The concept of having separate protocols for everything started to change, though, with the advent of Power over Ethernet. PoE is a mechanism for delivering operating power to the network device via standard Category 5 Ethernet cable. With PoE, the powered device (phone, security camera, PDA, etc) receives the power in conjunction with data directly from the Ethernet port in the wall.
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While the current maximum of 15.4 watts is not enough for many devices, PoE Plus is due in 2007. That will boost the power potential perhaps beyond 30 watts more than enough to run CCTV cameras and even laptops without a separate power cord (i.e., the laptop user plugs in an Ethernet cable) and is enough to run the machine without use of the battery.
This has opened the door to another wave of convergence that could well unite BAS and IT within a few years. The Cisco Connected Real Estate Initiative (CCRE), for instance, is one of the more ambitious endeavors. Its aim is to tie together both fields under an IP backbone.
It really makes sense to build an intelligent environment where a building is self-contained through its controls of access/egress, heating, lighting and so on, says Longbottom. By bringing the networks together, buildings can be managed far more effectively and efficiently.
To further its CCRE initiatives, Cisco is partnering with companies such as Richards-Zeta (RZ) Building Intelligence, a manufacturer of IP-centric building integration controls. RZs Mediator MPX provides the middleware to tie IP and legacy BAS protocols together. The basic concept is to have an IP core for the entire building that connects to every single device and building system.
But far from being a distant dream, such technology is already making its way into innovative new designs. Madison Tower in downtown Seattle, for instance, is a 23-story structure that includes 47 luxury homes atop a boutique hotel. The building operator decided to bring all building thermostats, televisions, VoIP telephony, mini-bars, central chilled and hot water plants, and HVAC under IP management. The goal was to improve efficiency, reduce costs and exceed expectations by determining and resolving problems before they affected guests. RZ Mediator acts as the interface between building systems and the Cisco IP Network.
We used to have to go into various proprietary applications at different terminals to determine cause of failure and now we can do that from virtually anywhere in the world with the ability to dial-in from a remote location, says Donald Kenney, IT manager of Hotel 1000. A converged network allows us to monitor all traffic on the services we provide throughout the hotel.
Wait a Few Years
Such developments, of course, are still in their infancy. According to RZ, the principal vendors on the BAS side are reluctant to give up control by abandoning proprietary protocols. But standardization is coming to the field and will eventually prevail. Within five to seven years, perhaps the pieces will be in place for end-to-end IP building enablement.
Full network convergence will take time to take hold in the market, says Longbottom. And as retro-fitting will not be easy, most of the action will be for new builds in the near to mid-term future.