Power-over-Ethernet (PoE/ PoE++) is a technology that enables devices to receive electrical power over a standard ethernet cable. Ethernet technology has evolved over the last few decades and is pervasive in almost every office, and small and large businesses. It is used to network servers, storages etc., that provides end-users a critical service as far as their business operations are concerned. In parallel, over the last decade or so, many companies are manufacturing devices that use the Internet Protocol as a means of communication. This allows for many disparate devices to communicate with each other using the IP protocol and all of them today use the ethernet cable. This makes sense because the price point of ethernet technology has dramatically dropped over a period of time, which is seen across all technology spectrums such as network switches, NAS storage, fire alarms, access control systems, BIO ID systems, surveillance cameras, video management software, and innumerable other technologies that have come to benefit from the ubiquitous IP protocol and Ethernet L2 routing protocols.
One can now imagine all the possibilities of building a single unified secure system with very different devices – all networked together but unified by a single software platform. However, there is a caveat in all of this. Most of the devices are located in different parts of the infrastructure and they all need electrical power to run and function reliably. As all of them use ethernet cable to communicate – including electrical power within the connecting ethernet cable – it eliminates the need for a power supply at each terminating device, and that results in cost savings. Every manufacturer has to ascertain that the devices are PoE compliant which results in half the number of cables being used to network plus has the added advantage of a 100 meter run between the device and the nearest network switch.
In summary, PoE/ PoE++ is a simplifying and unifying technology which allows system integrators to build custom solutions as per the customer’s requirements without having to worry about different power supplies with different power ratings for each device.
There are several PoE products available in the market which can be easily searched. Once the requirements of the customer are known, one can make a choice of vendor and budgetary limitations to put together an appropriate solution.
Following paragraphs illustrate various considerable points as an example for using campus security:
Basic campus security requirements and the driving forces behind them
24/ 7 school/ college curriculums necessitate authorities to revisit campus security requirements such as:
- Increase in on-campus crime rates due to various factors,
- Different and unique requirements for different departments within the same campus,
- Managing policies across multiple infrastructures are increasingly complex,
- Troubleshooting is extremely tedious and time consuming if a unifying system integration plan is not put into place at the very beginning of the project, and
- Ongoing daily maintenance and upkeep of devices and network infrastructure.
Other essential campus considerations
- Centralized cloud-based management that becomes important when one has to manage several campuses at the same time.
- Security which becomes critical when all campuses are tied together through the cloud as a single security breach can wormhole itself to all campuses.
- PoE devices which act as a unifying technology at the base level of the security architecture.
- Multi-gigabit backbones for future easy expansion as the campus and infrastructure size increases.
- MAC-level communication encryption between all switches and compute/ storage devices in the network infrastructure.
The above diagram shows many components that go into building a security solution. This is more from a hardware perspective and shows a typical layout. A key point to note is the firewall and the WAN connection with outside of the campus. This WAN could connect to other campuses, or to the cloud that connects to other campuses or to both. Special attention needs to be paid to this particular component of the system. Several security techniques are available out in the market to make this point of the network achieve the highest possible security breach block.
Challenges and approaches to a viable campus security solution
- Making a detailed plan as per infrastructure/ campus requirements
- Making the plan fit into the budgetary limitations. This will be the biggest challenge as some compromises will have to be made.
- Selection of network, access control and other peripheral device vendors, and finally the software that unifies all these diverse components. A network vendor provides a Network OS responsible for the security and management of various network components. A video management system (VMS) provides the other backbone software around which all other PoE driven devices are connected to. This becomes very critical as the VMS can be looked upon as the other OS which acts as a unifying piece of software. Together the ‘network OS’ and the ‘VMS OS’ constitute the bulk of the software with a communication channel between them.
- The VMS software must be enterprise class with built in video analytics plus it must have the ability to connect to all the peripheral access devices through an application programming interface (API) and software development kits (SDKs).
- The VMS software must have the ability to support several types of IP cameras as well as provide an easy and quick path to integration for all other peripheral access devices.
The illustration above is to depict the critical role the VMS plays in a security system. It is the key backbone software that talks to all other peripheral access systems software. In the above example we have shown automatic license plate recognition along with under vehicle surveillance system at the key entry points into a campus. The VMS in the above case also integrates an existing visitor management system but now enhances it with video and facial recognition. The campus shown is connected through the cloud to other campuses. The cloud component allows remote management and control, and has access to machine learning and artificial intelligence, and machine learning components of Azure/ WATSON. Any cloud service could be used in implementing a custom solution to the growing needs of campuses as the technology is available today.
In nut shell, while implementing campus security, PoE technology plays a key role in connecting all devices because of its ability to carry electrical power over great distances. PoE repeaters can be used to extend beyond 100 meters. PoE is a game changer as far as reducing the overall installation and cabling costs are concerned. The given diagrams for illustration are used to highlight the 4 key components and their relationship with each other – they are network hardware and software, compute/ storage hardware and software, the VMS software and the other OS that play a key role in integrating all the peripheral access devices, and finally the importance of cloud connectivity for overall ease in control and management of the various sites/ campuses.
Pgm Security Group INTL