The Future of PoE by Guest Writer: Joe Herbst

While LEDs have transformed the century-old lighting industry, approaching 1-10 percent power of what traditional lighting consumed, the surrounding infrastructure has remained frozen in time. And, like many other technologies, the pandemic has hastened the adoption of Power over Ethernet (PoE) due to its ease of installation as well as its energy and cost savings.

As background, PoE passes electric power and data over twisted-pair Ethernet cable to powered devices such as wireless access points, IP cameras, and lights. It enables one RJ45 cable to provide data connection and electric power instead of needing a separate cable for each. Essentially anything on the desktop or above, like ceiling lights, can be powered by PoE because those devices are all inherently low voltage.

Why PoE?

PoE offers several advantages over our traditional, high voltage infrastructure. For one, with our current labor shortage, hiring a licensed electrician is often challenging. Construction projects can be delayed when it’s difficult to secure an electrician to pull the wire for a building. So, as designers of integrated conference and lighting systems running on PoE, we can now start conversations with potential customers with the question: “Why not use a less expensive, more environmentally friendly approach that doesn’t require an electrician?” In a low voltage system, anyone can ‘pull the wire’ because it’s safe. You can stick your finger in a PoE socket, and absolutely nothing happens.

The benefits are not only safety with the lower voltage and ease of installation, but also lower usage costs. The lower usage costs are combined with a level of precision and control of all devices from one central control location. With PoE, you can walk into an office and turn 20 lights on or off from one controller. And you can precisely control each of those lights. You can have just two on and the other 18 off. This presents an untapped opportunity of 90% savings that doesn’t exist with high voltage wiring based systems.

What we’re seeing now with PoE is the ability to apply information technology to energy. This is a result of the confluence of the efficiency of LEDs AND the ability to get 90 watts of power plus a Gigabit of data on one Ethernet cable. We no longer need the infrastructure from 100 years ago. The cost to install a light fixture can be six times more than the fixture itself. While the fixtures themselves go down in cost, installation costs only escalate. And that’s everything from the physical infrastructure – conduit and copper to the labor rates.

With a low voltage PoE system, each light fixture has individual control. It’s a virtual system where you can control each of hundreds of lights from your phone, laptop or iPad. That includes changing the color temperature of the lights. It provides the ability to determine where the energy flows. If you’re seeing increased energy costs, and it’s a hot August day, for example, you can decide to put more of your energy into HVAC and dim your lighting.

In a nutshell, that’s what PoE does. It brings communication and power into one wire.

Why is Lighting Such a Critical Part of a Low-Voltage System?

Lighting creates an emotional attachment to a physical space. You can create that ambiance leveraging the theatrical level of precision and fidelity that PoE lighting systems provide. The PoE controls with Brightline lights enable you to create whatever ambiance or mood that you are looking to set.  The partnership of an affordable lighting control system with the precision and quality of Brightline fixtures delivers a premium experience at an affordable price.

Brightline specializes in high CRI (Color Rendering Index) as well as spotlight applications. CRI measures the ability of a light source to accurately reveal the colors of objects in comparison with a natural light source. Light sources with a high CRI are best when you want to ensure the human elements like skin tone and the reflection of the light off one’s skin are precise. Reflections off walls, representing the true wall color, and the environment around you are other areas where you benefit from a light source with a high CRI.

Brightline also specializes in spotlighting, which is when a speaker is at a podium for example, the contrast light on the speaker must be relative to the ambient light surrounding them. It creates mood, but also you don’t want to create glare for the speaker or the audience. This is where the high fidelity control from a PoE system provides individual control of every fixture.

The precision with which PoE can control lighting is extreme. In a room with 21 fixtures, I can create a front group, a back left group, a left side, right side, middle, and adjust each of those groups. Or I can have 21 independent lights where each one can be set to a specific level or color temperature in many cases. It creates theatrical grade control at consumer prices.

A brand new and significant bonus is that it’s now possible to program your PoE Brightline lighting through a Zoom Room controller, thanks to a collaboration with Brightline partners Zoom and ourselves.

Brightline Founding Partner Kathy Katz explains, “PoE video lighting power and control represents a sea change. Reduced power consumption, ease and simplicity of installation, increased safety, reduced costs, and increased informational feedback are all reasons to dive head-first into the perfect union of professional video lighting and IT management lighting control systems. PoE Texas is a skilled partner that facilitates Brightline’s embrace of PoE lighting systems, as we encourage our clients to benefit from our combined solutions.”

The Power and Future of PoE

Our goal is to always present people in their best light. And that doesn’t happen with a fluorescent or an overly bright LED light. With the controls available thanks to PoE systems and the precision of Brightline fixtures, people no longer experience a war between their computer monitors and the LED lights overhead. We don’t need to accept the glare bombs in your eyes as just another element of working in an office.

I believe everything above the desktop can run as part of a low-voltage PoE system. We’re just scratching the surface of the possibilities now. One big issue is creating awareness that this technology exists, and it’s a viable alternative to the way things have always been done. We work hard to educate people so they can appreciate the value lighting controls brings to their workplace. The other part of the equation in getting a wider adoption of PoE is time. A construction cycle is typically two to four years.

But for now, we’re working with several high-profile companies with an innovative ethos like Brightline. We’re looking forward to creating the optimal PoE-based lighting and control systems for the training facilities of two, large Bay Area companies. More on that to come. For now, we see unlimited possibilities for the power of PoE.

“PoE video lighting power and control represents a sea change in our industry,” said Kathy Katz, Partner, Brightline.  “Reduced power consumption, increased efficiencies, ease & simplicity of installation, increased safety, reduced costs, increased informational feedback—all reasons to dive head-first into the perfect union of professional video lighting and IT management lighting control systems. PoE Texas is a responsive, supportive, creative and skilled partner that facilitates Brightline’s confident embrace of PoE lighting systems, as we encourage our clients to benefit from our combined solutions.”

About PoE Texas
PoE Texas offers Power over Ethernet and low voltage solutions including lighting, automation, signage, and network hardware for intelligent buildings. To see more about building automation using the Denton Digital Building Intelligence (DBI) system visit PoETexas.com or join us as we post regularly on YouTube or Facebook.

About Brightline
A leading manufacturer of energy-efficient lighting systems for broadcast, videoconference, elearning, and government, Brightline’s mission is to enable communication through clarity. With more than 5,000 customers in over 35 countries, Brightline specializes in enhancing the presentation of visual images by providing high quality, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective evolutionary lighting solutions. Get enlightened at brightlines.com.

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