Is anyone talking about Power over Ethernet these days?

Debates about lighting-world news amongst our team tend to bring up questions, such as “where art thou, PoE?”

Cmeadows Lites Blog

Once upon a time, there was an interesting development in the world of telecommunications and networking that seemed to open up some intriguing possibilities for additional application. That invention was Ethernet, generally credited to computer science and electrical engineering pioneer Robert Metcalfe in 1973 while he was working at the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). [Editor’s note: I want to acknowledge our colleagues at Cabling Installation & Maintenance for their background and coverage of Ethernet developments, including a report by chief editor Patrick McLaughlin in Cabling’s September 2018 issue, upon which I will elaborate shortly.]

Forwarding past the initial fairy tale opening, and Ethernet became entrenched in networking infrastructure and further gained traction for its ability to simultaneously deliver low-voltage power to the devices networked together in a Power over Ethernet (PoE) scheme. That has expanded to include light fixtures and luminaires. In the evolution of our coverage over several years, LEDs Magazine has reported on the progress in PoE-based lighting — products, partnerships between the lighting and IT industries, projects that demonstrate the value of PoE in what is known as “the digital ceiling” (often touted by Cisco but it’s not the only entity to use the moniker) for building communications, automation, and smart applications.

So why am I dredging this up? The other day, as a team our editors were discussing the newsworthiness of a story that developed out of a project involving Signify and Roche. Chief editor Maury Wright tended toward the viewpoint that PoE is becoming “routine” at this point, mainly in new construction, and that could explain why we were not informed initially that the commercial smart lighting project utilized PoE networking. Contributing editor Mark Halper noted during subsequent conversation that, in his opinion, PoE is “either flying under the radar, or not flying much at all.”

Does that ring true for you readers out there? Is PoE old hat for the lighting industry now? Is wireless so hot that the industry is burning out on PoE already? I’m not sure. Patrick McLaughlin noted in the article I referenced above that “[a] cynic’s definition of a ‘promising technology’ may be one that hasn’t yet amounted to very much. As of mid-2018, that definition could apply to intelligent PoE-powered lighting.” We’re pretty familiar with a slow ramp-up in LED and solid-state lighting (SSL) related technologies by now. We know even the most compelling developments take time to emerge to commercial fruition; alternately, they build up quickly and fall steeply down the curve again as saturation occurs in a market. McLaughlin’s sources, however, indicated that new power-level specifications, reduced form factors in switches and other network components, and changes in the density of the cabling system could be affecting the deployment of PoE-based lighting systems.

Talk to us! Let us know whether PoE is still fair game for lighting coverage development, or if its prevalence and viability is more or less assumed.

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