The Workspace Of Tomorrow: Part 2

In this second installment, the pathways through which digital convergence enables new possibilities for workplace management leaders is discussed.

This second in a two-part series continues an article that provides a broad look at the impacts of not only individual workplace technology options, but also how these can be expected to operate together — now and in the future.

By Dr. T.C. Tan

(Editor’s Note: As Dr. Tan wrote in Workspace Of Tomorrow: Part 1, “In addition, the workspace is experiencing a paradigm shift due to digital convergence. Building control services and IT services have converged to create the Internet of Things in Buildings (BIoTs). This digital convergence has enabled new possibilities to realize true building intelligence that delivers cost reductions, improves operational performance, facilitates productivity, and provides an enhanced occupant experience.” In Part 1, workplace models/configurations, space management, and environmental and energy management were discussed.)

Building Automation Systems And BIoTs

Every building has to meet several basic requirements such as security, fire-life-safety, ventilation, lighting, health and comfort. The systems required to provide these building control services are collectively known as building automation systems (BAS). The biggest challenge facing the BAS industry is the myriad of protocols that exist within the industry. The result is a world in which systems that perform similar functions cannot communicate with each other. Fortunately, convergence to an IP platform has already taken place at the management level, and to some extend at the automation or communication level (see Figure 4). Unfortunately, convergence at the field level has largely not occurred except in the security and access control industry.

workplace technologyConvergence at all levels will make the integration task easier and combined with building analytics, will make buildings smarter and more efficient. Sensor networks are becoming a key ingredient of smart buildings and they provide insight into systems operation, building usage and location of occupants. When combined with advanced analytics, the data can be converted into business intelligence and provide informed decision on energy optimization, operational efficiency and space utilization. Sensor networks play an essential role in enabling BIoTs.

The development of 1-pair Ethernet standards such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3cg 10 Mbps SPE (Single Pair Ethernet) together with IEEE 802.3bu PoDL (Power over Data Line) may help to accelerate the convergence at the field level and accelerate the deployment of sensor networks.

Building Analytics And Digital Signage

Today’s buildings and workspaces are major generators and receivers of data. By capturing and analyzing this data, often referred to as building analytic, organizations can gain better understanding of their operational efficiency, improve employee well-being and productivity, improved ability to react to change, and increased returns from real estate-related decisions. Improved insight and control can create positive impacts in all aspects of real estate performance, from lease accounting and capital projects to facility maintenance, space utilization and energy consumption.

Building analytics can be performed either on-site or off-site via the cloud. Some cloud providers and mobile operators are offering this as a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).

Many organizations are turning to the use of digital signage and dashboards with app interfaces that make navigating and performing tasks easier, natural and intuitive. This trend is being driven by end user expectation who now expect the same quality of graphics and user interface they have in their smartphones and tablets. In addition, information displayed in a visual-dashboard format has a better prospect of changing user behavior.

Combining sensor networks, BIoTs, building analytics and visual-dashboard information, users will become increasingly sensitized to the ways their buildings are managing natural resources and providing people clean and healthy air to breathe.

However, most audio-visual (AV) equipment are based on interfaces such as HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) that often require the sources and displays to be in close proximity (only a few meters away from each other). Hence, the advent of HDBaseT(9) and SDVoE(10) (Software Defined Video over Ethernet).

HDBaseT was introduced in 2010, and since then has become the de-facto connectivity standard for the professional AV market. The technology enables audio, video, Ethernet, controls and power to be sent over a single data cable for up to 100 meters. It is in this context that HDBaseT is starting to gain attention as an application that extends HDMI connectivity from a few meters to a reach of 100 meters using Category 6A cabling with the ubiquitous RJ45 interface connector. However, HDBaseT equipment is still relatively expensive.

SDVoE is a relatively new technology announced by the SDVoE Alliance in 2017. The technology is touted to speed up and optimize the transition to AV over IP using standard off-the-shelf 10G Ethernet switches. It claims to provide substantial cost savings and greater system flexibility and scalability over traditional approaches including HDBaseT.

Direct Current (DC) Power And Wireless Charging

Since the introduction of Power-over-Ethernet (PoE – IEEE 802.3af – 13 watts) and Power-over-Ethernet-Plus (PoEP – IEEE 802.3at – 30 watts) technologies in 2003 and 2009 respectively, the number of remotely powered end devices have increased from 42 million in 2015 to 73 million in 2020 according to Dell ‘Oro(11). These are primarily for IP phones, security cameras, access control systems, point-of-sale systems, wireless access points (WAPs) and small cell systems but exclude LED lighting. With Cisco Universal PoE (UPOE) technology, extra devices such as IP turrets, nurse call systems and next generation WAPs can now be remotely powered.

When the development of the higher wattage PoE (4PPoE up to 100 watts) under IEEE 802.3bt is completed in 2018, the number of devices that can be remotely powered will increase tremendously to include BAS, LED lighting, industrial control systems and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) terminals

All the different flavors of PoE technologies and Power-over-HDBaseT (PoH) are based on DC power. In addition, the introduction of regulations and codes to improve the energy performance of buildings has resulted in the call for ZEBs or NZEBs. This, in turn, has triggered a great deal of debate on the relative merits of using AC (Alternating Current) versus DC in buildings. It has fast-forwarded the ‘War of Current’ debate from the 19th century to the 21st century. This has resulted in the development of the following codes/standards:

  • EMerge Alliance Occupied Space Standard: 24 Vdc (completed)
  • EMerge Alliance Data/Telecom Centre Standard: 380 Vdc (completed)(ETSI 300132-3, ITU-T L.120, US NEC 2014)
  • EMerge Alliance Campus/Building Level DC Microgrids (ZEB) (in development)
  • EMerge Alliance Residential DC Microgrid: jointly with IEEE DC in Homes (in development)
  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70/National Electrical Code (NEC) 2017 will include DC Microgrids in Article 712
  • United Kingdom (UK) Code of Practice (CoP) for Low & Extra Low Voltage Direct Current Power Distribution in Buildings
  • International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) TC64 have accepted a new work item to prepare IEC 60364-7-716 which is a “special condition” document with the draft title “Requirements for special installations or locations – Direct Current Power Distribution over Information Technology Cable Infrastructure”

Many organizations are also deploying ‘wireless’ charging technologies in meeting rooms and collaboration spaces for smartphones in order to enhance user experience.

Wireless Technologies

Wireless technology is required to support a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. This technology can be classified into two broad categories: one operating in the unlicensed Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) frequency bands and the other operating in the licensed bands. The former is for Wireless Local Area Network (LAN) applications based on the IEEE 802.11 standards (often referred to as WiFi and WiGig technologies) and Bluetooth applications. The latter is for cellular/mobile applications such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM – 2G), Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS – 3G) and Long Term Evolution (LTE – 4G).

WiFi technology is now widely deployed in the enterprise space and has provided the primary support for wireless growth in commercial buildings. As with wired LAN, the technology has continued to evolve to higher data rates, and the main standards are:

  • IEEE 802.11ac @ 5 GHz (GigaHertz), capable of supporting a theoretical aggregate data rates up to 6.9 Gbps (gigabits per second). The latest generation is commonly referred to as Wave 2.
  • IEEE 802.11ax @ 1 GHz to 6 GHz (with primary focus on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), capable of improved spectral efficiency and enhanced capabilities.

WiGig technology (sometimes referred to as multi-gigabit WiFi) is being touted for supporting high definition AV applications, in-room coverage and for offloading 802.11ac/ax traffic. The main standards are:

  • IEEE 802.3ad @ 60 GHz, capable of supporting a theoretical aggregate data rates up to 7 Gbps
  • IEEE 802.3ay @ above 45 GHz (with primary focus on 60 GHz), capable of supporting a maximum throughput of at least 20 Gbps. The standard is scheduled for completion in Dec 2019.

Information technology (IT) and Facility management (FM) managers are not only required to support higher speed wireless and cellular networks but also to balance security and access in a BYOD environment. When installing a WiFi/WiGig network, the focus should be on optimizing coverage and capacity, and ensuring the greatest flexibility for future growth and change. These technologies are also being used as IPS.

Bluetooth is primarily used for providing location-based information in the workspace, i.e. as IPS.

As smartphones become the preferred mode of communications for enterprise users and consumers alike, network managers will find an increasing need to boost cellular coverage in office buildings. The problem is compounded by the use of new building materials to improve energy efficiency such as low emissivity glass and the continued evolution of cellular applications to higher frequency and data rates. In addition, emergency services personnel such as police and fire-fighters are demanding reliable ubiquitous radio coverage to ensure public safety as well as their own. Improving cellular/mobile coverage and capacity will require the installation of an in-building wireless (IBW) system, sometimes referred to as distributed antenna systems (DAS) or small cell systems. In addition, WiFi and cellular technologies will co-exist in the same frequency spectrum, for example LTE-U (LTE-Unlicensed), LAA (Licensed-Assisted Access) and MulteFire(12).

Contrary to popular belief, cabling and wireless technology is actually complementary. Wireless technology such as WiFi and IBW requires cabling to provide remote powering (for example, PoE/PoEP/UPOE) to the access points.

Digital Security

The shift to digital convergence and the deployment of BIoTs poses a number of design and operational challenges if a safe, secure and resilient environment is to be achieved. As BAS evolve from closed systems to Internet-enabled operational technology (OT) connectivity, a range of new risks associated with aspects of the personnel, technology and operations arises. For example, the integrity of a building may be compromised if unauthorized parties gain access to or control of critical BAS, and this poses a serious threat to the health and lives of its occupants. In fact, digital security is probably one of the main obstacles to increase adoption of BIoT technology.

In addition, IT departments are now trying to re-establish tighter control and security of enterprise content in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. They are trying to balance security and flexible access in a BYOD environment. Corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE) device or Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) strategies are being implemented in order to provide a more actively governed communication and collaboration environment, albeit one that exhibits a range of flexibility balance.

Hence digital security should be an integral part of the design of a smart workspace and building, and not an afterthought. The reader is advised to refer to several useful documents(13)(14), on security requirements, risk assessment and management.

Workspace Applications

The workspace of tomorrow will be required to support a variety of applications. Some examples are provided in Tables 1, 2 and 3 seen here.

workplace technology

workplace technologyworkplace technology

Physical Infrastructure

The integration of voice, data, video, wireless and BAS under one uniform structured cabling infrastructure will bring the ‘fourth utility’ concept closer to reality. When constructing a building, the three utilities that are normally planned for are water, power and HVAC. Network cabling infrastructure will be the fourth utility since it is the superhighway for many business applications, IT and OT services.

The publication of Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) 862-A (Building Automation Cabling Standard), International Standard (IS) 11801-6 (Generic Cabling for Customer Premises for Distributed Building Services) and European Norm (EN) 50173-6 (Generic Cabling Systems for Distributed Building Services) standards will help to accelerate the acceptance of supporting BAS with structured cabling. These standards specify a generic cabling system for BAS used in commercial buildings that will support a multi-vendor environment. The purpose of these standards is to enable the planning and installation of a structured cabling system for BAS applications used in new or renovated commercial premises. It establishes performance, topology and technical criteria for various cabling system configurations for connecting BAS equipment and devices. It also provides information that may be used for the design of commercial BAS products.

The structured infrastructure approach provides many benefits, resulting in minimizing the total cost of ownership (TCO) and maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of a building property. It also gives the building an inherent ability to quickly and cost effectively responds to the changing needs of its occupants, which impacts the cost to occupy the space. Whatever the initial cost at inception, the lifetime cost of managing the building is potentially lower with this concept due to the flexibility of use of building space, more productive occupants and higher rental return.

The integration of voice, data, video, BAS and DAS under one uniform structured cabling infrastructure, possibly with separate but interconnected cabling for fire alarms (for circuit integrity connections such as to sounders/bells/sirens circuits, strobe lights and fire fighters telephones) is inevitable. However, one golden rule must always be followed for the concept to be successful: The planning and design stage MUST occur at the VERY BEGINNING and not as an afterthought.

For these reasons, the grid design and telecommunication outlet placement guidelines provided in TIA TSB-162-A (Technical System Bulletin) and International Standards Organization (ISO)/IEC TR 24704 (Technical Report) should be followed. TR-24704 recommends that the coverage area of each cell is limited to a 12-meter radius and TSB-162-A suggests a square grid of cabling areas, each 18 meters wide.

CommScope has published the Universal Connectivity Grid design guide that provides design guidelines and recommendations to facilitate infrastructure planning and deployment. It is a zone cabling-based approach that supports a wide range of applications through a common infrastructure in buildings.

Conclusion – New copy here

As budgets are squeezed, organizations are looking at various avenues for cost reduction. In addition, organizations are under pressure to be “environmentally friendly” and are required to meet certain sustainability objectives. By using a smart converged digital infrastructure and applying building analytics, organizations can gain better insight and control, improve operational efficiency and reduce OpEx. Under-utilized facilities can be rationalized and consolidated through better workspace utilization and this can be achieved by using IPS/GIS and/or AIM systems that are integrated with access control systems and intelligent LED lighting incorporated with sensor technologies. Building energy consumption can also be optimized and reduced by using the same intelligent LED lighting incorporated with sensor technologies. In addition, sensors for motion, occupancy, light level, temperature, humidity and indoor air quality can be added to provide a high-density sensor network that collects data for Buildingomics and provides fine grain control of the environment.

Finally, digital security and the fourth utility concept plays a very important part in the design of a smart workspace and building, and must be taken into consideration at the very beginning of the planning stage.

8 CEN is the European Committee for Standardization and this level model was provided by CEN TC247 committee.
11 IEEE PoE Analyst Hour Webinar
13 Resilience and Cyber Security of Technology in the Built Environment, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, UK
14 Security in Telecommunications and Information Technology, ITU-T

workplace technologyDr. Tan is the building solutions architect for Europe at CommScope, a Hickory, NC based firm that helps companies around the world design, build, and manage their wired and wireless networks. Based in the UK, Dr. Tan has worked with CommScope for 15 years. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Imperial College, London and is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a Chartered Engineer. Prior to CommScope, Dr. Tan joined AT&T in 1988 where he filled various EMEA technical roles at AT&T, Lucent, and Avaya, and was a member of Bell Laboratories.

A BOMI-accredited session on Facility Management & Technology will be held at the inaugural Facility Executive Live!, a new one-day conference presented by Facility Executive magazine on October 3rd in Chicago. Click here to learn more.