes Ethernet cables to provide a low-voltage solution that powers luminaires throughout a facility over the existing data connection. A true lean-manufacturing solution, PoE minimizes the equipment necessary to operate systems by using common components found in the marketplace, including a computer, Ethernet switches, LED luminaire and a low-voltage intelligent PoE driver to converge the worlds of IT and lighting.


PoE lighting is a cost-effective solution for smart-building deployments that demand an immediate return on investment. It is scalable from basic lighting control to advanced cloud-based analytics. Using an Ethernet cable gives the system the ability to transmit data not only from the centralized “brain” but also between luminaires, which allows for just a single data and power cable installation. The single cable installation saves facility owners upfront installation costs and enables flexibility for future layout changes.


A PoE lighting solution can increase energy savings by up to 75 percent. With a PoE lighting controls system, not only can the user implement immediate savings, but they can simplify the management of the controls system and enable manufacturers to operate the facility more efficiently.


How does it work?


Standard AC-line voltage enters a building. This line voltage is directed to the data closet(s). Power is then routed to several locations simultaneously, including the computer, serving as the centralized brain of the system and the Power Source Equipment (“PSE”), which will power to the node serving as the “driver.”


smart industryThis computer serves as the intelligence of the system, bringing all the peripheral control devices together under a single platform. The central computer sends and receives commands and serves as the graphical user interface (GUI), which provides the facility manager with direct control to the networked system and a window to make changes when needed to the control scheme.


The power sourcing equipment (PSE) converts the AC voltage to DC and sends it from a port down a category cable to the associated nodes, thereby providing power to the LED boards and illuminating the spaces. Low-voltage-powered devices (PD) connected directly to the LED board eliminate numerous wires typically found on a standard AC driver and simplify installation or constructability.


Added value


PoE lighting has the capacity to transmit data, which aligns perfectly with manufacturers’ desire for smarter and more efficient buildings. One of the most compelling advantages of PoE lighting is the system’s ability to work on an open platform utilizing an open Application Program Interface (API), which is commonly used to link intelligent devices and systems across platforms, enabling the user to easily manage the facility under one umbrella.


Open API lighting-control systems can communicate with security and automation systems while providing services such as asset management of facility equipment, emergency-response capabilities, and space-utilization metrics. A PoE lighting system is now in the sandbox with other systems and can either be the front end of those collected systems or work under another system while providing the same controls functionality.


Data analytics


Power consumption and data metrics are another added value to enabling PoE lighting. How long have the lights been on? Where are the lights on in a space that is occupied? How much conditioned space is not being used in the facility? These are questions that a facility owner may ask to maximize lighting benefits while reducing overall costs. In today’s market, data collection is necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of business operations.


PoE lighting infrastructure and its expansive capabilities are the engine to gather information as well as distribute commands. Ownership and maintenance of facilities becomes safer and simplified. If a luminaire needs to be replaced, simply disconnect the single cable and remove it. The dangers of managing line-voltage luminaires are eliminated, which opens the door for ease of maintenance, reducing the cost of ownership. Other factory technologies, including time clocks, light signs, building access controls, can also easily be monitored through the centralized, intuitive system that minimizes complicated controls and maximizes efficiency.  


Intelligent lighting


PoE isn’t strategic for every application. Considering infrastructure designs up front is important when investigating whether it is a viable option. Taking this step affords architects and engineers the opportunity to properly allocate space for the infrastructure and plan for the distribution of power across the building footprint. Any kind of design-build opens the door for complexity and the potential for installation hurdles costing time and money.


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