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How DC Power and IoT Technology Will Revolutionize Your Next Building

May 28, 2020

The architectural and building development landscape is always changing to adapt to peoples’ needs and wants. For example, due to recent global events, building occupants have heightened concerns regarding air quality, cleanliness and occupancy. Monitoring and controlling these metrics will be a driving factor in determining organizations’ success in the coming months. A digitally connected building is the ideal platform for providing timely, validated metrics to building owners and occupants.

As new buildings and renovation projects alike focus on customization, automation, and an emphasis on renewable energy and sustainability, there is a growing need for solutions that are cutting-edge, cost-effective and one-of-a-kind.

Incorporating PoE solutions, IoT technology and DC power distribution in buildings helps achieve those key objectives. Igor recently worked on a building project with two revolutionary companies: VoltServer, a modern electricity vendor specializing in DC power, and Baird, Hampton & Brown (BHB), an engineering firm known for their innovative approach to new building designs.

The collaboration between Igor, VoltServer and BHB proved that, together, forward-thinking organizations can implement radical sustainability practices, ultra-efficient DC power distribution and other unprecedented smart building solutions that foster occupant confidence and productivity.

What is DC Power?

Direct current (DC) power differs from alternating current (AC) power. Virtually all municipal power grids deliver AC power to commercial and residential buildings through power lines. While there were disputes early on over which type of electricity system was better, AC power was eventually favored because it was better for carrying high voltages over long distances.

However, AC power must be transformed into lower voltages for customer use, and it is not easy to run AC power in the same channels as data. Installing traditional AC powered appliances requires entirely different skills, tradespeople and materials compared to installing IoT devices. A new framework is needed to integrate the disparate “silos” of security, safety, energy and IT onto one common platform. The solution is data-enabled, safe DC power distribution.

Equipment manufacturers have already, quietly, made the transition from AC to DC power. Air conditioners, refrigerators, microwave ovens, LED lighting and IT devices immediately convert the AC “grid” power at the plug because DC is the most flexible medium for appliance operation and efficiency. Renewable energy sources like wind and PV solar panels already operate on DC power, and long distance DC power transmission has become much more efficient.

Extra hardware components are required to make the conversion back and forth from AC to DC, and energy is always lost in the conversion. The main reason AC power is still widely used is due to legacy compatibility issues that hinder a faster transition to DC power solutions. As more applications for DC power in buildings emerge, there will be a growing shift toward more efficient, sustainable and customizable buildings.

VoltServer: Enabling DC Power Distribution in Buildings

Because of this focus on efficiency, renewable energy and intelligent building devices, new electricity vendors, such as VoltServer, have emerged in recent years. These companies are revolutionizing the power distribution industry with innovative new solutions. VoltServer’s platform, Digital Electricity™, enables the distribution of electricity in natively digital format. Digital Electricity™ has the power capability of traditional AC, but the safety and ease of use of low voltage DC while traveling side-side with data.

VoltServer’s electricity platform delivers power to buildings efficiently and reliably. Their method is also safer, it installs rapidly without electrical conduit and it is easily modified. This slashes labor costs, reduces time for installation and helps minimize materials costs. Overall, Digital Electricity™ is more efficient and more cost-effective than traditional electrical installations.

VoltServer’s progressive solution takes the concept and benefits of direct current power to the next level by supplying power digitally, allowing further innovation for IoT and PoE technology applications.

Combining DC power with IoT Technology Applications

Digital Electricity™ utilizes advanced transmitters and receivers to distribute electrical energy efficiently and reliably throughout a building without the use of a traditional electrical infrastructure. This solution also allows for seamless integration with PoE switches and IoT devices.

Igor’s relationship with VoltServer made sense from the start. Combining VoltServer’s power distribution method with Igor’s PoE solutions creates limitless opportunities for advanced smart building technology applications, including IoT lighting, security cameras, asset tracking, door locks, thermostats, automated window shades and more.

The VoltServer and Igor partnership is on display at The Sinclair Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, a smart hotel project involving a number of innovative vendors. At the Sinclair Hotel, Igor’s PoE lighting devices are connected to VoltServer power transmitters, enabling a connected experience with increased automation and control for hotel staff and guests.

The hospitality industry is just one area seeing revolutionary new applications for IoT and PoE solutions. Smart building technology now reaches into nearly every industry, including education, healthcare, office spaces and more.

Working With Engineering Partners to Integrate DC Power in Buildings

During the Sinclair Hotel project, Igor and VoltServer benefitted from a close relationship with a third partner — Baird, Hampton & Brown (BHB), a North Texas engineering firm. BHB played an essential role in managing various aspects of the project, including electrical solutions, emergency power systems and more.

BHB coordinated the design and implementation with the local authority having jurisdiction and with Underwriters Laboratories. Although this project departed from conventional building practices, all partners were vigilant about adhering to safety codes and guidelines. BHB helped implement a UL labeled energy storage system that provides emergency power to the elevators, smoke exhaust fans, fire alarm system and lighting in the building. There was some skepticism surrounding the viability of PoE and DC power for emergency systems, but BHB proved that designs can depart from traditional AC grid power and still meet required safety standards.

In addition, Igor’s patented central emergency backup system is UL 924 certified. As the first PoE-based solution to receive this distinction, Igor is well equipped to power emergency lighting and related smart devices.

Innovators looking for more direct current uses will find a practical connection between PoE technology and DC power. PoE has nearly limitless applications when paired with DC power, especially when vendors partner with innovative engineering firms like BHB. These firms are invaluable partners, helping cutting-edge building projects reach their full potential.

A building partner such as an engineering firm like BHB, can manage the relationships between PoE, IoT and other smart building technology vendors, maximizing a project’s efficiency and helping it stay on track. When a firm truly understands the potential of PoE and DC power, fewer vendors are needed overall because the firm’s team can handle much of the planning and installation themselves.

5 Benefits of Direct Current: Using Connected Technology and DC Power in Buildings to Elevate the Experience

1. Direct Current Powers Premium Features

There is a logical relationship between DC power and connectivity features. Because so many modern electronic devices use DC power, it makes sense to turn away from conventional AC power and turn to direct current to power premium features such as automated window shades, custom lighting and programmable thermostats.

Installing devices like these can make your business run smoothly and more efficiently, and they make the building experience more enjoyable and more accessible for anyone who uses the space. The added convenience and comfort will encourage people to return to the building again and again. All premium features, big or small, can have a huge impact on building occupants and the overall experience in the space.

2. A More Tailored Experience for Building Occupants

With DC power and PoE solutions, it’s easy to connect devices and control them from a central hub or dashboard. This enables a more convenient, tailored experience for occupants. For example, PoE shower sensors allow guests to precisely control the water temperature in a smart hotel bathroom. PoE lighting allows users to customize numerous light qualities, including warmth, brightness and color. When PoE lighting is connected to an IoT platform, such as Nexos by Igor, users can program adjustments according to room occupancy, time of day or a number of other control factors.

3. Focus on Sustainability with DC Power

Moving away from traditional AC power means moving toward sustainability and efficiency. One of the greatest benefits of direct current power is the ability to eliminate the energy waste inherent in power conversion. DC power also allows for a shift toward renewable energy sources. For example, solar panels generate DC energy. When electrical energy is stored in batteries, it’s typically stored as DC power.

DC power is growing in popularity, and many developers are starting to invest in new buildings with a focus on converged IP connected energy and data platforms that enable renewable energy, sustainable electricity and efficient power storage. These innovative projects attract top industry talent and valuable partners, like Igor, VoltServer and BHB, who are willing to go above and beyond in order to make progressive choices for the space.

4. Increasing Potential for Net-Zero Energy Buildings

The future of DC power and sustainable solutions is net-zero energy buildings. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy defines zero energy buildings as buildings that consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period.

There are very few zero energy buildings in existence, but achieving net-zero energy in commercial and residential buildings is increasingly achievable with modern technology solutions. It’s a remarkable feat and an ambitious goal for anyone interested in building a revolutionary sustainable structure. These projects require building owners with a bold vision and contractors willing to comply with progressive net-zero best practices during the design and construction process.

5. Connected Spaces Enhance Productivity and Profitability

Not only is DC power more efficient for powering devices within a building, it also enables enhanced efficiency and productivity for building occupants. Providing building users with a customizable environment makes them more comfortable and more likely to enjoy the time they spend there.

  • For hospitality settings, this means increased guest satisfaction and brand loyalty. If you provide a unique, tailored experience, they’ll stay with you again and again because they can’t get that anywhere else.
  • For office buildings, this means increased performance as employees are happier and more productive.
  • For schools, this means students are more focused and engaged with lesson content. There are also many advanced options for keeping students and staff safe in the event of a severe weather event or other emergency.
  • For all building spaces, this means creating an ideal environment for occupants, offering optimized comfort, convenience and customization options.

Always weigh these benefits against the upfront cost of funding and installing cutting-edge technology in a building. Investing in smart building technology provides a one-of-a-kind experience for occupants and adds immeasurable value to your building.

The Need For Building Flexibility in Today’s World

Across industries, businesses have recently enhanced their remote work capabilities due to the COVID-19 crisis. This rapid shift occurred out of necessity, but the coming months will reveal important insights about organizations’ willingness and ability to implement permanent work from home policies.

As remote work becomes more prevalent, employers may find themselves needing smaller office spaces but larger capacity for connectivity. Employees may have less predictable schedules in the office, so IoT-based access control systems can help management keep track of who has entered the building. There may be an increased need for occupancy tracking so leaders can ensure facilities are at an appropriate capacity and are being routinely cleaned based on usage.

Occupancy sensors can also help ensure employees have enough available space to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Automation and scheduling options may be used to optimize office spaces, increasing employee comfort and productivity while allowing for staggered shifts. Occupants can receive automated data about CO2 levels, air exchange rate and filter changes without relying on in-person updates. This enables feelings of safety and confidence in their work environment.

Customized, connected office spaces will also become an important perk to attract new talent. Business owners should focus on creating spaces that support employees in ways a home office can’t, such as high-tech meeting rooms and workstations. If people are able to work remotely, they want their office to offer an environment that is more comfortable and customizable than their home.

How to Talk to Your Architectural Firm About DC Power and IoT

When you’re working on your next building project, explore your options and identify a firm with experience integrating IoT and PoE technology into building infrastructure. Ask them about projects where they have utilized DC power solutions and advocated for sustainable electricity options.

Identify your future occupants’ needs, and articulate what solutions you’d like to see within the building. A progressive firm like BHB will work with you to make decisions that are cost-effective and sustainable. If they’re really innovative, they’ll offer exciting ideas you haven’t even considered.

Creating the Buildings of the Future

Smart building technology has come far in recent years, and it’s evolving constantly. If you’re a building owner, these solutions are within your grasp. You can join this smart building revolution by creating visionary spaces full of practical technology solutions. The experts at Igor, VoltServer and BHB are eager to see PoE, IoT and DC power among the new industry standards for building design and construction.

Contact Us to Learn More About DC Power and PoE Solutions

Igor’s work with VoltServer and BHB is just the beginning. Igor is committed to supporting sustainable projects and enabling innovative solutions for energy conservation in new buildings and renovations. Reach out to us to learn more or to collaborate on your next building project.

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