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BICSI Fall Conference Field Report

BICSI Fall Conference Field Report

Las Vegas fall meeting focuses on security, building automation, and IP convergence

The BICSI Fall 2009 meeting, held at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on September 20-24, drew more than 3,500 information transport systems (ITS) professionals, who learned about everything from video transmission for surveillance to the current state of wireless data networking to a variety of fiber-optic topics. The event marked the release of the “Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual” (TDMM), 12th edition, and the Electronic Safety and Security Specialist (ESS) Program.

In a pre-conference seminar on Monday, “CCTV Deployment: Understanding the Whole Picture,” Carol Everett Oliver, Berk-Tek, New Holland, Pa., and Paul Weintraub, Panasonic System Solutions, Secaucus, N.J., spoke about the importance of specifying quality cabling and other components, such as cameras, networking devices, and recording/viewing equipment to ensure the capture of an evidence-grade image useful for forensics and other purposes.

Internet protocol (IP)-based equipment is slowly replacing legacy analog camera equipment. In a full IP surveillance system, digital cameras transmit digitized video signals over the structured cabling of a LAN back to a network video recorder or directly to a network storage device. IP-based systems also support Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) cameras, eliminating the need to provide electrical power at the camera location.

Following the pre-conference activities, there were several interesting presentations given in the general session on Tuesday.

In “BICSI — The ITS Association for the Next Generation,” Brian Hansen, Leviton Network Solutions, Rosemount, Minn., gave an overview of the NxtGEN program, which expands the opportunities for professionals in fields such as education, sales, project management, or IT management, to gain credentials in specific specialties, thus creating a career path suited to their specific needs.

The Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) designation — created by BICSI — has become a recognized credential in the ITS industry. In fact, individuals must possess this designation prior to pursing other specialties, such as Network Transport System (NTS, formerly known as LAN), Electronic Safety and Security (ESS), and Wireless Design (WD) specialists. However, this requirement is now changing. Although the status of RCDD will continue to be important, in order to reach the RCDD designation, an individual must have at least five years of experience in the design of ITS. The exam will cover application-based knowledge instead of review and memorization of text-based information.

The NxtGEN program embraces an expanded universe of “stakeholders” — the people involved in all of the IT-related technologies that have emerged over the years. Some stakeholders may have a need for BICSI publications or training, but almost no need for credentialing. Others may need the knowledge of one of the specialties, such as Outside Plant (OSP) specialist, but not the extended know-how of an RCDD. BICSI has career path flowcharts to assist new candidates seeking credentials, and the organization plans to recognize other credential-based organizations as well as academic-based organizations, allowing new professionals and disciplines to come onboard.

In “BICSI Standards Update,” Robert Faber, Siemon, Watertown, Conn., moderated a panel with Terry Hochbein, ATS&R, Minneapolis.; Jonathan Jew, J&M Consultants, Inc., San Francisco; John Kacperski, TeleDesign Services, Canyon Country, Calif.; Mark Harger, Harger Lightning & Grounding, Grayslake, Ill.; and Bob Jensen, Fluke Networks, Everett, Wash.

Because standards offer technical and workmanship best practices for the design, installation, and maintenance of IT networks and systems, ensuring that they meet the requirements and expectations of the end-user, BICSI now has a Director of Standards, Jeff Silvera. Additionally, as an ANSI-accredited standards-making body, BICSI has already released, or plans to release, three standards by the end of 2009:

  1. ANSI/BICSI-001 K-12: “Information Transport Systems Design for K-12 Educational Institutions.”

  2. ANSI/NECA/BICSI-607: “Telecommunications Bonding and Grounding Planning and Installation Methods for Commercial Buildings.”

  3. ANSI/NECA/BISCI-002: “Data Center Design Standard and Recommended Practices.”

The four-year-old TIA-942, “Telecommunication Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers,” provided the basis for the use of structured cabling systems in a data center. The new ANSI/NECA/BICSI 002 standard complements TIA-942 by containing a great deal of information on how to satisfy TIA-942 requirements as well as listing TIA-569 requirements. For example, while TIA-942 discusses electrical systems in an Annex, the BICSI standard features a 50-page electrical section.

In “Technology Considerations for LEED and Green Design,” Walter P. Herring, Bala Consulting Engineers, King of Prussia, Pa., outlined the idea of sustainable development in the design and construction of buildings. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), started by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998, provides categories to consider in applying “systems thinking,” in areas such as water efficiency, energy use, and innovation/design process. The LEED rating system gives both owners and operators a framework and set of tools for orchestrating sustainability goals to assess the impact of a building's operations on the environment.

A building that incorporates these categories may increase initial costs slightly, but operating cost reductions in the range of 8% to 9% — and increased building value up to 7.5% — are possible. Understandably, a number of emerging technologies, such as daylight harvesting (used to reduce electric lighting requirements), relies on a monitoring and control system served by a structured cabling network, even though the LEED rating system does not directly recognize a cabling system in awarding points.

In “Health-Care IT Innovations Delivered Over Information Transport Systems,” Herbert Congdon and Dr. Kevin Ressler, Tyco Electronics, Conover, N.C., reviewed important federal policies and legislation that will have a major impact on the health-care industry, while providing an infusion of money for implementing process improvements, such as electronic record keeping.

The new “Health Care Facility Cabling Standard,” which is based on the TIA-568-C.1 “Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling,” provides a reference for the design and construction of hospitals and similar facilities. The standard encompasses a wide range of biomedical systems and technologies, especially those that are IP-based. Services that can run on the structured cabling system include radio frequency identification tags (RFID), nurse call systems, access control systems, pharmaceutical inventory, building automation systems (BAS), etc. The new standard also takes into account higher bandwidth requirements at particular stations, such as medical imaging.

The presentation concluded with a case study at the University of Kentucky Health-Care complex, comprised of 2.6 million sq ft of hospitals, clinics, and academic facilities. The complex wanted to eliminate the need to request funds for cabling every two to three years — and to achieve five 9s of reliability and IP convergence. BICSI documents were defined as minimum requirements, and other specs included a minimum cable tray clearance of 24 in. on the side and 12 in. above along with a minimum sq ft area for telecom rooms (TRs) and telecom enclosures (TEs) in critical care areas. To gain 10G Ethernet network speed, it selected a quality-shielded Cat. 6A cable.

The concurrent sessions on Wednesday also gave attendees insight into additional areas of interest.

In “Accelerating Unified Communications,” Jennifer Van Horn, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., demonstrated a system that integrates Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 software with the university's existing Nortel PBX. Unified Communications (UC) is a suite of features that include standard voice capabilities and the integration of voice mail and e-mail (unified messaging) as well as tools that provide real-time information about a person's availability to receive calls (presence), advanced audio/video/Web conferencing capabilities, and business process integration. The network-enabled software and hardware are able to create a connection to users regardless of their location, saving time and other resources. Because UC is a suite of applications, a school (or other organization) can choose the particular features that will deliver the best return on investment.

In “AV System Design Using Twisted Pair and Fiber-Optic Technologies,” Dennis Olson, Exton Electronics, Anaheim, Calif., discussed factors such as distance limitations, which depend on the frequency of the signal, type of cable selected, and the system capabilities. Currently, there are no standards on twisted-pair transmission.

In “Power Over Ethernet Defined,” Art Felgate, Transition Networks, Minnetonka, Minn., offered a history of 802.3at status and described the way power is delivered to the conductors in the cable assembly. The three main PoE applications are network cameras, wireless access points, and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP). There are two caveats to keep in mind when it comes to PoE: Gigabit-speed PoE is incompatible with industrial M12 Ethernet connectors, and PoE equipment is only rated for use in 0°C to 50°C ambient temperatures.

In “Getting the Picture: The Benefits of Supporting Video Applications with Your IT Infrastructure,” Valerie Maguire, Siemon, Watertown, Conn.; Gregg Kelley, Lynx Broadband, Burnsville, Minn.; and Eric Marshall, E.R.I.C. Consulting, Modesto, Calif.; described the growing applications for twisted-pair cable to carry video information — both surveillance applications and broadband TV programming.

In surveillance applications, IP-based digital systems are more secure and flexible than analog, and digital recording obsoletes magnetic tapes and cassettes. Video applications over twisted pair are expanding rapidly. The IP-related video surveillance market grew nearly 50% in 2007, according to one study, and important advantages include simplified troubleshooting and lower cost of ownership. An IP-based standardization effort is under development with the creation of the Open Network Video Interface Forum, which will specify interoperability for video devices.

In “Wireless Data Networking Standards Overview,” Joseph Bardwell, Connect802 Corp., San Ramon, Calif., described current Wi-Fi, WiMax, and cellular data networking standards and explained the type of end-user applications and system requirements that apply to each technology. He also made it clear that there are always trade-offs between throughput, range, cost, and other factors in setting up an installation. However, today's standards make it possible to develop and install high-capacity wideband remote-site networks relatively easily. For example, a mesh network allows mesh nodes and access points to communicate with other nodes without being routed through a central switch point, eliminating centralized failure and providing self-healing and self-organization.

In “Telecommunications Systems of the First Net Zero Energy School in the U.S.,” Tony Hans, CMTA Inc., Louisville, Ky., showed details of how the integration of energy reduction measures will achieve the desired goals in a new middle school for 500 students. A structured wiring system serves daylight harvesting, total lighting controls, HVAC systems, and the solar electric and geothermal systems.

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