Single Pair Ethernet standard means goodbye to batteries

Closeup of variety of batteries held by woman
Not only does the Single Pair Ethernet standard bid adieu to batteries in applications like smart buildings, it is a familiar protocol stack, well known by most of the world.(CentralITAlliance / iStock / Getty Images)

If you have ever experienced a Christmas morning with children, you are likely to have a tenuous relationship with batteries. While the wonder of Christmas morning is truly magical, especially one with children, that magic ends abruptly as your children transition from unwrapping gifts to you assembling the content. 

Your Norman Rockwell Christmas becomes an episode of Survivor, where your core life skills are tested and your very survival is dependent on the successful scavenging of several unique battery types to energize remote controlled cars, gaming controllers and Easy-bake Ovens.

The toys developed and purchased for the purpose of bringing your children joy become the bane of your existence. For several months you are committed to the cause, choking down the cost of batteries and diligently replacing them until you give up and let the toys die at the bottom of the toy box. You will inevitably do the walk of shame with those toys to the trash can or donate those battery gremlins to another unsuspecting parent who wants to bring their child joy while spending their retirement savings on batteries.

If you think toys are bad, consider buildings

By 2025 it’s expected that there will be over 75 billion devices connected to networks around the world.  Many of these devices will be sensors in buildings and many of these sensors may use batteries. This could add up to a lot of batteries in a building, thousands potentially.

Battery maintenance on thousands of devices is likely to become untenable and too costly for building operators. The benefits of battery powered sensors will likely be outweighed by the arduous undertaking of maintaining them, leaving them at risk of being abandoned and the long-term benefits unrealized.

The real value of the Internet of Things (IoT) for buildings is data collection and how that data can help building owners and operators improve the health and well-being of building occupants, increase operational efficiency and drive an overall better ROI from their built spaces.

The reliability of device data, especially sensor data, is highly dependent on the reliability of the device connection to the network and its power source. Lost connections can mean the loss of critical data needed for building operations. While wireless connectivity can, and will, support many of these connections, wireless is limited in long-term operational viability when the device is powered by batteries.

One hidden cost that is frequently overlooked when deploying battery operated devices is the responsible disposal of used batteries.  While the size of a battery is relatively small and its lifespan likely to be several years, the sheer quantity of devices anticipated for IoT applications makes for a significant consideration. Businesses are looking for ways to increase use of sustainable materials and lower their carbon footprint. Deploying many thousands of devices with single-use batteries may not make sense if a more sustainable alternative is available.    

For sensor manufacturers, designing a sensor that is easily managed over the life of the sensor is critical. For building operators, selecting sensors that are reliable, easily managed, and environmentally friendly will be critical to the successful long-term outcomes of their smart building. In short, choosing sensors that require battery maintenance for your building may have you reliving the least fun part of Christmas morning, every day.

New standard provides cost effective, reliable choice

The recently published IEEE Std. 802.3cg™ 10BASE-T1 Single Pair Ethernet standard provides a cost effective and reliable choice to not only power your sensors but also provide data communications. Sensor data is already being transmitted to an Ethernet network, either directly or through some form of a gateway.

Single Pair Ethernet equipment and device interfaces offer a smaller footprint than traditional 4-pair RJ-45 Ethernet connections. With components roughly half the size of the traditional 4- pair Ethernet, Single Pair Ethernet is an elegant and efficient solution for smaller devices. Additional benefits of the standard include:

  1. Supports both point-to-point as well as multi-drop bus topologies providing flexibility to allow transition of legacy non-Ethernet applications to Ethernet
  2. Extends the reach of Ethernet copper LAN cabling up to 1000 m allowing perimeter cabling inside the building, as well as networking devices/sensors outside the building
  3. Expands Std. IEEE 802.3bu™ Power over Data Lines (PoDL) classes to facilitate up to 7.7 watts of dc power at distances of 1000 m. Shorter reach classes (15 m) allow up to 50 watts of PoDL dc power over the same balanced single pair cabling used for data.
  4. Ethernet use of the seven-layer OSI model continues in the IEEE 802.3 SPE applications, with several layers of security built into the protocol, extending robust security down to the device level.
  5. Operation and Administration of the network by personnel familiar with Ethernet, becomes much easier and reliable compared to the wide variety of legacy Operational Technology (OT) networks, many of which are proprietary.

TIA is developing three documents that address Single Pair Ethernet implementations and use cases for generic structured cabling.

  • ANSI/TIA 568.0-E-1 is a proposed addendum to the recently published standard for generic cabling that will describe use cases, topology, and architectures related to single-pair cabling
  • The next revision of the ANSI/TIA-862 Intelligent Building Systems standard (ANSI/TIA-862-C) is expected to include SPE cabling recommendations
  • Work will soon begin on a new standard, which will likely be called ANSI/TIA‑568.7, for single twisted-pair cabling for industrial applications

Seamless integration of Ethernet from the device level to the cloud allows reductions in cost and complexity.  IEEE is building on the work from IEEE 802.3cg with enhancements to support larger number of multi-drop nodes, extended distances, as well as “plug and play” operation with remote power to cover most use cases in transportation, enterprise buildings, and industrial spaces.

Observing the trends in the market, IEEE 802.3 is now exclusively working on lower speed single pair applications for the copper media type. Convergence of the sensor industry to this trend for SPE will be an important milestone in the evolution of the SPE ecosystem.

This article is presented by TIA SPEC, Single Pair Ethernet Consortium.

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