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AEM expert on providing testing innovation for future-proof Smart Buildings

AEM expert on providing testing innovation for future-proof Smart Buildings

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Modern Smart Buildings have complex physical infrastructures and networks which all have testing requirements. Here, Lisa Schwartz, Director, Product Marketing, AEM, provides insight into the tactics she would recommend organisations use to ensure physical network infrastructure can support a Smart Building’s communications requirements, as well as use cases for AEM’s solutions.

Can you introduce us to AEM and your value proposition?

AEM’s mission is to provide the most comprehensive Smart Building infrastructure, electronics and semiconductor test solutions based on best-in-class technologies, processes and customer support. 

AEM’s Test and Measurement Solutions (TMS) are built with years of engineering expertise in providing high port density RF test solutions with a small form factor, yet extendable design.

This, coupled with the fact that AEM has the capability to both design and manufacture our products in house, allows us to provide more test capability within a single test platform than our competitors at highly competitive pricing. 

What are some of the key challenges your customers are facing and how do you help them to overcome these?

Smart Building deployments combine many disparate building systems into a single platform, with the objective to optimise operations, maintenance and overall cost.  Historically, Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) groups were siloed organisations, with little to no crossover of the utility that each managed. 

However, with the Smart Building, that old paradigm has changed and multiple building systems – be it building security, HVAC, environmental sensors or lighting – are connected to networking devices and are now being centrally managed. 

With this comes complexity in the underlying physical network infrastructure that must support all of the planned IoT technologies and what will need to be tested.   

How do AEM’s TMS capabilities combine with your automation expertise to offer customers unmatched testing innovation?

We provide automated testing capability to perform all required tests a user may need to certify an enterprise network or test an automotive wiring harness, automatically for the user, saving them time by automating the testing function and providing a simple pass/fail indication and printed reports. 

In addition, we collaborate closely with AEM’s other business units to combine our test capabilities with AEM’s automation expertise to offer our customers unmatched testing innovation to solve their testing challenges. 

Which tactics would you recommend organisations use to ensure physical network infrastructure can support a Smart Building’s communications requirements?

When we think about the underlying physical cable plant that supports a Smart Building deployment, be it enterprise or industrial, there’s likely to be different types of cabling, with usage that will requiring planning for how it should be certified and tested to assure infrastructure readiness from a pre-deployment perspective, as well as post-deployment testing. 

This could include both Four-Pair and Single-Pair Ethernet, and Fibre Optic, including Hybrid Powered Fibre. Another key consideration is regarding how IoT-connected devices will get their power. These items will include security cameras, wireless access points, digital lighting, HVAC and sensors, and building entry systems, to name a few.

Chances are that the majority of devices will get their power via Power over Ethernet (PoE) or Single-Pair Power over Ethernet (SPoE) and some will rely on Hybrid Powered Fibre. 

With all of these more complex scenarios and technologies being taken into consideration, a thoughtful certification and test plan should be defined and test equipment purpose-built for smart building technologies be specified, such as the award winning AEM TestPro CV100 Smart Building Test Kit, or Network Service Assistant Smart Building Test Kit. 

Specifically, the test equipment used should be specified as having the ability to perform ANSI/TIA 1152-A standard and optional test parameters, which help to assure infrastructure readiness to support the IoT devices that will be deployed in the Smart Building. 

The optional test parameters are typically denoted with a (+ or ++) in the test equipment setup and would add measurements of DC Resistance (DCR), TCL, ELTCTL as part of the pass/fail criteria. 

Additionally, the IoT devices being connected are likely to require a specific level of link speed, be it 2.5, 5, or 10Gbps. Your test equipment should have the ability to validate the link can support these link speeds while under traffic or PoE load, to create as much of a real-world scenario as possible, when validating these link speeds. 

The ability to measure both DCR as part of pre-deployment testing and actual power load in support of 802.3 af/at/bt, UPoE is also a critical testing capability, as a high percentage of IoT connected devices will receive their power from PoE.  For those planning to deploy Hybrid Powered Fibre, the ability to simultaneously validate the performance of the fibre optic and measure DC resistance provides a time and cost savings vs. having multiple tools and test routines.  

Tell us how your technology has evolved to scale for the likes of 5G front-haul network validation?

For 5G front-haul networks, it is increasingly common to use PoE or hybrid power to antenna or the remote radio units. AEM TestPro provides capability to test these links including electrical powering.

Additionally, AEM’s award winning WideOptix-SR4 technology has evolved to 100Gb fibre optic testing. WideOptix provides testing of multimode MPO cabling, providing assurance of cable quality for this critical component of the 5G cabling deployment.  

The AEM TestPro

Talk us through some other use cases for your solutions?

For enterprise networks, within the laboratories and manufacturing plants of those who design and build Single-Pair and Four-Pair Ethernet, AEM is innovating new way to test bulk cabling and allow for 100% inspection testing of connectors. Today, only a sampling of connectors such as RJ-45 can be tested, as the test process destroys the connector.

AEM has designed a unique test fixture that allows 100% testing of the connectors before shipping to the customer, which can be a requirement in a posted bid specification. The bulk cable test fixture allows for a greater number of bare wire cables to be tested at once, enabling a faster manufacturing to production test process.

Are there any emerging trends which organisations should be factoring into their technology strategies?

The biggest trend we see is the strong growth of Smart Building deployments and what that means with an expanded need to be able to certify and test the cable in such a way, that support of all IoT connected devices, link speed testing and powering technologies is assured.  As part of this trend, Single-Pair Ethernet (SPE) will also become more prevalent once the test standards are ratified, as this type of cable is less costly than traditional four-pair cabling, it’s lighter weight, and can support a variety of IoT connected devices.

When we think about how the proliferation of the Smart Building impacts the data centre, legacy hardware and software will get swapped out with modern technologies with the goal of better application performance and stability, one must not forget about the impacts this has on the existing DC copper and fibre plants.

It’s not uncommon, for example, for a brand-new technology to be implemented within a data centre only to have it be plagued by connectivity issues such as lower than expected speeds and other inconsistencies caused by cabling. Having a physical infrastructure testing plan in place is critical to the overall success of the deployment.

What best practice advice would you offer organisations to enable them to adapt to these new Smart Building requirements?

It is critical to be mindful of new testing requirements that should be mandated as part of your Smart Building initiative, to ensure the investment being made is not diminished by poor performance. Don’t assume that old traditional brands of test equipment can support all the testing requirements needed for Smart Building deployments, as they were developed prior to the proliferation of the Smart Building and therefore cannot support all of the testing needs required, without the need to purchase multiple pieces of test equipment. 

Newer test equipment brands such as the AEM TestPro and Network Service Assistant were purpose-built for these modern network environments and provide the full suite of test function needed through their extensible modular design.

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