What is Power Over Ethernet (PoE)?

poe-lightingTechnology around the globe is changing at a constant, rapid pace and it seems that every new discovery is labeled with a snazzy acronym that very few people understand. We’re going to talk about a few of those acronyms in this series – IoT, LED, CFL, PoE – but don’t worry. We’re going to introduce them and explain what they are before we get to how they all work making our office spaces worthy of George Jetson.

To start, let’s introduce the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a concept that has evolved over time and simply refers to the connection of devices to the internet. However, this extends beyond the typical connection of computers and smartphones to less obvious things like our cars, kitchen appliances and even our thermostats. Through IoT, devices can be monitored and/or controlled from a remote location and multiple devices can be linked together to create an IoT ecosystem.

Additionally, devices in the IoT collect and share data about themselves, their users, their environments, and the other devices with which they are connected. This data provides insights that were never available before and allow businesses to operate more efficiently based on learned behaviors.

Cool, right? But what is it that makes this expansion of the IoT possible?

To run a network to almost every electrical device that lives in a typical office environment, we need Power over Ethernet (PoE). PoE delivers power and data via a cat5 or cat6 cable from a power sourcing equipment (PSE) such as a switch directly to the network port of a connected powered device.

For example, a security camera requires two types of connections when it is installed – a network connection to communicate with video recording and display equipment and a power connection to deliver the electricity the camera needs to operate. However, if the camera is PoE-enabled, only the network connection is necessary since power will be received from the same cable used to bring in data.
The main advantage of such a technology is not only the simplification of deployment, but the elimination of the need for hiring a professional electrician to install electrical circuitry throughout an office. This results in reduced costs, less downtime, easier maintenance and greater flexibility than with traditional wiring.

LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent lights) are more familiar acronyms related to lighting, mostly in the commercial real estate world. Still, you might be asking what they have to do with PoE and IoT.

First, we must explore the evolution of these technologies, how they got to where they are today and where PoE and the IoT are taking them in the future.

Discover more on this topic next week on the MCW Blog.