Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a recent concept that emerged in the US and Europe, but seems to be catching up very fast in India. This involves using the computer networking cables for lighting too. The advantage by doing this is that the lighting also becomes part of the same control network as the rest of the Building Management System.
With this concept in mind, we at LED World got hold with a couple of renowned names in the Indian lighting industry – B S Praveen, CEO & MD, OEM Systems Group and Raghav Raju, MD, Sonic Bolt to know what & how about the PoE lighting systems and its future with special reference to India. Following are the edited excerpts of what they shared:
How are you associated with each other?
OEM Systems is an umbrella brand wherein we have various partners bringing forth an extended portfolio of different solutions. As part of the OEM systems concept, we came together to jointly start developing PoE lighting solution for India. By doing so, we are able to offer a viable solution to our valuable customers of a ‘Made in and for India’ PoE solution.
What is PoE?
PoE stands for Power over Ethernet. PoE delivers power (and optionally data) via a Cat5 or Cat6 cable to the luminaire from a Centralised Driver – the PoE Driver. This enables network administrators to control lighting too using the main Building Management System. This makes lighting a part of the overall building management system thereby eliminating the need of a separate control specifically meant for it, which is presently the case otherwise.
POE is made possible because of LEDs low power consumption attribute. We have seen the transition from 100W incandescent to 18W CFLs and now to 9W LEDs – delivering the same amount of light. The advent of LEDs has reduced the consumption of power to an extent that the power can even be transmitted by Cat5 or Cat6 cables, which generally can carry a maximum of 50W of power.
What makes PoE so powerful?
The capabilities of PoE technology are due to the transmission of power through the data cables. This functionality enables myriad new possibilities. As mentioned earlier, communication to and from devices allows centralised control and monitoring. Based on this, large offices or rather organisations can operate an array of devices including lighting from one central location. This eliminates the need for someone to physically walk into a room to switch lights on and off. Operational status of the lights and their power consumptions etc. can be noted and recorded in the same central monitoring system.
How is it possible to illuminate LEDs with Cat5 or Cat6?
The advent of LEDs has brought in many wonders in the world of lighting and PoE is one. It is the ultra-low wattage requirement of LEDs that makes it possible for them to be Powered over Ethernet. LEDs’ average life span is about 50k to 100k hours, while utilising only 40 to 60% of the power of conventional fluorescent lights.
Technically speaking, the 802.3af PoE standard, the standard with the lowest power output, yields up to 15.4W of power and can easily support standard LED lighting power requirements. In the highly unlikely case that PoE LED lighting systems will demand more power, 802.3at can easily provide more power yielding up to 25.4 W of power.
How is this PoE going to ease the operational efficiency of lighting?
PoE lighting becomes a part of the networked environment making it easy for the end-users or building owners to manage and maintain. As a result the cost of monitoring and maintaining lighting systems comes down. The initial cost of PoE equipment and cabling is higher than the conventional luminaire and cabling. However, the need for not having a separate controller for lighting in large buildings compensates for the higher cost. And then being able to be controlled centrally from a common system provides further cost benefits.
Notably, unlike regular IoT devices that operate with the Z-Wave and Zigbee home automation standard, PoE LED lighting does not require a home gateway to operate. PoE LED lights receive their own IP addresses once connected to a LAN via an Ethernet cable. This makes PoE LED lights ideal for building management through home automation system and enterprise usage.
Accordingly, PoE LED lights can be paired with other smart home accessories like sensors, wireless communication modules, and embedded processors. The collected information could include ambient lighting, temperature, humidity, and anonymous room-occupancy data. PoE-powered LED lighting networks truly give users the ability to dynamically monitor and control their LED lighting system.
For instance, in a large office space with traditional lighting system, it’s challenging to manage – installation, maintenance and support as we need numerous wires meant only for lighting, in turn making the whole system complicated like a wire mesh. But when we switch over to PoE, the same networking wire can be used to also illuminate LEDs. Thus, we are decreasing the wires.
How has been the response in India so far? How do you assess its future?
At the rate PoE is getting popularity in India, it’s just fabulous and much faster than any other geography or the economy in the world. This is because India is a developing country and at the same time it is growth hungry wherein infrastructure development is on a very high note. Most of the things are under the planning stage and quite a few are yet to be planned, which ultimately open the space for implementing the latest technologies whereas in developed countries, the existing infrastructure is only getting renovated.
Though the concept of PoE is not new to the world of lighting but for us it’s an achievement that we are the first in India to develop it indigenously. The economy is moving on high growth trajectory where most of the projects are bigger than expected, and are allowing trying, implementing and experiencing new technologies. For now, we are ready with the larger setup, we will have to develop affordable PoE system with compatibility for smaller spaces. Currently, we have 24 channels – PoE lighting system, which of course is not viable for smaller setup.
While the larger spaces have started embracing PoE, how is it changing the panorama of LED lighting industry on the whole?
Implementing PoE lighting system not only positively impacts organisational cost, but also reduces strain on local power authorities to produce energy by lowering usage without any loss in quality. This indicates a huge demand coming its way as LEDs isn’t the only way companies are harnessing the powerful potential of PoE. Further, it allows organisations to capitalise on its benefits in sectors such surveillance camera and home automation. Besides all this, the ability to reuse existing infrastructure can be cited as one of the biggest attractions. Repurposing existing copper Cat5 and Cat6 cables, is at least one factor contributing to this exciting trend. As PoE lighting system works with LED, it is dependent on LED technology, thus inducing the growth of LED, as compared to any other method of automation.
How do you see the future of PoE lighting?
PoE lighting is a good way forward for large mega building with sophisticated networking present in them. The advantage of controlling lighting too along with other devices in the building provides substantial advantages in large buildings, where saving of labour due to not having to physically go room by room, makes a big difference; and also where even so called small wastage of power could amount to significant numbers. In future when newer versions of present day PoE lighting come up with lesser number of channels, and lower cost, they may become feasible for smaller buildings too.