Buildings 2.0: Cisco flips new digital switch

“It’s all connected.”  If that’s not completely true now, then just wait…

As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands daily to envelop more of our work and home lives — from smart phones and TVs, to transportation apps, remote access and monitoring controls, and more — the ongoing digital revolution also continues to join more building operations and maintenance systems in service to a more efficient future. More tools than ever are now available to help building owners operate next-generation offices, stores, hospitals, schools, and factories that are as productive as they are cost-effective and desirable for their occupants.

San Jose-based networking giant Cisco Systems last week dived headlong even deeper into the “digital smart building revolution” with the announcement of its new Catalyst Digital Building Series Switch, which will officially hit the market in April. It is “the first purpose-built switch optimized for low voltage PoE (power-over-ethernet) deployments, IoT connectivity and building automation in smart buildings,” the company says. The new switch also promotes interoperability by powering and connecting multiple building systems onto a single, low-voltage IP network.

“As far as convergence of IoT networks in a building, this product leap-frogs a generation of innovation,” says Sachin Gupta, Cisco’s VP of Enterprise Switching at Cisco. “It brings new IoT protocol integration, automation and enterprise security by extending the Digital Network Architecture to digital buildings.”

Fort Worth Marriott a successful test case.

In fact, Cisco says it has already field-tested the switches at a landmark Fort Worth office building that local developer Sinclair Holdings LLC is now converting into an “upscale hotel” managed by Marriott Corp. In early 2015, the owner of the 16-story, 91-year-old concrete building ordered a systems-wide upgrade and modernization. Now, Sinclair says it already has seen its energy costs cut in half on the Art Deco tower, even before the renovation work is completed this summer. Motorized blinds, as well as new temperature and lighting controls, all have been installed, contributing to the savings, notes Cisco.

“The Catalyst Digital Building Series Switch allows us to converge disparate building systems onto a single IP platform,” explains Sinclair President Farukh Aslam. “We can now establish digital competencies for tomorrow’s hospitality industry…  This allows [the hotel] to enjoy real-time analytics and reduce energy costs.”

“Digital Building Series switches will greatly simplify the deployment experience with integrated security and lower total cost of ownership,” added Cisco in its product release last week. “As the number of networks and connections within buildings grows, they are becoming increasingly complex. Interconnecting and interoperating isolated building systems such as lighting, HVAC, badging systems, security, CCTV, sensors and audio-video equipment, into a single converged system is fundamental to the digital transformation of buildings.”

The company already boasts 23 industry partners in this new “ecosystem” initiative, including Johnson Controls; Emerson; EllisDon; and Philips. “Lighting is a logical first-step in bringing IoT to enterprises worldwide,” says Derek Wright, Philip’s Lighting’s global segment manager for office buildings at Philips Lighting: “Secure IT networks are a vital part of our PoE connected lighting system… By connecting the lighting system to a highly secure, reliable IT infrastructure – and the new Cisco Digital Building Switch – we are able to provide information that helps optimize workspaces, improve productivity and enable cost and energy savings.”

Specifically, Cisco cited these five innovations as being tied to this initiative:

  • Convergence – This switch enables IP convergence and interoperability of disparate building systems such as lighting, HVAC, badging systems, surveillance over CoAP protocol;
  • Extending Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture (DNA) to Digital Buildings – Automation, security, and analytics brought to digital buildings for IoT devices enabling faster on-boarding, automated provisioning and monitoring, intelligent threat detection and mitigation. For instance lighting ports can only be used for lighting and not to access other areas in the network;
  • Fast & Perpetual UPOE – Industry’s first 60w-per-port Cisco UPOE technology delivers twice the power of current PoE+, thereby powering higher luminosity for bigger brighter lighting fixtures. Fast start up and non-stop power through “perpetual UPOE” helps power lights back on within five seconds during a power outage;
  • Simple Smart Installation – This is the first-ever Bluetooth-enabled switch with a mobile app for unmatched ease-of-use & installation (iOS & Android app). It simplifies the deployment experience to a point where any IT and OT personnel can install it;
  • Fanless Design – Industry’s first semi-ruggedized fanless switch which makes it ideal for noise-free deployment in ceilings. It enables a stellar noise-free customer experience, says Cisco.