Lisa L. Isaacson (NuLEDs) and Michael S. O’Boyle (Philips Lighting) discussed power over Ethernet (PoE) systems at the National Lighting Bureau’s Annual Lighting Forum during a session called “Illuminating the Future, Part One”. Randy Reid (EdisonReport) moderated.

According to Isaacson and O’Boyle, PoE differs from conventional DC networks in that the cabling used can carry both power and communications signals, much as a smart phone that receives both power and communications signals when it is connected to a computer via a universal serial bus (USB) connector.

Being able to rely on one cable network for all connected devices permits connected devices to communicate with one another, evolving into an “Internet of things” (IoT) inside each building where the technology is used, and to communicate with other systems and other buildings, to as wide an area as desired. It also enables users to communicate with their lighting, using a smart phone and an app, to increase or decrease the amount of electrical illumination being provided, or to change the color of its output.

The panelists noted that PoE will not eliminate the need for conventional AC circuitry, but it will eliminate the need for AC power transformation when it comes to power for electronic devices. Both panelists also expressed confidence that PoE will likely be installed routinely in the near-term future, not only because of the versatility it provides, but also because it is safer to handle: Line-voltage AC can cause fatal accidents; low-voltage DC is much safer. PoE systems will also become less costly to install, Ms. Isaacson said, because less installation labor is involved. Right now, the cost to install a conventional system or a PoE system is about the same, because PoE’s installation-labor savings are offset by higher equipment costs. As more competitors enter the market, and as the equipment becomes more widely available, equipment prices will fall, so that wiring a building with both PoE and AC, where needed, will cost less than wiring a building with AC alone.