Cisco coined the term Digital Ceiling as part of its ever-expanding push into the IoT market. The Digital Ceiling means to use the plenum—i.e., the space in the ceiling where the wiring, cabling and ductwork runs—to connect the different building maintenance systems and smart devices to a single network and control system. The reasons to do this are to save costs and to make the building more comfortable. For example the latter can attract more business tenants to buildings, and help retain employees and keep shoppers happy, in a retail space.
Off the Grid
Traditionally security, lighting, and heating and cooling systems have been on their own set of wires. Those typically involved no IP network. Or if it had a network, there was the need for special gateway routers to convert one network protocol to another. But mainly there was simply an on-off switch, a thermostat, cameras, and alarms. The alarm might have been connected to an alarm company using POTs (plain old telephone system), but everything else was connected to nothing at all. The cameras might have run over IP.
But a Digital Ceiling puts all of those systems on controllers and smart switches so that they can be controlled from a common dashboard. The data gathered from this network also provides analytics to fine tune operations to both make the building more comfortable and drive down costs in maintenance and electricity.
Does not Require Tearing up the Floor or Ripping Open the Walls
The good news is it is not necessary to rip out the wiring in older buildings or radically change the design in new ones to make the ceiling intelligent. Lights are a natural place to locate devices. They are located close together so they provide the of source of power needed to cover the whole building with sensors. Plus, some lighting has sensors already built-in.
That is different than using power outlets as a power source, which is typically what is done when one is installing a Wi-FI network. That would cost a lot of money and take time to pull that out and replace. To put wiring in the ceiling one just lifts up the panel overhead. And for where there is no lighting, Cisco also has a Cisco Power over Ethernet (PoE) and Universal Power over Ethernet (UPOE) technology that can power cameras and other devices over ethernet cables, without AC power.
Manufacturers already support this for the more expensive parts of the building machinery. HVAC coolers, refrigerators, and power plants are being fitted with sensors that send their data up to the manufacturer’s cloud. It should be possible to tap into that cloud to bring that data into the cloud used to manage the whole building.
The Benefits of the Digital Ceiling
There are plenty of benefits to wiring the whole building with intelligent lighting and sensors. Smart lighting systems can check ambient light conditions. Motion detectors know when a room is empty. Then the system can brighten or dim lights or turn them off. And they can check humidity and temperature and turn down the air conditioning or heat when the room is unoccupied as well.
Motion detectors also turn on cameras for reasons of security. And in a retail space they can help reduce theft. This is better than looking through hours of empty video. Lighting sensors can also adjust hue to make light more natural and to ease workers into the working day. This also would help make the retail space likely to keep shopping in the store, and buying.
So the space over our heads is a logical place to install IoT systems. As this become more widespread, it will grow even more as people think of more use cases.
Are you ready to innovate your building? Check out relayr's involvement in openBerlin, a "smart building" which explores all the possibilities of interpreting data from buildings.