The New Power Paradigm | Power over Ethernet

Providing power to an access control system has always meant multiple, specialized DC power supplies for controllers and locks, each with their own battery backup requirements. As access control moves towards the edge with small, smart IP controllers at each door, a new option is gaining traction – PoE, or Power over Ethernet.

Power over EthernetBecause PoE provides power and data through a single cable, it is especially suited for new construction, where CAT-5 network cabling can be easily run to each door. While often associated with Voice over IP phones, IP surveillance cameras and wireless access points, PoE is becoming a more commonly accepted method for powering access controllers, readers, and yes, even locks.

As the trend toward intelligent network devices at the edge grows, this lends itself to a higher reliance on PoE. Thus, knowing that this is the way the industry is moving means it’s important to have a good understanding of PoE and how it will work for access control.

Clearly, there are benefits to PoE, not the least of which is that it can save money for most installations by taking advantage of the economical CAT-5 cable. Instead of paying to have power run to each door, integrators can make use of the existing PoE infrastructure, especially in new buildings. Additionally, there can be some savings as installations get away from relying on numerous battery setups, especially for locking systems, and move instead to PoE.

As with any installation, planning is going to be critical. Standard PoE provides 15 watts on each port, so knowing how much power each device uses will dictate your needs. A single door controller, for instance, will work well in a PoE setting, while a controller that provides both card-in and card-out functions, or one that uses biometric readers, is going to require more power.

PoE Plus ups the power ante to 30 watts per port, but some devices may not be rated for PoE Plus so, again, it’s important to have that data in hand when planning the installation.

The next generation of PoE — in the form of PoE Ultrawill be at least 50 to 60 watts, up to possibly 90 watts, thus being able to support more locks and even more powerful readers, ensuring PoE will be a viable option well into the future.

Devising a more efficient installation, while also staying competitive on costs, is driving many integrators and their customers to explore PoE.

Want to learn about the benefits of implementing PoE with Access Control?

Learn the basics of PoE, PoE standards, benefits of PoE, PoE within access control and avoiding the pitfalls, and the future of PoE by watching a recording of my PoE opens new doors webinar.

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Here are just a few testimonials we received after the live webinar concluded:

  • Thanks for a really informative webinar. The information on the Midspan power was really helpful. As a matter of fact, I used that knowledge today to figure the needs for a 16 camera installation we just received.” – Paul Abbott, RCDD | Simplexgrinnell
  • I found the webinar was extremely well presented and very informative. Please pass on my thanks to Rick who was my tutor when I got my C•CURE 800/8000 certification.
    – Barry Dawson | Tech Systems, Inc


How are you using PoE at your business? Please leave me a comment below.


Live Video Monitoring or Recording?

Live Video MonitoringAs IP video continues to gain traction in security, the capabilities of the technology are challenging some established guidelines of when to record video and when to monitor live video. Along with the technology, these standards have evolved to encompass a host of different scenarios, satisfying the diverse needs of end users in a variety of applications – from casinos and hospitals to parking garages and sports stadiums, and more.

There is little argument that the decision to monitor live video vs. record for forensic purposes should be based on the value of the assets being protected. In casinos, for example, the high cash value of potential losses makes it an easy pick for live monitoring, whereas your average commercial office building generally relies on recorded video.

Depending on the specific needs of the application, another important factor to consider is the deployment of video analytics, which can add more sophisticated levels of efficiencies and automation.

As such, many employ video recorded on motion, which reduces bandwidth consumption and the high storage costs associated with storing hundreds of hours of continuous recording each week. In some scenarios, however, this could negatively affect your security operations.

Take this example of a large urban hospital. With about 1,600 cameras all set to record on motion, the video management system was logging in excess of one million events per day. The sheer number of alarms overwhelmed security staff, and became a waste of time to attempt to clear them all, rendering the information useless.

While it’s true that a scene with little activity will produce a very small amount of data, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration. Take the difference between a camera view of an empty asphalt parking lot vs. that same parking lot shaded with many surrounding trees. The empty scene, where changes from frame to frame would be minimal, would typically produce a camera stream of as little as 0.5Mbps. In contrast, moving objects, such as leaves blowing in the wind as in the tree-filled scene, as well as low-light or shadowy conditions even during daylight hours, can have significant ramifications on the use of motion detection, increasing the amount of data streamed to up to 10Mbps.

Lighting is a key consideration when employing video motion detection to save on storage costs. Modern mini-dome cameras, with their own onboard IR illuminators, are typically able to counteract low-light conditions. The additional cost for the IR functionality will be more than compensated by the savings in storage and potential equipment wear and tear that can be a consequence of inadequate lighting.

As in the hospital example, trying to manage and record such a significant flow of information, particularly from high-resolution cameras, can have serious ramifications on equipment health. Triggered by factors such as poor lighting or improperly configured equipment, these large and sporadic rushes of data sent to a recording device, known as thrashing, cause it to repeatedly start and stop writing, which can significantly shorten the hard drive’s life span. Over time, this weakens the recorder’s ability to function properly.

For the hospital, an analysis of the facility’s alarm activity showed the best solution would be a hybrid approach – using motion-based recording on a scheduled basis only during certain times of the day and only on certain cameras.

In areas where analytics are deployed, the same hybrid approach can also apply very successfully. A large sports stadium that sees more than 50,000 people enter its gates within a 12-18 hour window on game day can also be easily overwhelmed with event alarms from the video management system. Simply by identifying on which cameras it was necessary to continuously record as well as monitor and during what time periods, situations of excessive alarm events can be avoided and managed successfully.

Striking that balance between continuous and motion-based recording takes a little more setup on the front end but can save in the long run on hardware wear and tear – and, ultimately, lower your cost of ownership.


How are you utilizing your security equipment to lower your cost of ownership? Please leave me a comment below.