Streaming 4K UHD Content

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This is a follow-up to my previous article regarding designing and installing native 4K UHD A/V equipment. I encountered more technical issues that may surprise you.

If you read my previous article, you were introduced to the challenges involved with pushing a native 4K UHD HDR10 signal 40′ to a projector. After my A/V setup was complete, we began to notice the audio would consistently get ahead of the video, causing a sync problem that was thoroughly annoying. I found that if I paused and re-started the stream, it would re-sync and then would gradually worsen again. After weeks of troubleshooting the previous issues, this was perplexing and overwhelming. Then it occurred to me, with all the focus on A/V equipment, I had totally lost track of the network data component of streaming this content.

Here I was trying push potentially 18 gbps of data over an A/V cable, when my home network only supported 1 gbps! You might ask, how could these numbers possibly work? That answer (after some research) became: cached data streams and buffered streaming devices. My ISP wired our neighborhood for fiber awhile back, providing plenty of data bandwidth from the source, but I had ignored my home network from the ONT device at the service entrance forward. After research, I realized that my two year old router was hopelessly inadequate for streaming 4K. The latest routers have a 2.5 gbps WAN port to connect your modem/ONT, instead of the older standard 1 gbps. In addition, the newer home router tech (WiFi 6) devices do a better job of supporting multiple independent data streams. The new wireless WiFi standard itself is not the advantage, it is the increased processing throughput and caching capability of the hardware needed to support it. Our new router is not the top-of-the-line today and it is rated at 12 gbps of total data throughput across all data streams. Who would have thought your home router would need to be defined in this way? When your router can manage multiple large data streams more effectively, you have dealt with a big part of your battle streaming 4K programming. As my old router did, yours may be capable of Quality of Service (QoS) prioritization and yes, the feature was developed to address this challenge… but it alone will not be enough.

The final piece to this puzzle was… once again, the cable tech. We converted all cabling on my network to CAT 6 a couple years ago. I had no idea the tech had reached CAT 8. CAT 6 was rated at 10 gbps up to 100m, now CAT 8 is rated at 40 gbps up to 24m. In retrospect, if there was a manufacturer that offered a HDMI 2.1 Balun solution supporting copper CAT 8, I would have chosen it over the fiber-optic cable option. Instead, we just accepted the situation and upgraded once again, to CAT 8 cabling.

My video/audio sync issue is resolved now and I have learned a little more about the challenges of 4K UHD HDR10 tech. For a little more perspective, our home theater generates a true 4K image on a 12′ screen via projector. This is not your typical 75″ 4K TV located 6′ from your streaming device. While the number of pixels may be the same, somehow the amount of raw data required to support this true 4K projector at this image size is different.

Before I started this 1080P to 4K 2160P home theater upgrade, I had thought this would be easy. Who would have guessed there would be so many challenges! This tech has been promoted, sold and installed for several years now. I have come to believe the challenges were as much related to the 2160P pixel format, as the HDR10 color gamut and 24 bit HD audio. The data stream required is astronomical compared to the more common 1 gbps thinking today. It would seem, this is the window for professional services… just, how can you market services to a potential customer that has no idea they need it?

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4K Content is Here! Has the Equipment Tech Caught Up?

I recently setup a native 4K UHD HDR-10 projector with Dolby 7.2 24 bit sound AND WOW! what a nightmare. I thought a few of you out there would be interested in what I learned, should you try this yourselves. Please Note: I am starting with the assumption that all of your devices will support ALL current A/V tech.

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Understanding the Tech Standards IS Important!

HDMI 2.0

  • Data Transmission Speed: 18 Gbps
  • Important Protocol Support: HDCP 2.2, CEC, 4K Video @ 60Hz, 4:2:0 Chroma, Simultaneous UHD Audio & Video

HDMI 2.0b

  • Data Transmission Speed: 18 Gbps
  • Important Protocol Support: HDCP 2.2, CEC, 4K Video @ 60Hz, 4:2:2 Chroma, Simultaneous UHD Audio & Video, HDR-10, HLG, eARC

HDMI 2.1

  • Data Transmission Speed: 48 Gbps
  • Important Protocol Support: HDCP 2.2, CEC, 4K Video @ 120Hz, 8K @ 60Hz, 4:4:4 Chroma, Simultaneous UHD Audio & Video, HDR-12, HLG, eARC, Metadata Support

Reference pieces explaining standards here: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/what-is-hdmi-2-0b/ and https://community.cedia.net/blogs/david-meyer/2018/05/16/hdmi-data-rates-for-4k-hdr

Tech Perspective

The fastest readily available Ethernet (IP Network) data standard only carries 1 Gbps. So, how do we even connect these devices? There are only two data cabling technologies available today that can support this at distances greater than 15 ft. (by my trial & error): HDBaseT (Ethernet with Baluns) up to HDMI 2.0b sort of, or Fiber-Optic up to HDMI 2.1 sort of… The HDMI 2.1 standard currently only requires support for up to 3 meters.

Neither of these technologies is the complete answer AND yes, be prepared for problems at distances greater than 15 ft. Theoretical data bandwidths are just that: theoretical. I struggled for 10 days to find a cost-effective solution to push the signal 40 ft, without too much loss. I will preface this discussion with one comment:

  • If your budget is unlimited, none of this is a problem. Just hire a qualified A/V Integrator (not Best Buy) and let them wrestle with the design… spend $3K on your data solution and another $2K for expert setup/calibration (install extra), on top of the A/V Receiver, Projector, Streaming Devices and Sound System.

One more item, before I start. The support for the additional protocols DOES MATTER. Data bandwidth only gets you so far… The devices will need two-way communication for device authentication and a handshake. Without it, you could have no signal at worst, lost functionality at best.

Now, to share what I discovered…

Optimal 4K UHD Video with Dolby 7.2 Sound at 40 ft?

As you get started, two things will blow your mind:

  • The data standards for 4K are still mostly bleeding-edge tech (painful).
  • The product claims made are mostly GIGO (garbage in-garbage out). In other words: BS.

Knowing what product info & specs to trust will be a huge hurdle to overcome. For example, I purchased several low-cost signal amplifiers, before I found one that works. Be prepared to purchase some signal transmission solutions more than once…

I chose a fiber-optic cable solution (8K@60Hz Video) OVER HDBaseT (up to 4K@60Hz Video). Not sure that was the best choice, but I was hoping to future-proof my installation for 8K video in the future. This was also supposed to eliminate the potential for electro-magentic (EMI), or radio frequency (RFI) interference. Regardless of the technology itself being immune to this interference, I tried wrapping all power and data cables with EMI/RFI shielding copper foil. It actually helped. Tells you how much interference is generated by all of this equipment. To give you an idea, I had to add a new 20A circuit to my electrical panel to support the current draw of all the home theater devices I deploy. This took hours to wrap the cables, but was worth it. Next, the signal amplifier. Forget the in-line devices, they are throw-aways, regardless of manufacturers’ claims, or Projector/TV recommendations. After trying several, I purchased a hard-powered version and it DID make a difference. Certainly not to the extent the manufacturer claimed, but it did help. Be careful to buy a model that supports at least HDMI 2.0b. Finally, the cable. Fiber-optic cables are not ready for 4K@60 Hz HDR-10 UHD at 40′ plus. Mine does not handshake well with my other devices. There is a new standard coming for cables that have a fiber-optic core surrounded by a copper wire sheath. This type of cable segregates the data for video and audio (using the fiber-optic tech) from the two-way conventional analog data (via the copper). This will be required for complete UHD system compatibility/inter-operability, until all UHD A/V equipment is standardized around fiber tech. If you wait another 6-12 months, I am sure these cables will become more commonplace.

Settings

This would seem like a no-brainer, but none of these devices will automatically detect the signal type AND your final video/audio solution will only be as good as the weakest link in all connected devices. I had to modify settings on EVERY device to support the spec of my weakest device: 4K@60Hz, 8 bit HDR, HLG, 4:2:2 Chroma with 7.2 channel sound. I also had to make sure my streaming devices were setup for Wake-Up-On-LAN (WOL). Basically, a sleep with wake-up setting. Always-on data settings flat did not work. Once the signal dropped you had to cycle power to bring it back with this setting. My projector only had one HDMI port that supported HDCP 2.2 and it was port #2. Make sure you check your port capabilities – it is an easy thing to overlook. Finally, check to see if your A/V Receiver and Projector/TV is capable of up-scaling 480/720/1080 signals. I would suggest turning this off on your A/V receiver and let your Projector/TV handle all signal mod. The signal loss from the A/V receiver to perform the signal upgrade was too large for my system and I would lose the picture when it was turned on.

Conclusion

In the end, it was well worth it. The difference from my HDMI 1.4 1080P@60Hz system was so dramatic, it was shocking. It was a real challenge though and for several days, we had no picture, until I could work all this out. I was able to connect all equipment at under $500 my cost. Upgrading the Projector, A/V Receiver and Streaming Devices did cost around $6K. Of course, there is a whole different discussion that could be had about Receiver and Projector features/tech vs. price. We can save that for another time…

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Consultative Selling: The Key to New Client Acquisition

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This is a reasonable process map for the BtB sales cycle & pipeline management. It touches on opportunity analysis and sales strategy, where my passion lies. In this piece, I will build the case for a particular business model in the electronic security space, but it could apply to any automated controls business.

Struggling to Build a Footprint in Mature Markets

We are 20 years past the day when cold-calling would discover large numbers of end-users/owners without an electronic security solution. Today, capturing new clients depends on your effectiveness at differentiating the company and communicating a value proposition. I have seen several integrators successfully build a clientele through traditional superior service and relationship methods, but the long sales cycle can be torturous and the start-up investment in a new geographical market may be prohibitive for many businesses.

Creating Demand and Business Development

If a company does not have a component of the sales force focusing on capturing additional market share, it is slowly failing through attrition. From personal experience, I see many businesses that believe sales people build market share by prospecting. This route requires true relationship builders, a trait difficult to find in the majority of sales people.

Market Needs Analysis and Education-Based Solutions Selling

The first rule of Solutions Selling: Find the Pain Points and the Underlying Need. What I find interesting about this approach is: the pain/need is not required to be the buyer’s. This approach with automated systems has been strengthened by the growing importance of Information Systems and Data Security in all organizations. A Buyer of security products/services (i.e. a Security Director), may not be aware of how their systems affect the company’s LAN/WAN, data security, personnel management, or administrative expense. Deeper investigation and discovery can uncover related organizational needs the Buyer wasn’t aware of, hence… Education Based Solutions Selling. Educating the Buyer on Best Practices for security management and system design can make you an integral member of the client’s team and bring you an introduction to the C-Suite for planning and budgeting activities.

Can You Listen?

I had an interesting question from a dealer yesterday, “Do you see growth in demand for integrating access control with video surveillance?” Take a look at an article written for an influential organization in the industry and it illustrates my point, at this link:

video surveillance / access control integration report

A person on our team answered this question with *no* and in-fact expressed the opinion that an access/video integration was unnecessary. I couldn’t help myself. All that ASIS certification study had to be put to use… This was a perfect opportunity to discuss “Best Practices”, not market demand. Video verification of access/alarm events is a key component of security operations and investigations. This has even greater importance on sites that deploy 24/7 manned security. The problem here is, very few security dealers bother to educate their clients to understand the importance, result: low demand! Actually, I could make an even stronger case for access/intrusion integration. Any site utilizing virtual alarm mapping with real-time monitoring could benefit. I specified a system a few years back with such capability and with the addition of a mobile app for the guard service, reduced the school district’s guard force by nearly half with faster response times as a result!

The Frustration of Lost Opportunity

Every presentation, every meeting, every interaction with a client is an opportunity to add value. The “Me-Too” salesperson sells the status quo. The salesperson looking to find “The Underlying Need” not recognized – via training and experience IS the market “differentiator”. Yes, complexity adds to deployment difficulty and expense, but what is the cost of poor client acquisition?

Consultative Selling

Using integrated solutions like these, or database integration, or network hardening… all add value with clients that may not know their businesses would benefit from their deployment. Learn their value and recognize the power of “best practices” selling and a consultative approach to new client acquisition!

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ISC West 2017 – A Study in Lost Opportunity

Future of Physical Security

Regardless of a forward thinking agenda, how can our largest trade organizations (Security Industry Association (SIA) and the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS)) actually influence the direction of the industry toward relevance and growth? Is a shared vision important to our success? Can a trade that is so fragmented survive in it’s current form? I guess I am old school. I still believe in giving back to an industry that has helped support my family for over 30 years. I have no idea who will listen to me, but here it goes…

ISC West 2017

This was a conference marked by forward thinking education in an industry woefully far behind. There were many speakers presenting Cybersecurity topics, but I could not find even ONE CYBERSECURITY RELATED VENDOR on the show floor. This isn’t the fault of SIA, it is a reflection of an industry in denial. This is a trade where the majority of contractors have virtually no understanding of basic threat analysis and risk assessment, so cannot effectively provide a needs-based approach to their clients. Even worse, is  our failure to catch up to the IP network space. Physical Security is an enormously competitive and fractured space. We have Security Contractors, Burglar Alarm Contractors, Security Integrators, Fire Alarm Contractors, Locksmiths, Door Hardware Dealers, Network Contractors, Structured Cabling Contractors, Building Automation Contractors and A-V Contractors all fighting for their slice of the Video Surveillance, Access Control and Intrusion Alarm markets. Which provider is offering the end-user a preferred value message?

The two hottest topics for end-users today is: Cybersecurity and Integrated System Interoperability. Little was shown on the show floor in either of these categories. How could there be such a disconnect between users and manufacturers? Simple… Information Technology is now driving the future of the Physical Security space and no one is willing to accept this truth.

I presented at ISC West with an educational program that included Integration and Cybersecurity topics. Around 40 attended and by show of hand, roughly 35 were I.T. Directors, or I.T. Department Heads of some kind. This same presentation drew over 200 at the Winter National Bicsi (Structured Cabling) Conference in Tampa earlier this year. An I.T. Director approached me after the ISC West presentation and asked if I could refer a Security Contractor that actually new what the “I” and the “T” in I.T. actually stands for!

The Psychology of Failed Business

I have run businesses before. I understand all to well the critical nature of driving revenue and protecting profitability, but if we don’t stop for a second and look-up and forward… we may find the company we thought was humming along has suddenly lost its legs! I realize these are new influencers affecting buying decisions and we don’t know their world… I get these are scary solutions that hold unforeseen margin loss in their depths, but what happens if we do nothing? I will tell you – Physical Protection Systems will become an IP Network (data) function! The concept of “Physical Security” will become a specialty consulting field working for I.T. Directors!

I have been watching fear destroy businesses for almost 20 years now. I have seen macro-economic forces impact businesses (the Great Recession), but also factors that could be controlled, like: material distribution companies that have failed to transition to installation contracting models, or mechanical solutions companies unable to grasp electronics. The examples are all around us today.

IOT, Cloud Computing and Mobile Data

These issues are not going away! Denial is not a business strategy. We all have personal electronics that make it very clear where this is headed. So, stop for a second… and look-up. Train your sales people in I.T. Infrastructure Hardening strategies and Network Data Security. Pursue consultative relationships with your clients. Lead the industry and keep us relevant. If there is anything I can do to assist, please reach out.

If you would like to discuss this, or other topics, please contact me via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at my LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be a personal professional blog. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

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#ISCWest Education Session

If you are attending #ISCWest, please stop by room 307 and join me for the session: Information Security Convergence: Defining a New Business Model. See you there!

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Trends in F500 Business Practice

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Generations Y & Millenials

As large corporations struggle with changing demographics affecting both their workforce and clients, younger generations Y and Millenials are bringing different attitudes and values to the workplace. In response, large corporations are experimenting with unconventional business practice. I see the struggle with effective motivation, leadership and how to define success and failure in this new environment. Where is this headed? Could companies be changing practices critical to profitable operation, rather than simply modifying work environments? Basic and reliable business principles are being overlooked in this transition. I see deliberate movement towards consensus decision making, homogenization, and continuity as being more highly valued than creativity, initiative and personal achievement.

Emerging Non-Traditional Business Practice

There are advantages to this thinking. In a new world of teams spread geographically, and/or highly specialized roles asked to contribute to team outcomes… we need more modern rules of engagement. The problem is: managers are now being asked to implement traditional business principles utilizing non-traditional business practice. How is individual performance measured in this environment and when do goals translate into profits? In the end, moving Op Profit dollars to the bottom line is the job of every business.

In a career that has comprised positions with F500 size corporations only in the last 12 years, I have seen this perspective change gradually. The Buck-Stops-Here Leader and rewards for Thought Leadership are becoming incompatible with these new organizational philosophies. As companies grow and reach F500 size today, is candidate acquisition changing to limit personnel searches to only those with the ability to succeed on narrowly defined terms? Will there be room for unique talents and insights? This narrowing of vision is moving sales and customer service management strategies towards a controlling and rigid mindset and a perversion of recent management theory has supervisors driving a mantra requiring front-line employees to be “on-mission” and “on-message” at all times. I see managers guiding business development towards strategies that may only be implemented, if reproducible across the entire organization.  Can flexible consultative sales strategies survive this trend? This employment environment is asking for an entirely different set of skills than was sought 15 – 25 years ago, when Tom Peters and Peter Drucker were the major business thought leaders. At times, I wonder if the ideas “people do business with people” and “what cannot be measured, cannot be managed” can survive?

Acquisition & Consolidation Factors

Is corporate acquisition and consolidation building organizations so large that HR Business Theory is being forced to overreact to these generational changes? Can the marketplace see the value in companies being nimble and opportunistic again… trumping economies of scale and logistics as business drivers?

Impact on Corporate Culture

I have struggled with many of the forces driving these changes, even when working for small business. Implementing new Gen Y & Millenial management ideas will change company cultures. Can successful companies survive this re-imagining? In past years, this type of business environment would just accelerate company failures and start-ups, but today in our “too large to fail” world… does that consequence disappear?

If you would like to discuss this, or other topics, please contact me via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at my LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be a personal professional blog. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

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Impact of Disruptive Tech on Business and the Workforce

Is Working Hard Good Enough?

We all have a tendency to keep our head down and live in our own discipline, or trade, ignoring the impact of related technologies and/or related industries. After all, most of us were taught focus = results. Here is the rub: what if while we are focusing on succeeding with the business at hand, our technology becomes outdated, or another industry finds a way to deliver the same product/service more efficiently? Whole industries have disappeared almost overnight, because of a failure to keep our heads up and look at the marketplace around us. I can think of many examples: typewriters, roll photographic film, rotary phones, etc. The Information Technology space likes to call these emerging product/solution categories – “disruptive technologies”. Have you stopped to consider the impact of disruptive technologies on your industry?

Service businesses aside, manufacturing, distribution and supply/installation models are being heavily impacted by disruptive technologies. The most evident example is the effect of web-connected cloud & mobile IP data communication on virtually every electro-mechanical product made today. As little as 20 years ago automation was very expensive. Automating processes required numerous relays and/or logic circuits… occupied too much space and could not offer inexpensive remote management. Today, virtually any device can easily connect to a data network via IP solutions. You can incorporate a NIC (network interface card) an Ethernet Jack or WiFi Antenna in almost any product/device today. Some simple examples that are very real today:

  • I met a diabetic recently that uses a bar code scanner installed in his refrigerator connected to his home network to keep track of dietary requirements and create shopping lists. Could you imagine your fridge connected to your home network? What if the average person used a similar solution to automate ordering groceries over the internet? How would that change the retail grocery industry?
  • The devices connected to just my personal home network that can be remotely controlled by my smart phone/tablet are: cable TV box, thermostat, door entry lock, light fixtures… How do you think that functionality is changing those industries?

Internet of Things (IoT) & Change

This tech discussed above is part of a broader category called the Internet of Things (IoT). It is estimated that 3 billion new IP addresses will be required by the general public by 2020 to accommodate consumer demand for this automation. Have you taken a moment to think about how this emerging trend/technology is affecting the company you work for? Your chosen industry? Will your career training effectively enable you to weather these changes?

Maintaining a Successful Career in the New Paradigm

I had to re-train myself twice in my career. Once in the mid 1990’s to move from mechanical to electronic security and again in the mid 2000’s when analog data and serial network solutions were superseded by digital data, HD video and IP networks. IOT has the potential to cause another such disruptive age for technology. In the physical security systems industry our next challenge will be to learn encryption strategies and hardening of infrastructure. This change will affect more than just one product category. How do career professionals face such a challenging landscape? The new needed attribute will be a focus on life-long learning and the flexibility to change. Certainly, universities are testing too much on knowledge and not enough on skill-sets that can enable nimble, flexible workers in a future labor force. Knowledge-based testing should be the role of trade organizations offering industry specific certifications, NOT institutions of higher learning.

Welcome to a new age, when the criteria for hiring in tech based fields has to change. I just hope we can all keep up…

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Re-Imagining Low-Voltage Power Distribution

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In my work activities, I often feel constrained by conventional expectations, similar to the idea depicted above in this cartoon. The so-called “Real World” factors limiting our ability to implement outside-the-box thinking… but for one morning, I am going to throw that barrier away and bring you into the realm of the possible, when RE-IMAGINED…

Delivering Low-Voltage Power Via Network Cabling

Power-over-ethernet (PoE) is a technology that was first commercially deployed not quite 15 years ago. At the time, it was very limited in application and very few saw the real potential. I just recently returned from the Fall Bicsi (www.bicsi.org) Conference in San Antonio and discovered that potential realized.

Lab research and testing has proven that CAT 6a 23 ga. cabling is capable of delivering up to 140 Watts of power AND IP data, without dangerous radiant heat levels, or data loss. A new cable category with an associated UL listing has been released called Limited Power Cable (marked: CMP-LP). This cable is listed with options based on temperature and amp ratings. Why should you care? Re-imagine the future of IoT (click – Internet of Things) appliances and their application…

Powering IP Addressable Devices with Ultimate Flexibility

Devices capable of being powered by up to 140 Watts would include:

  • Laptop Computers
  • HD Displays & TV’s
  • LED Lighting
  • Phones
  • Thermostats
  • Speakers & Microphones
  • Security Cameras & Access Devices
  • Intelligent IP Controllers
  • WiFi (& other tech) Data Access Points
  • IP Relays & Switches
  • Small Electro-Mechanical Motors & Solenoids
  • You get the idea…

How would using PoE to power these devices make a difference in your life?

AUTOMATION!

All Electronics Connected Via IP Data

Think of the flexibility of powering devices by cable, rather than electrical outlets… IP Addressable devices could be moved anywhere on a whim (click – Web of Things) and controlled from personal devices (i.e. watches, smart phones, tablets). Automating remote access to your network security, lighting controls, heating & cooling controls, access & video security devices, intercoms… think even more granular… your stereo & home theater, alarm clock, etc.

PoE Impacts Carbon Footprint & Sustainable Energy Solutions

If you have any concerns about fossil fuel depletion, global warming, or just resource management and cost… think PoE! If any of you live in a neighborhood where the local electrical utility has started installing intelligent meters… you should be aware of the energy savings of MANAGED power distribution.

Transformers & Power Loss

Every building in the U.S. currently uses un-managed step-down transformers to change power from The Electrical Grid to usable low-voltage current for small devices. These transformers deliver as little as 2% efficiency, in terms of power consumption versus actual use. They draw grid power continuously, lose up to 20% of the current upon conversion and dissipate large amounts of heat in the process. Additional air conditioning capacity is required to account for transformer heat-gain in warm climate areas.

PoE is MANAGED Power Distribution!

By definition, PoE switches offer cost-effective power management. These appliances can utilize software to auto-negotiate voltage levels and deliver power only when required in the specific amounts needed for each use. Many PoE appliances are up to 98% efficient in terms of overall current utilization.

PoE Compatibility with Sustainable Energy Generation

The sustainability goal for many buildings being designed today has been to lower dependence on The Grid. It is very common for buildings to be constructed with Solar and Wind generation options to lower dependence on power utilities and reduce operating costs. Alternative sustainable energy sources must produce power in a Direct Current (DC) format. This power is then typically converted to Alternating Current (AC) for use in building power distribution. That conversion causes the loss of up to 20% of the power originally generated! If the architectural & engineering community is to design with efficient sustainable energy strategies, they must consider including DC Mini-Grid solutions. This would allow direct utilization of DC power produced by sustainable power generation sources. PoE is a DC format power distribution technology – eliminating the need for power conversion.

Barriers to PoE Adoption

Only recently have modern building codes begun to address formalizing PoE technology as acceptable power distribution. The next issuance of the National Electrical Code (2017 NEC) will codify PoE solutions and define them as Class 2 & 3 circuits. Electrical engineers will have to stamp design documents with PoE solutions soon and building code officials will be required to familiarize themselves with this new technology. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has already begun defining PoE circuits as part of their scope of work. Classifying PoE as Class 2 circuits (or greater)  will cause state contractor licensing boards to begin requiring low-voltage licensing for trade contractors installing PoE solutions. Electrical, cabling and low-voltage contractors are jockeying to include this new power distribution technology in their scopes of work.

What Will Personal Device Automation Look Like in the Future?

The definition of “Smart Home” will change with the advent of this technology. There will be an explosion of “Internet of Things” (IOT) devices in the home and personal electronic devices will control them all. Others, with imaginations much more active than mine, will have to build that vision for the future. My mind is unable to fathom that reality 10-15 years from now. Rest assured, we will all be struggling to re-learn new ways of interacting with our devices and ultimately even our communities. This enhanced connectivity will allow real-time TWO-WAY communication via web-connected devices. I don’t know about you, but I just decided to spend only an extra $20/month to purchase an additional 1 TB/s of bandwidth from my internet service provider (ISP). Unlimited data pipe to my house and all of these future devices!

If you would like to discuss this, or other security topics, please contact him via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at his LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or his Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be my personal professional blog. The content reflects my personal opinions and observations regarding the Physical Security Systems industry and Technology Sectors. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

Posted in Power Distribution, Technology, Technology Convergence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

System Design Best Practices for Consulting Engineers

unleash cartoon

The disconnect between design professionals and their clients has been an aspect of project delivery that I have lived with most of my career. I never truly understood the cause, but I understand better now… in retrospect. My recent consulting activities have brought me a seat at the table with the Owner and their design professionals much earlier than I experienced previously: as early as program development. The new insights have changed my entire perspective of the project design process. I have learned how important it is, letting go of the need for control and cutting the metaphorical leash we sometimes unknowingly impose. We are compensated for our experience, knowledge and judgement, but these must facilitate the design process, not dominate it. Be confident, relinquishing control to a project team will produce better communication and more desirable results.

Developing a Design PROCESS as a Consulting Engineer

End-Users and Architects hire design consultants to provide expertise. Our ability to apply that expertise is significantly impacted by the level of familiarity with the Client’s organization. Depending on the time available, we often face the problem of accepting contributing information during the discovery process that seems to be incorrect, or at least, represents limited insight. Let’s discuss a different perspective…

  • Discovery and needs assessment is NOT the first step in the system design process. It should be Client EDUCATION!

End-Users  are capable of  making their own decisions when provided access to the knowledge required to do so. I have been amazed at the difference in the quality of project delivery recently when I have required the first design meeting be exclusively focused on Owner education. Reviewing best practices across the country with similar organizations, providing technology education and even product/software demonstrations PRIOR to design has proven to be invaluable in improving the quality of the needs assessment process. This also significantly improves recognition of unique project challenges AND validates prioritization of funding. I believe, the best design delivery comes from educating and then trusting client input!

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Defining System Design as a Solution

I must admit, as a person who enjoys designing with leading edge technology, I do run the risk of being too focused on exciting new features that are changing the industry. The educational process discussed above reinforces the discipline to develop deliverables that address clearly defined needs, not the typical system design in a vacuum that ASSUMES value for the client. Until the problems/needs are properly vetted and validated, it is a waste of time to design solutions that may not be perceived as valuable. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself mistakenly assuming that features I felt provided clear benefits, were not valued by the client after an educational presentation.

Building a Process With Milestones

I spent the time to create my own security design checklists and milestone schedules. I have found them to be invaluable during the client review and approval process. Including an explanation of the design process, goals AND the schedule for completion of tasks adds significantly to a comfort and confidence level built with the end-user. Share the process with the client and the balance of the design team. Understanding your itemized task list will help to enlist their participation, cooperation and support.

Trust Decisions Made in a Team Environment

As a system designer, very often I catch myself prioritizing spend based on best practices and while there is a solid foundation found in this kind of thinking, it does not deal properly with accommodating limited budgets. Sometimes, hard decisions have to be made regarding needed functionality. There are industry specific design guidelines I can reference for many different kinds of projects, but should that really be the criteria? I have learned to place these decisions in a team decision-making environment If the team is under-educated and unable to develop an overview of the topic, I ALWAYS take the time to educate. Yes, sometimes I get push-back and comments about wasting time, but afterwards, the value is almost always recognized. Team discussions like this produce better decisions and help the client to feel their ideas are being included.

Benefits

For those comparing this as an alternative process, think about your experiences with project delivery. I see so many engineers being tasked to design in a vacuum… today, I look back at my early career on the contracting side and wonder whether those systems added value. The quality of my services is the only differentiator I can offer to clients and I am always looking for process improvement.

If you would like to discuss this, or other security topics, please contact me via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at my LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or my Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be my personal professional blog. The content reflects my personal opinions and observations regarding the Physical Security Systems industry and Technology Sectors. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

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How is Security Consulting/System Design Changing?

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Is Security ONE Discipline?

In speaking with end-users, I never cease to be amazed at the expectation for a consultant’s knowledge-base and skill-set. I have been working in physical security for over 30 years and I feel just recently I have begun to grasp the full picture in the overall security category. When I share this observation, the response is often surprise.

Physical Security is impacted by threat assessment, risk analysis, vulnerability assessment, formulation of mitigation strategies, development of processes and procedures, changing technology, network infrastructure, information security, system design, etc. How does one person gain an “expert” level understanding of all these elements?

Who are “Security” Consultants?

  • Physical security threat and vulnerability assessment is often handled by Ex Law Enforcement/Intelligence Personnel.
  • Risk analysis is usually performed by legal counsel and/or insurance actuaries.
  • Mitigation strategies and physical security processes and procedures are best devised by physical security specialists (CPP).
  • Physical protection systems should be designed by security engineers (PSP).
  • Technology management, planning and data infrastructure is best handled by automated systems engineers: Electrical Engineers (EE), Professional Engineers (P.E.), Network Infrastructure Engineers (RCDD).
  • Information security and hardening of data transport should be handled by system software and coding/encryption experts (nod to CISSP).

In even three lifetimes, I am not sure one person could put this kind of experience together.

End-User Discovery & Needs Assessment

The critical developing need is for an individual who has enough experience to provide program management for all these disciplines. I have begun creating design development tools… there are too many related concerns that must be incorporated into integrated security design: checklists, process schedules, best practices review, etc.

Honestly, I am not sure the program manager role would be best handled by my discipline, but then who should it be? Can architects and/or construction managers offer this capability? Maybe, by assembling massive teams… but this approach is not financially viable for any other than the largest projects and corporations. So, which discipline will become the project leader capable of providing a cross-discipline needs assessment and assist in funding prioritization? This may be where some of you can help me? I have seen a new class of consultant pop up, calling themselves “Technology Consultants” and offering design services for ALL low-voltage automated systems (security, fire, A-V, telephony, etc.). These companies are growing out of construction engineering consulting and industrial automation engineering firms.

Convergence

All these different disciplines are growing together, being driven by end-user need. Personally, I have learned more about data technology and security in the last year, than in the previous thirty combined. It has been out of necessity. I am being asked questions by I.T. Directors that I have never heard before:

  • Have your IP controllers been penetration tested?
  • Can your IP controllers support typical network encryption strategies?
  • Are your drivers and firmware using open source-code and if so, has it been properly vetted?????????

Speaking to other security industry professionals here… continuing education is a bigger priority than at any time I can remember. It will be critical to learn not just your area of specialty, but also an overview of related disciplines. Client patience for excuses in this area has been precious little.

If you would like to discuss this, or other security topics, please contact Doug via LinkedIn. Also, take a look at his LinkedIn Discussion Board Security Convergence, or his Twitter feed @DLIPTech.

This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be a personal professional blog. The content reflects my personal opinions and observations regarding the Physical Security Systems industry and Technology Sectors. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.

Posted in Cybersecurity, Data Security, Information Security, Physical Security, Technology, Technology Convergence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment