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The Futuristic Universe of PoE Lighting

What is PoE Lighting? How is it scalable? Why is it incredible?! Get all your questions answered by DES lighting engineer and guest author, Jeff Corbett
Dec 7, 2021

When you consider futuristic entertainment like the Jetsons, Star Wars, Avatar, and Ready Player One, fictional environments are imagined and designed to enhance the lives of the people living in them.  Sure, it’s Hollywood, but essentially those characters are living in an enhanced environment where small computers combine to make a much larger one.  Well, welcome to the future!  Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) already enhances the present by combining computers for our benefit.   The adoption of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) lighting is crucial to continuing that effort.  IoT devices connect by communicating over a network.  PoE lighting advances the network by adding power to the same cable that transports the communication data.  Essentially, a PoE lighting network lets devices talk to each other while also supplying full power to the lights.  Is that beneficial for you, though?  Let’s dig in and find out.

It’s stable and reliable.  One of the great advantages of PoE lighting is its use of superior parts and better power supplies to light the LED lights. With LED lights, alternating current (AC) illuminates the LEDs, but not directly.  The power must first be transformed to direct current (DC) through a power transformer. (You know that black box hanging off your laptop cable? That’s a power transformer.)  Unfortunately for us, power transformers are mass produced for the lights as cheaply as possible and only need to be “good enough” to make them function.  A failed LED light is likely the result of a failed transformer that couldn’t stand up to the voltage spikes and fluctuations from the AC power grid. The LEDs in the light aren’t damaged.  In a PoE solution, the power grid inconsistency is neutralized in the data closet by power line conditioners and robust power supplies. All downstream devices (including the lights) are protected because electricity is cleaned and transformed to DC before it reaches them.  As a result of the stabilized power, networking gear ends up being so reliable it’s often forgotten in an IT closet for years.  PoE-powered lights also leverage that stability so they don’t need maintenance and they don’t fail.  Like ever. You can EXPECT them to last, and you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, the lights will work so well that you’ll also stop thinking about them, leaving you more time to focus on important tasks.

It’s less expensive.  Let’s face it – inflation is upon us.  The costs of manufactured goods and labor are increasing, but budgets are shrinking.  People are panicking. PoE lighting can help because it’s typically less expensive to install and maintain.  In some cases, it’s FAR less expensive.  Say you’re planning a traditional AC lighting project that requires the installation of heavy gauge electrical wire, conduit, and a second and third set of wires for lighting controls.  You’ll also need a licensed electrical contractor to install it.  Instead, consider pulling low voltage cable supporting both power and data using low-voltage contractor labor.  Quick disclaimer! Electricity will KILL you if you don’t know what you’re doing, so use an electrician to do electrical work.  However, because network cable is low power, it’s safe for just about anyone to install.  With PoE lighting, if you want to move a light you can do it yourself.  No need to hire someone.  You can change the programming through a user interface instead of paying someone to make the right connections at the light switch and electrical panel.  Add PoE lighting’s flexibility to the aforementioned longevity, and now you’re talking about cost savings both up front, and long term. That’s extra time for other things, plus real money in your pocket.

It's adaptable and scalable.  As a network-based, state-of-the-art system, PoE lighting automates operations in harmony with your decisions and expectations.  While being flexible enough to allow you to control your own space, it’s capable of communication on multiple floors of a building, multiple buildings on a campus, or multiple campuses around the world.  The result of the behind-the-scenes wizardry is that personal office spaces can be custom-tailored for comfort while global building intelligence keeps energy usage to a minimum.  Life becomes more efficient and more relaxed at the same time.

It’s advanced.  Power over Ethernet technology has already laid the groundwork for applications that have improved your quality of life, whether you know it or not.  As a technology that’s been around for nearly 20 years, its ability to carry both power and data on one network cable is not new.  Wi-Fi access points, security cameras, and desk phones are applications that had their traditional power sources replaced by PoE power ages ago. A little more recently, electronic locks and access systems have implemented the technology.   Now, thanks to continuing power enhancements, PoE lighting is another platform replacing a traditional power source with a 21st century solution.  This helps all of us because streamlined power and communication on more devices means more efficient, sustainable solutions.

It’s amazing!  You’ve probably invested time and money on IoT in your offices and facilities, but it’s likely those systems are proprietary, stand-alone, or expensive to integrate.  IoT devices use a connected network to transmit information to end users via a network, whether wired or wireless.  In the same way, a networked lighting system can move significant amounts of environmental data, while at the same time sending commands to your lights.  That’s something traditional lighting systems can’t do.  With a connected lighting system in place, there are potential applications everywhere. What if smoke detectors could call the fire department, turn beacons red, and send an alert to the phones of the people in the building that it’s time to evacuate?  What if it could text you when the batteries are low instead of beeping at you.  Now we’re solving real problems!  Do you want to know how clean the air you’re breathing is in this semi-post-COVID world?  Are your emergency lights in compliance?  What’s the level of Carbon Monoxide in your warehouse? Did you hear Gunshots? Is there a flood in the basement?  Is the coffee pot empty?  A PoE lighting system puts in place the network needed to feed you all this real-time, usable information, and much more. It’s another layer in the IoT infrastructure that continues to energize our civilization.  If you’re looking at lighting, you should be looking at LED lighting. If you’re looking at LED lighting, you should be looking at PoE lighting.  It’s that simple.

Without a doubt, PoE lighting is beneficial.  It leverages the technical world to provide a comfortable, intelligent, flexible, and future-proof environment which can reduce stress and stimulate the imagination.  It advances an established technology and facilitates ingenuity.  In our human-centric world, PoE lighting makes sense because it makes life better.

Get to know this blog author! Jeff Corbett is a Technical Account Manager at DES specializing in advanced lighting controls. With a background in commercial lighting, access control, and network infrastructure, Jeff is fascinated by all things IoT. When not actively seeking IoT solutions, Jeff either hangs out with his wife and 10 kids, or works on vintage bicycles.

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