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Wireville.com

Issue: March 2008
By: Frank Bisbee


Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


BISBEE’S BUZZ

Print Media VS Internet

Wireville was a blog before there were blogs. The Heard On The Street (HOTS) Monthly Column is complimentary to the PRINT MEDIA

Truth is, traditional print will continue to be the medium of choice for most professional audience markets for the foreseeable future. To abandon or deny the viability of PRINT MEDIA is folly (or much worse). To deny print's legitimate and dominate place in the information stream is business suicide.  (Didn't we have a “dot com” bust recently?) Hasn't the WSJ highlighted the fact that the highly touted "blogs" even on Google etc are having real trouble gaining revenue traction??  

Electronic is great and will continue to grow in importance in the overall information and revenue stream.  It has allowed publishers to broaden their market, exposure to it and their audience...but notice that among all the hype...they still talk in increases in % rather than in real dollars vis a vis their total revenue stream???.  ie: You can go from $1. to $3. and claim a 300% increase.  But where's the bottom line that will pay the bills??  If we go in print from $8M to $8.6M, guess the 11.6% seems comparatively puny...As a publisher, which would you rather have???  Truth is, you need to sustain, grow and invest in that which "brung you to the dance"...and not ignore the obvious profitable partner just waiting for the next dance.  

What I believe will (needs to) happen is that various electronic info sources will continue to proliferate, grow in sophistication and breadth of offering...unique to their growing capabilities (beyond trying to replicate what is already in print).  They will become economically viable as a true partner with print in delivering a complete menu of critical, and unique information as well as reliably measurable advertising results to their audience. Today, except in rare circumstances, the electronic media sites simply are not profitable, and increasingly, not well measurable.   Lot of hype, mixed with hope.  If used and measured properly, traditional print will ultimately work synergistically with electronic media to help drive more traffic, more quickly (sales starts...not just traditional "leads") to legitimate advertiser web sites and direct contact than any other current vehicle.

The real need is to establish a marketing synergism between what print uniquely offers and the additional unique contribution of enhanced web efforts. Too many people become enamored with "the latest" in technology, assigning it an out of proportion influence...way too early in the overall education process...and probably more damaging long term...promulgating the latest as the ultimate "savior" for a medium that up to now is not in need of a "savior". What is really needed is intelligent dissemination of critical information to a well-defined audience using print where appropriate, and electronic where applicable, and delineating the differences, and utilizing the potential synergy. They are different...not antagonistic.

Anyhow, we continue to develop methods to deliver our information package based on providing the most complete, diverse, and appropriate to the specific medium capabilities possible. Our goal is to insure that our readers...using whatever single or combination (most likely) of media resources comfortable to them, can use PRINT MEDIA as their primary source of information critical to their success.  Jumping on current "bandwagons" and effectively "changing horses in mid stream" is in my opinion, very risky business.  Sometimes they get "flat tires in the middle of the stream or the parade".  Not good.

That's why PRINT MEDIA is taking time to develop the most comprehensive, easy to use, most responsive web site to offer their customers as much information...sometimes like...sometimes quite different from the print product as possible based on their needs, The PRINT MEDIA’s ability to deliver whatever is pertinent in the most efficacious way and continue to update and expand its content to keep it viable...and profitable.  

PRINT MEDIA continues to invest serious monies and people resources to maintain., improve and grow their market leading print products. 

There is no single answer to supplying credible, incisive, and current information to this ever so rapidly changing $130B market.   Granted, there are cheaper ways to do it...but then, that's just not the PRINT MEDIA style.

Anyhow, as I often say...at least that's just my opinion.  

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column
www.wireville.com
4949 Sunbeam Rd, Suite 16
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 645-9077 office
(904) 645-9058 fax
frank@wireville.com

Industry News

The Craig Consulting Services Training Center Is Now OPEN

The Craig Consulting Services training center, in Dallas, Texas is up and operational.  Attached are our training schedules for both BICSI and Belden for the first half of 2008.  I have conducted classes for the BICSI Technician certification as a night class for Able Communications of Dallas and for individuals from the Fort Worth Independent School District this month.  In addition we have a PM125 TPMA class scheduled for March 17 – 21, 2008.

I have received a tremendous amount of support from Distribution and Manufacturers in getting the facility equipped with the required materials and products.  We have as a result been able to incorporate several real world scenarios for the students such as wall mounted workstations for 66, 110, BIX, Krone, GIGABIX and S210 blocks as well as multiple rack configurations for horizontal and backbone cabling of both copper and optical fiber with the appropriate testing.

 With the upcoming changes BICSI plans in the Installation Program upon release of the new 5th Edition of the Installation Transport System Installation Methods Manual (ITSIMM) we feel that we are well positioned to provide quality training in the ever changing ITS Industry to individuals within the South Central Region. Utilizing our facility students can obtain BICSI Certification without incurring expensive travel and lodging expenses.  We have within walking distance of our facility four hotels (with special rates for our students), restaurants and easy access to major thoroughfares of North Dallas.

www.craigconsultingservices.com

BICSI Training Schedule

March – July, 2008

Dates                                                    Class

MARCH

3/10 – 3/14                                            ITS Installer 2  

APRIL

4/7 – 4/11                                              ITS Installer 1

4/14 – 4/25                                            Technician                     (Night Class)

4/21 -4/22                                              DD 100 Intro to Voice/Data

MAY

5/5 – 5/9                                               ITS Installer 1

5/19 – 5/23                                            ITS Installer 2

JUNE

6/2 -6/13                                               ITS Installer 2    (Night Class)

6/16 – 6/20                                            Technician Class

JULY

7/7 – 7/18                                              Technician                     (Night Class)

7/28 – 8/1                                              ITS Installer 1

This schedule is subject to change based upon Customer requests.

Belden Training

March – July, 2008

Dates                                                    Class

MARCH

3/25 – 3/26                                            303 Design                                Dallas, TX

3/27 – 3/28                                            700 Installation              Dallas, TX

APRIL

4/1- 4/2                                     303 Design                         Little Rock, AR

4/3 -4/4                                     700 Installation  `    Little Rock, AR

MAY

5/27 – 5/28                                            303 Design                                Springdale AR

5/29 – 5/30                                            700 Installation              Springdale AR

JUNE

6/24- 6/25                                              727 Copper                                Austin, TX

6/26 - 6/27                                             747 Fiber                                   Austin, TX

JULY

7/22 – 7/23                                            303 Design                                Kansas City, MO

7/24 – 7/25                                            700 Installation              Kansas City, MO

This schedule is subject to change based upon Customer requests.

James R. (Ray) Craig RCDD/NTS Specialist

Belden Regional Trainer

Craig Consulting Services

Tel: 972-880-6528

520 Lynn Court

Coppell, TX 75019

www.craigconsultingservices.com

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ADC To Introduce New FTTX Solutions At OFC/NFOEC 2008

ADC (NASDAQ: ADCT) (www.adc.com) announced that it will unveil its expanded line of OmniReach fiber-to-the-x (FTTX) solutions at the 2008 Optical Fiber Communication/National Fiber Optic Engineers Conference & Exposition (OFC/NFOEC), held February 26-28 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif.

ADC will introduce the OmniReach(R) 4x3 configuration MultiPort Service Terminal (MST) and the OmniReach plug-and-play WDM modules at the conference. These new FTTX solutions, along with the company's extended portfolio of fiber optic network equipment, will be featured at booth #3538.

"Our new OmniReach 4x3 MST and plug-and-play WDM modules are the latest innovations in our comprehensive line of FTTX solutions," said Jaxon Lang, vice president of Global Connectivity Solutions Americas for ADC. "As with all of our OmniReach FTTX solutions, these new products are designed to help simplify FTTP network installation, maintenance and management, and to provide increased flexibility to transition to new technologies in the future."

The new OmniReach 4x3 MST continues ADC's innovations in fiber access terminals. In providing a compact, yet technician friendly terminal, carriers can optimize installation and customer turn up expenses in the deployment of FTTP services. ADC's family of MST products incorporate hardened connector technology, providing a durable, reliable, and cost effective plug-and-play service connection in the outside plant/drop segment of the network.

The OmniReach plug-and-play WDM modules are designed to allow providers to deliver higher data rates and additional services to customers. CWDM and DWDM devices in ADC's plug-and-play package enable such applications as WDM-PON, dedicated gigabit Ethernet, fiber to the cell site, FTTN node splitting and remote DSL applications. Plug-and-play WDM modules can co-exist in traditional G-PON/B-PON networks to expand services provided. The modules are easy to insert and remove without affecting existing customers, and their rugged package is designed to protect delicate WDM devices from mishandling and extreme outside plant environments.

Industry professionals are invited to attend two presentations from ADC's featured speakers to learn about the latest network solutions for multiple dwelling unit (MDU) applications:

-- Tom LeBlanc, FTTX Product Manager: Deploying Reduced bend Radius Fiber into MDUs. LeBlanc will explain how to deploy reduced bend radius fiber into multi-dwelling units, providing tips for efficient network reconfigurations, troubleshooting and maintenance.

-- Robert Bachtell, ADC Principal Systems Engineer: Multiple Solutions for Connecting MDUs. Bachtell will detail the special considerations required when installing FTTP networks within MDU structures. His presentation will discuss fiber cable interconnection to terminal equipment, and the diverse structures and conditions found throughout the country. www.adc.com


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Anixter International Inc. Announces Retirement of CEO Robert W. Grubbs and Appointment of Robert J. Eck as New President and Chief Executive Officer

Anixter International Inc. (NYSE: AXE - News) announced that Robert W. Grubbs will retire as President and Chief Executive Officer at the end of June 2008, following a 30-year career with the company. Mr. Grubbs, who has held those posts since 1998, will continue to serve on the company's Board of Directors.

Effective July 1, 2008, Robert J. Eck will become President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Eck, age 49, has served as the company's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since September 2007. During the last 17 years, Mr. Eck has served in a variety of senior management positions with Anixter Inc., the company's operating subsidiary, most recently as Executive Vice President -- Enterprise Cabling and Security Solutions (2004-2007) and Senior Vice President -- Physical Security Products and Integrated Supply (2003).

Commenting on the transition, Sam Zell, Chairman of the Board, said, "During Bob Grubbs' tenure the company has seen tremendous growth in sales, profitability and shareholder returns. Under his leadership, the company has successfully evolved into one of the world's truly global distribution businesses. We are especially pleased that Bob will continue to serve on our Board of Directors, allowing Anixter to continue benefiting from his many years of company and industry experience."

In discussing his upcoming retirement, Mr. Grubbs said, "During my 30 years at Anixter the company has gone through an incredible amount of change and I have a real sense of pride in what the company's leadership team has accomplished during my tenure as CEO. The company is well positioned for the future and I look forward to continuing to contribute to the future success of the company as a member of the Board of Directors."

Mr. Zell continued, "The company has worked hard over the years to successfully develop future leaders who could continue to drive the ongoing growth and success of our business. Bob Eck brings many years of increasing responsibilities and successful leadership to his new role at Anixter. The Board of Directors has confidence that, under Bob Eck's leadership, the company can continue its consistent track record of driving strong growth and shareholder returns."

"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the company and further build on its past successes," commented Eck. "Our priorities as a company will continue to center around building on our strategic initiatives of growing our customer base, expanding our product and service offerings and enlarging the geographic presence of our electrical wire & cable and OEM supply businesses. I am very excited about the future and the opportunities that lie ahead for Anixter."

About Anixter

Anixter International is the world's leading distributor of communication products, electrical and electronic wire & cable and a leading distributor of fasteners and other small parts ("C" Class inventory components) to Original Equipment Manufacturers. The company adds value to the distribution process by providing its customers access to 1) innovative inventory management programs, 2) more than 400,000 products and over $1 billion in inventory, 3) 220 warehouses with more than 6 million square feet of space, and 4) locations in 249 cities in 49 countries. Founded in 1957 and headquartered near Chicago, Anixter trades on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AXE.

Additional information about Anixter is available on the Internet at http://www.anixter.com

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Belden Appoints Judy Brown, CFO Of Perrigo Company, To Board of Directors

The Board of Directors of Belden (NYSE: BDC - News) has appointed Judy Brown as a Director and member of the Audit Committee of the board. Ms. Brown, age 39, is Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer of Perrigo Company, a post she has held since July 2006. She joined Perrigo in September 2004 as Vice President and Corporate Controller. Perrigo (NASDAQ: PRGO; TASE) is a leading global healthcare supplier that develops, manufactures and distributes over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals, nutritional products, active pharmaceutical ingredients and consumer products for the store brand market. Before joining Perrigo, Ms. Brown held various senior positions in finance and operations at Whirlpool Corporation (1998 to August 2004) in Italy and the US and at Ernst & Young (1990-1998) in both the US and Germany. She received a B.S. degree from the University of Illinois and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

John Stroup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belden, said, "We are delighted to welcome Judy Brown to Belden's Board of Directors and the Audit Committee of the board. Her financial expertise and her background in European operations make her a valuable addition to our board."

About Belden

Belden is a leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of signal transmission solutions for data networking and a wide range of specialty electronics markets including entertainment, industrial, security and aerospace applications. To obtain additional information contact Investor Relations at 314-854-8054, or visit our website at http://www.belden.com.

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Blueprint For Big Broadband’ Not Big Enough For Future

Published on 2/13/2008 at www.MidwestBusiness.com where you always read REAL perspectives

Carlini’s Comments, MidwestBusiness.com’s oldest column, runs every Wednesday. Its mission is to offer the common man’s view on business and technology issues while questioning the leadership and visions of “pseudo” experts.

CHICAGO – EDUCAUSE’s latest white paper on America’s lack of broadband doesn’t shed light on the real issues.  

After speaking about broadband connectivity at 1 gigabit or more at several conferences in January, one of the other speakers sent me an EDUCAUSE white paper entitled “A Blueprint For Big Broadband,” which was written by John Windhausen.  

The EDUCAUSE group is made up of about 2,200 colleges and universities. Its white paper goes into detail on how the United States has failed to keep up with other parts of the world. While it’s a good attempt at providing a warning, their solution doesn’t get us close to where we need to be.

Setting Up a Blueprint

One of the highlights of the report deals with issues that U.S. policymakers should be addressing. This is from the white paper:

1.     Leadership and goals: The executives of almost every successful government initiative began by announcing a broadband plan and setting specific broadband goals.

2.     Public funding: Almost every successful government program has included significant government funding.

3.     Open broadband networks: One of the most popular models has been to require that big broadband network providers provide service on a wholesale basis to multiple retailers.

4.     Public/Private partnerships: Another consistently successful theme is government/private sector cooperation in building broadband networks.

5.     Unbundling: The policy of unbundling local copper networks has been used successfully to stimulate broadband. The application of unbundling to fiber facilities is still under consideration.

6.     Fiber: Except for Japan and South Korea, which are well ahead of the rest of the world in deploying fiber, municipalities are taking the lead on fiber deployment.

7.     States focus on low-speed broadband: Most of the state government initiatives have focused on expanding low-speed broadband services to unserved areas [rather than] big broadband.

Unfortunately, the majority of state programs don’t address the need to promote big broadband capability that will be necessary in the next few years. While these state initiatives are certainly well intentioned, the question is whether the low-speed services used to fill the gaps today will become the dial-up of the future.  

Most state programs are largely designed to expand the reach of DSL and make cellular broadband access more widely available. There remains a need for the federal government to address the need for big broadband. The white paper goes on to make a summary of building a blueprint for big broadband connectivity and ends with:

U.S. broadband policy should focus on the future. Cable modem, DSL and wireless technologies are unlikely to meet our future needs. The United States needs to set its sights toward the 100 Mbps speeds that are commonplace in Japan and increasingly the focus of European countries.

They discount wireless and DSL as not a solution, which has been discussed in this column for several years. There’s no earth-shattering discovery there. The 100 Mbps speed, though, is not the right goal. They have set the bar too low.

100 Mbps is Already Obsolete

EDUCAUSE focuses on getting U.S. broadband to a higher speed, which in a way is stating the obvious. The author says 100 Mbps is a good goal. In reality, they are still aiming too low.  

If you have ever planned a large-scale network, you have to have a very high objective because going from planning to implementation takes a good several years. Ask the engineers at the phone companies. They don’t plan for the next two to five years. They look at 20 to 30 years (at least they used to). Also, if you’re trying to plan for the future, you can’t assume the network traffic that’s here today.  

Adopting the recommendations in this EDUCAUSE white paper will still put the U.S. behind other countries. Some would still argue that 100 Mbps is too much bandwidth for users. Those people don’t have a clue about new applications flooding the Internet including social networks as well as video applications like YouTube and its imitators. What’s on the horizon?  

Though the paper started to focus on the importance of going beyond servicing the digital divide, they don’t discuss it enough.  

Rural areas aren’t the only areas of interest for broadband. Keeping up with a global market means setting metropolitan areas into multiple gigabit network infrastructures. Gigabit speeds are already a requirement if you want to attract corporate facilities in intelligent business campuses. With 100 Mbps, you will be passed over to the next municipality.  

Incumbent Phone Companies Don’t Have the Answers

The tired arguments by government affairs people at the incumbent network carriers that we don’t need that much bandwidth reminds me of the same government affairs people saying we didn’t need fiber running to the Chicago 911 center back in 1995. Now those same entities take credit for what they tried to block 16 years ago when the planning was taking place in 1992.  

If you leave it up to network carrier government affairs people, we will be further behind than we are now. I always thought the incumbents would be encouraging new services and “blinding speed” network offerings. Instead, they are playing a protection game and choose to promote antiquated services. They’re trying to ring the last buck out of old, copper-based technology instead of upgrading to new infrastructure.  

They also want to stifle any entity wanting to build new network infrastructure. This is incongruent with the way the market is headed. Either you lead, follow or get out of the way. While the incumbents don’t want to lead, they also want to get in the way because they don’t want to follow competition and lose market share.

In terms of their rhetoric and arguments, any network carrier’s government affairs person who doesn’t know the difference between gigabit and gigabytes when he’s talking shouldn’t be listened to.

In all marketing classes that discussed buying technology and network services from vendors, my general rule of thumb was how can they be trusted with complex infrastructure issues if they don’t have the basic definitions right in their own industry? It would be like a general manager from GM not knowing the difference between a Chevy Cobalt and a Cadillac Escalade.

You expect the person from the industry to know the industry’s basic terms and definitions. As for this blueprint for big broadband white paper, there are some good points but the speed is already obsolete on paper. Potential corporate sites have to offer multiple gigabit speeds today. For many, this means going back to the drawing boards.  

Carlinism: Broadband should be viewed as 1 gigabit or more today if planning a network for tomorrow.

See James Carlini interviewed by the Strassman Report out of California.

The 30-minute video discusses the need for planning gigabit network

infrastructure today in order to be globally competitive tomorrow.

Check out Carlini’s blog at CarlinisComments.com.

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at james.carlini@sbcglobal.net or 773-370-1888.

Click here for Carlini’s full biography.

Copyright 2008 Jim Carlini

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Coleman Cable Introduces 12 Gauge, ‘Cord Runner’ 3-Outlet Extension Cord


Coleman Cable, Inc. (Nasdaq: CCIX) introduces the Cord Runner™ extension cord now in a heavy-duty 12 gauge STW 600V cord. Featuring three evenly spaced outlets instead of just one outlet at the end, the new 12-gauge cord is UL Listed and is ideal for workshops and job-sites that demand added flexibility with multiple tasks running in different areas.  
 
Each of the Cord Runner’s evenly spaced outlets has a power indicator light to let you know when the power is on. Outlet covers keep water and dust out, while the outdoor-rated cord is durable, reliable and flexible even in the coldest weather.  The 12 gauge Cord Runner is available in 6ft. and 50ft. lengths with yellow jacket for safety and visibility.
 
“The Cord Runner makes it easier and safer to power multiple tasks using just one extension cord,” said Blaine Ballard, Coleman Cable product manager. “The new 12-gauge cord has been added to the product line to provide customers with a wider choice of power solutions in delivering ‘power where you need it.’”
 
About Coleman Cable Inc.
Coleman Cable, Inc. is a leading manufacturer and innovator of electrical and electronic wire and cable products for the security, sound, telecommunications, electrical, commercial, industrial, and automotive industries. With extensive design and production capabilities and a long-standing dedication to customer service, Coleman Cable, Inc. is the preferred choice of cable and wire users throughout the United States. The company is located at 1530 Shields Drive, Waukegan, IL 60085.  For more information, visit: www.colemancable.com.


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CommScope Unit Lands Wireless Contract

Andrew Wireless Solutions, a division of CommScope Inc., has been awarded a contract to design and install an infrastructure system for wireless communications in Sydney, Australia.

The work will be performed at the headquarters of Optus, an Australian telecommunications company.

"With the new campus serving more than 6,000 Optus staff, it's key for the facility to have an effective and efficient wireless system for seamless communications," says Jon Wilkie, director of corporate services at Singtel Optus, parent company of Optus.

The equipment will allow workers "to communicate, interact and work anywhere within the campus," he adds.

Financial terms of the agreement weren't disclosed. Hickory-based CommScope (NYSE:CTV - News) completed its $2.65 billion purchase of Andrew in December. Illinois-based Andrew makes communications equipment and systems. The company has facilities in 35 countries.

CommScope is the world's largest manufacturer of coaxial cable.

Published January 31, 2008 by the Charlotte Business Journal

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CommScope Unit Sells Satellite Business

Andrew Corp., a division of CommScope Inc., has sold its satellite-communications business to Resilience Capital Partners.

Resilience Capital is a private-equity firm based in Cleveland.

The satellite business will operate as an independent company based in Wake County called ASC Signal Corp.

Andrew will own a 17.9 percent share of ASC Signal and provide certain transition-support services to the new company.

At closing, Andrew received $8.5 million in cash and a $2.5 million note from ASC Signal that will mature in 39 months. In addition, Andrew expects to receive $2.5 million note upon completion of manufacturing-asset transfers. The company also may receive up to an additional $25 million in cash after three years, based upon ASC Signal's achievement of certain financial targets.

Hickory-based CommScope (NYSE:CTV - News) completed its $2.65 billion purchase of Andrew in December. Illinois-based Andrew makes communications equipment and systems. The company has facilities in 35 countries.

CommScope says it is the world's largest manufacturer of coaxial cable.

Published February 1, 2008 by the Charlotte Business Journal 

www.commscope.com

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Verizon Purchases Corning® ClearCurve™ Cable Solution Following Successful Field Trials

Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) announced that Verizon Communications Inc. has purchased Corning’s ClearCurve rugged drop cable solution as part of the telecommunications company’s effort to roll out its FiOS services.   

Corning’s ClearCurve product suite helps overcome the installation challenges in multiple-dwelling units (MDUs) by providing a bend-resistant fiber optimized for the strenuous deployment conditions in apartment buildings and condominium complexes.  Verizon qualified the ClearCurve technology as an optimal solution for MDU applications following a successful series of field trials.

“This is the year that Verizon moves into high gear in deploying FiOS TV and FiOS Internet to apartment buildings, condos and similar multiple dwelling units,” said Claire Beth Nogay, senior vice president and chief network officer for Verizon Telecom.  Corning’s bendable optical fiber cable is particularly valuable in the tight spaces typical of these sorts of buildings.  ClearCurve rugged drop cable is an initial product in what promises to be a family of specialized bendable fiber products we expect to use across our network going forward.”

The ClearCurve fiber solution is hundreds of times more bendable than standard single-mode fiber.  Featuring Corning’s breakthrough nanoStructures™ technology, ClearCurve optical fiber can be bent around very tight corners with virtually no signal loss while maintaining backward compatibility.  The robust design of ClearCurve rugged drop cable enables it to be handled in any way that copper communication cables are handled, such as pulling through wall studs and stapling to wood.  For detailed Corning product information, visit www.corning.com/clearcurve.

“With more than 25 million apartment buildings in the United States, the MDU market represents a tremendous opportunity for telecommunications carriers,” said Peter F. Volanakis, president and chief operating officer, Corning Incorporated.  We’re excited to associate with companies like Verizon to deliver breakthrough solutions that enable them to provide their customers with near-infinite bandwidth.”

Verizon was the first major carrier certified by the Fiber-to-the-Home Council as providing all fiber-optic services directly to the home, including the FiOS Internet and FiOS TV services.

(www.corning.com)

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$196.2M Award Against DuPont Upheld

Judge Upholds $196.2 Million Award Against DuPont

A circuit judge has upheld a $196.2 million punitive damages award against DuPont in a class-action pollution case.

Harrison County Circuit Court Chief Judge Thomas A. Bedell also adopted a nearly $130 million estimate for a medical monitoring plan, but ordered the Wilmington, Delaware-based chemical company to pay for those costs as they occur.

The jury had required DuPont to provide medical monitoring for 40 years to people who were exposed to arsenic, cadmium and lead from a former zinc-smelting plant in the small community of Spelter.

DuPont said it believed there were "numerous errors, both during and after trial" and it plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"The scientific evidence simply does not warrant medical monitoring," DuPont General Counsel Stacey J. Mobley said in a statement. "We believe the evidence ... shows that there is no increased risk of disease to the class members as a result of the smelter."

The company said it found "particularly troubling" the decision to include biennial chest CT scans in the monitoring program, saying the risks outweigh any benefits.

Mobley also said the $130 million cost of the medical monitoring program was overestimated by "many tens of millions of dollars."

Ten residents of Spelter sued DuPont in 2004, claiming the company deliberately misled them about health risks from the pollution and delayed a site cleanup for as long as possible to maximize profits.

The lawsuit was tried last year in four phases involving property damage claims, long-term health screenings and corporate accountability. Jurors awarded the punitive damages in October in the trial's fourth phase.

In the other phases, the jury required medical monitoring and found DuPont liable for and negligent in creating the waste site. Jurors also found DuPont had created a public and private nuisance and that its pollution trespassed onto private property.

On Monday, Bedell approved $127 million in attorneys fees and nearly $8 million in litigation costs, which will be taken from the overall award of $381 million. He rejected DuPont's motion for a new trial.


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General Cable Elects Brian J. Robinson To Executive Vice President

General Cable Corporation (NYSE:BGC - News) announced that the Board of Directors of the Company has elected Brian J. Robinson to the post of Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer effective immediately. Robinson will continue to report to Gregory B. Kenny, President and Chief Executive Officer of General Cable.

“This is a well-deserved recognition by the Board of the value that the Company places on Brian are operating and strategic leadership,” said Gregory B. Kenny, President and Chief Executive Officer of General Cable. “Since January 2007, Brian has led our Corporate Finance Team through two debt issuances totaling over $800 million, and four acquisitions, including the $1.2 billion of revenues PDIC business. He has also been instrumental in driving improved controls and best practices in our global finance organization.”

Robinson has held the title of Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer since January 2007. Robinson became Controller for General Cable in 2000 and assumed the additional responsibility of Senior Vice President and Treasurer in March 2006. He began his career at Deloitte & Touche LLP in 1991, and in 1997 moved from Cincinnati, Ohio to London, England, where he served as Audit Manager focused on accounting services for global companies. In 1999, Robinson joined General Cable as Assistant Controller.

Robinson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Dayton and received his CPA certification in 1993.

General Cable is a global leader in the development, design, manufacture, marketing and distribution of copper, aluminum and fiber optic wire and cable products for the energy, industrial, and communications markets. Visit our website at www.generalcable.com.

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H.H. Robertson Floor Systems Announces Three Casino Contract Wins

H.H. Robertson Floor Systems has been chosen to install its major in-floor wire distribution system for three new casino projects.  The projects are Kickapoo Casino in Oklahoma, Argosy® Casino in Indiana and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh.

Scheduled for completion in the fall of 2008, Kickapoo Casino is expanding into a new 37,000-square-foot facility located directly behind the current casino. H.H. Robertson is working in tandem with Selser Schaefer, the casino’s architect, and its contractor, Oklahoma Electrical Supply, to complete the project. 

Argosy Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ind., has tapped H.H. Robertson to work closely with architects, Lay Pitman & Associates and Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf to install the new flooring system. The company will work with Geiger & Peters, Inc., to complete the installation which is scheduled for early 2009. 

The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, expected to open in early 2009, has also named H.H. Robertson as its flooring system provider. The 350,000-square-foot casino is owned by Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts.  H.H. Robertson will partner with architect Climans Green Liang Architects, Inc., and contractor LP Ciminelli on the $155 million casino project.  

In addition to these latest casino projects, H.H. Robertson's Cellular Floor Systems have been used for wire and cable distribution on more than 60 prestigious casinos worldwide. www.hhrobertson.com.

Based in Pittsburgh (Moon Township, Pa.), CENTRIA is an international company and the U.S.’s premier supplier of architectural metal wall and roofing systems used in commercial/industrial products. Since 1906, CENTRIA professionals have provided quality products and services for architectural and construction firms worldwide. For more information about CENTRIA call 412-299-8218 or visit www.centria.com.

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Electronics Maker Hitachi Profit Surges On Utility, Telecommunications Recovery; Cuts Outlook

Japanese electronics maker Hitachi Ltd. said Tuesday its profit surged in its third fiscal quarter as its power plant, hardware and telecommunications businesses recovered.

But Japan's biggest electronics conglomerate by sales slashed its outlook for net income for the fiscal year because it plans to invest another 30 billion yen ($280.6 million) in a liquid crystal display business to produce flat-panel TVs -- an attempt to stay competitive in the market. It raised its projection for operating profit and revenue, however.

Hitachi earned 12.5 billion yen ($116.9 million) during the October-December quarter, up from 1.26 billion yen in the same period the previous year.

Group sales rose nearly 10 percent to 2.71 trillion yen ($25.35 billion) from 2.49 trillion yen a year ago, the company said. Operating profit rose 27 percent to 77.9 billion yen ($728.7 million) from 61.56 billion yen.

Hitachi's information and telecommunications operations returned to profitability on booming sales of software and hard disk drives.

"Significant improvement" in electric power business, as well as automobile parts, elevators and construction equipment contributed to the revenue growth during the quarter, the company said.

But it booked an operating loss of 15 billion yen ($140.32 million) in the consumer electronics and digital media division, though that was narrower than the loss of 19 billion a year earlier.

Hitachi cut its net income forecast for the year ending March 31 to 10 billion yen ($93.5 million) from the previous forecast of 40 billion yen.

But it lifted its outlook for operating profit -- which excludes one-time items -- to 300 billion yen ($2.81 million) from 290 billion yen, and its sales projection to 10.8 trillion ($101.03 billion) from 10.5 trillion yen.

Hitachi's earnings results are based on U.S. accounting standards.

Hitachi reported its results after the close of trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where its shares rose 0.9 percent to 819 yen ($7.66).

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LEVITON’S Video Monitoring System Provides An Easy Way To Keep An Eye On Home And Property

Leviton’s new IP Quad Module lets homeowners view high-quality color output from their Leviton Video Monitoring System on any TV in their home or over the Internet. The Video Monitoring System consists of an indoor and outdoor camera that connects through a Leviton Structured Media® Center (SMC) to offer a convenient, cost-effective way for homeowners to monitor their home and external grounds.

Leviton’s Indoor Camera is available with both clear and tinted lens covers for mounting in a Decora® wallplate. The Outdoor Camera and included wallplate assembly are available in white and can be painted to match any exterior trim. They mount easily to a single-gang exterior box.

The Video Monitoring System operates over Cat 5e UTP cables, which interconnect with a compact Camera Hub in the Leviton SMC. The Camera Hub provides power to up to four cameras and outputs composite video from the cameras to the IP/Quad Module and/or Video Modulators. Indoor and Outdoor Camera assemblies and the Camera Hub incorporate precision video baluns to ensure clear video output over the UTP cable. The Outdoor Camera also includes a separate power supply for applications where cable runs exceed 328 feet (100 meters). This feature facilitates local powering of cameras at entrance gates and other structures that are located a long distance from the SMC.

The new IP/Quad Module mounts in the SMC and connects to the composite video ports on the Camera Hub and an Ethernet Switch or Residential Gateway in the SMC. The Module includes a password protection feature to prevent unauthorized access. It also sends an email alert, FTP JPEGs to a network drive, or TTL output signal to an external device when motion occurs in one or more camera views. Homeowners can then investigate the source of the alert.

The IP/Quad provides an easy-to-use interface that lets users configure their browser or monitor to provide a full-screen, single camera view or up to four separate camera views in a single “quad” view. The system is easy to set up, including camera names, sensitivity settings and brightness, contrast, and saturation settings. The system provides an ideal solution for keeping a watchful eye on newborns, toddlers, children or elderly parents. It also offers an easy way to see who is ringing the doorbell after dark. With the IP/Quad Module, homeowners have the convenience of monitoring their home’s interior and external grounds while they are away at work or when they are out of town.

www.leviton.com

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Leviton Promotes Green Products Core Connectivity Products Are RoHS Compliant

Leviton Network Solutions announced today that its core connectivity products are lead-free and RoHS compliant. Leviton’s advanced manufacturing processes were updated with leading-edge lead-free solder technologies to ensure that all CAT 6 and CAT 5e jacks, patch panels and patch cords meet all the requirements for RoHS compliance.

“Leviton is pleased to offer environmentally friendly, RoHS compliant products to our customers to help make green buildings a reality,” says Gary Bernstein, Leviton’s Director of Product Management. “We invested in this technology more than 2 years ago and wanted to ensure our customers were aware of our compliance.”

RoHS, also known as Lead-Free, stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC restricts the use of six hazardous materials found in electrical and electronic products. RoHS impacts the entire global electronics industry. All applicable products sold into the European Union market after July 1, 2006 must pass RoHS compliance. California RoHS law, modeled after the European Directive, took effect on January 1, 2007.

Specifically, RoHS bans the use of lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), hexavalent chromium (CrVI), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in products. These materials are hazardous to the environment, pollute landfills, and are dangerous to those who may come into contact with them during manufacturing and recycling. The pollutants are particularly dangerous to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. The elimination of these materials from production will reduce those risks.

Leviton is committed to doing its part to ensure the preservation of our environment and continues to take steps to make sure our products are environmentally friendly. Along with having RoHS compliant products, Leviton product waste is recycled or reused following manufacturing. For more information on these or other Leviton products, log on to www.leviton.com.

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Come And See Mike Live And get Up To Speed On The 2008 Code Changes!

Mike is nationally recognized as one of America's most knowledgeable electrical trainers. He has touched the lives of many thousands of electricians, inspectors, contractors and engineers. His dynamic and animated teaching style is relaxed, direct and fun. Perhaps Mike's best quality is his ability to motivate his students to become successful.

Now is your chance to meet Mike in person and experience one of his live seminars. Get your ook autographed and picture taken with Mike and find out why his seminars are so popular

Mike’s Upcoming Seminars:

Atlanta, GA, March – 25: Atlanta Electrical Contractors Association - Changes to the NEC 2008. (This seminar is not open to the public)

Additional seminars for Mike Holt Enterprises:

Orlando, FL

June 4 – 5: Instructor Conference

June 6: Business Management, Workplace Safety, Workers’ Comp.

June 7: Grounding versus Bonding

Fort Lauderdale, FL

July 30 – 31: Instructor Conference

August 1: Business Management, Workplace Safety, Workers’ Comp.

August 2: Grounding versus Bonding

We hope to see you at one of these seminars! If you can’t join Mike for one of these live seminars then visit www.MikeHolt.com  to order one of his special 2008 Code Change packages.

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Ortronics/Legrand To Offer Free Visio Stencils With Altima Mx’ MCS Program

Ortronics/Legrand, a global leader in high performance copper, fiber optic, and wireless structured cabling solutions, announces a new agreement to offer free network design and diagramming stencils from Altima Technologies, Inc., the leader in network design and diagramming solutions.

As part of Altima Technologies’ Manufacturer Certified Stencil (MCS) program, network professionals will be able to download Visio stencils of Ortronics® connectivity products at no charge, directly from the Ortronics/Legrand website (http://www.ortronics.com/us). These shapes and stencils can be used in one of the world’s most popular diagramming applications, Microsoft® Visio®.

“This is a great service for network professionals that want to use high-quality stencils of Ortronics products,” says Marybeth Marx, vice president of marketing for Ortronics/Legrand. “With this relationship, customers will be able to build sophisticated network designs and diagrams using Ortronics-certified shapes and stencils they can access from our site, absolutely free.”

“We are pleased to have Ortronics/Legrand as a part of the Manufacturer Certified Stencil program,” says Angela Andersen, Program Manager for Altima Technologies. “They are a great addition to our network of MCS manufacturers, and we know that network professionals everywhere will benefit from this alliance.”

The alliance between Altima Technologies and Ortronics/Legrand offers a better way for I.T. professionals to design, visualize and evaluate how Ortronics network infrastructure solutions serve the needs of their network. Moving forward, Ortronics/Legrand will be able to offer additional stencils of existing and future product lines through Altima Technologies’ MCS program. 

www.ortronics.com  http://www.AltimaMx.com

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Information Systems Management Solutions (ISMS) And Ortronics/Legrand Offer High Performance Connectivity Solutions For Digitally Connected Communities

Ortronics/Legrand, a global leader in structured cabling solutions, and Information Systems Management Solutions (ISMS), a world renown leader in the design and deployment of broadband IP networks, announce an alliance to bring high performance connectivity solutions to  communities looking to fulfill the promise of broadband applications within the home.  The alliance will provide a collaboration of knowledge and resources not available anywhere else in the industry for consultants, systems designers, developers and planners.

The rapid rate of IP convergence, broadband services, and downloaded entertainment content is creating the need to incorporate high bandwidth networks within the home.  The amount of content and number of broadband users within a home, along with the need to incorporate other home automation systems, are redefining the design of these networks.  As high definition video, music downloads, on-line gaming, web-based video/picture sharing and other content-rich applications increase, next-generation homes require an  infrastructure that supports the increase in data exchange without compromising quality of service. 

In response to this need, Ortronics/Legrand, together with its sister companies, Wiremold/Legrand, Cablofil/ Legrand and On-Q/Legrand, offers a full compliment of product solutions and delivers one cohesive solution set for digital content networking systems.  The agreement between ISMS and Ortronics/Legrand allows broadband community designers and planners to have a single contact with a multitude of industry resources at their disposal.  “To fulfill the promise touted by triple-play service providers and to keep up with the ever changing technology needs of the consumer, it will be critical that our industry bring infrastructure networks that efficiently and effectively deliver service.  It will be equally important that these networks have the ability to adapt and adjust to the changes in technology, lifestyle requirements and content volume,” states Chris Adams, Marketing Manager for Ortronics.  “Having James Hettrick and ISMS deliver our message to this market reinforces our commitment to this technology and gives it the recognition it deserves.” 

“Our mission at ISMS has always been to deliver superior network solutions while lowering deployment costs,” added James Hettrick, Chairman of ISMS. “This important alliance with Ortronics/Legrand allows us to aggregate the creative talents and resources of both companies to provide more advanced product sets and targeted services for community networks across the U.S.

About Information Systems Management Solutions, Inc.
ISMS is a global design, technology aggregation, and creative services firm specializing in fiber / wireless communications network design and deployment, connectivity business modeling, “smart home” design and implementation services, and comprehensive communications infrastructure planning (CCIP). ISMS also designs, builds, facilitates, and operates community based communications infrastructure utilities. www.is-ms.com.

Ortronics/Legrand is a global leader in high performance structured cabling solutions, services, and support. Ortronics offers a complete range of Category 5e, 6 and 10 Gig copper, fiber optic, wireless and residential/MDU connectivity solutions. In addition, Ortronics offers Cablofil® wire mesh cable tray and Wiremold® pathways. For more information, visit www.ortronics.com.

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PANDUIT®Opti-Core® Gel-Free Outside Plant Cable Provides Superior Durability and Faster Installation

Opti-Core® Gel-Free Outside Plant Cable joins the PANDUIT Fiber Optic Cable offering to provide superior outdoor durability and faster installation. The gel-free design features water swellable tape that provides dry water blocking for standards compliance. This dry, loose tube outdoor design simplifies cable preparation, eliminates messy gel cleanup, and reduces termination time. The UV resistant cable sheathing withstands harsh environmental demands and meets the light absorption requirement by Telcordia GR-20, Issue 2 and ICEA 640.

Opti-Core® Gel-Free Outside Plant Cable is available in all-dielectric and armored cable designs to meet your specific outdoor fiber optic cabling installation requirements. All-dielectric cable, for aerial and duct applications, features a non-metallic construction that eliminates the need to ground or bond. Armored cable has corrugated steel armor to provide superior crush resistance for direct burial applications. All Opti-Core® Gel-Free Outside Plant Cable is available in singlemode (meets OS1 and proposed OS2 standards) and multimode (OM1, OM2, and 10 Gb/s laser optimized OM3) fiber types, and in standard fiber counts up to 48 fibers as a “stranded tube” design.

The complete PANDUIT Fiber Optic Cabling System is modular and versatile for easy installation and upgrade of network infrastructures, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership and increased return on investment.www.panduit.com

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Maximum Capacity And Performance Pan-Way® PMR40 Metal Raceway

Maximize pathway capacity and performance with PANDUIT PMR40 Multi-Channel Metal Raceway. Patent pending offset snap-on faceplate and divider wall design locates data terminations outside the data channel which increases data cable capacity. This fully compliant TIA/EIA-568B and 569B solution maintains a 2” bend radius throughout the system for routing high performance 10 Gigabit copper and fiber cable.

PMR40 Metal Raceway accepts both snap-on and standard NEMA double gang faceplates for increased versatility of power and data cabling terminations. Pre-punched mounting holes eliminate the need for drilling or removing knockouts to enable quick and easy installation. This system is available with an assortment of fittings, faceplates, and accessories that are available in white or almond colors.

PMR40 Metal Raceway System is part of the complete PANDUIT solution that delivers a reliable, high-performance infrastructure with the lowest total cost of ownership. 

PANDUIT is a leading, world-class developer and provider of innovative networking and electrical solutions. For more than 50 years, PANDUIT has engineered and manufactured end-to-end solutions that assist our customers in the deployment of the latest technologies. Our global expertise and strong industry relationships make PANDUIT a valuable and trusted partner dedicated to delivering technology-driven solutions and unmatched service. Through our commitment to innovation, quality, and service, PANDUIT creates competitive advantages to earn customer preference.  (www.panduit.com/pmr42)

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Preformed Line Products Announces Quarterly Dividend

The Board of Directors of Preformed Line Products (Nasdaq: PLPC - News) on February 19, 2008 declared a regular quarterly dividend in the amount of $.20 per share on the Company's common shares, payable April 18, 2008 to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 1, 2008.

Founded in 1947, Preformed Line Products is an international designer and manufacturer of products and systems employed in the construction and maintenance of overhead and underground networks for energy, communications and broadband network companies.

Preformed's world headquarters are in Mayfield Village, Ohio, and the Company operates four domestic manufacturing centers, located in Rogers, Arkansas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Albemarle, North Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina. The Company serves its worldwide market through international operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Thailand. www.preformed.com

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Preformed Line Products Elects Two New Directors

Preformed Line Products Company (the "Company") announced today the election of R. Steven Kestner and Michael E. Gibbons to the Company's Board of Directors, bringing the total number to eight directors. With the addition of Mr. Kestner and Mr. Gibbons to the Board, the Company regained compliance with Nasdaq Marketplace Rule 4350(c)(1), which requires a majority of the directors be independent. The election of Mr. Kestner and Mr. Gibbons was by the Board of Directors to fill two vacancies on the Board. In accordance with the Company's Code of Regulations, they will hold office until this year's annual meeting of shareholders. Both Mr. Kestner and Mr. Gibbons are expected to be nominees for election to the Board by the shareholders at the annual meeting.

Previously, on February 6, 2008 the Company disclosed in a Form 8-K that the Company had notified the Nasdaq on January 31, 2008 that the Company was not in compliance with Rule 4350(c)(1) as a result of the death on January 30, 2008 of John D. Drinko, an independent director.

Mr. Kestner is Executive Partner and Senior Managing Director of Baker & Hostetler, LLP, and has been an attorney with the firm since 1979. Mr. Kestner serves on the Board of Trustees for The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Board of Regents for St. Ignatius High School and the Board of Directors for the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Baker & Hostetler, LLP serves as the Company's general outside legal counsel.

Mr. Gibbons is the founder of Brown Gibbons Lang & Company, and is also the chairman of Global M&A. Mr. Gibbons serves as Chairman and is a member of the executive committee for Global M&A, Dusseldorf, Germany; on the board of directors, audit committee and chairman of the finance and planning committee for Associated Estates Realty Corporation, Richmond Heights, Ohio; on the board of trustees and executive committee and Vice Chairman for Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Cleveland, Ohio; on the board of trustees for Ohio Israeli Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland, Ohio; and on the visiting committee for Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management, Cleveland, Ohio.

Robert G. Ruhlman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, said that "We are honored to have Steve and Mike join our Board. These appointments increase the number of independent directors to five, and reflect our ongoing commitment to maintaining high standards of corporate governance and improving the Board's expertise."

Founded in 1947, Preformed Line Products (Nasdaq: PLPC - News) is an international designer and manufacturer of products and systems employed in the construction and maintenance of overhead and underground networks for energy, communications and broadband network companies. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the Company operates four domestic manufacturing centers, located in Rogers, Arkansas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Albemarle, North Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina. PLP serves worldwide markets through international operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Thailand.

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RHINO Professional Labeling Tools Announces Winners Of Yamaha Rhino Sweepstakes

RHINO Professional Labeling Tools announced the winners of its “Stick with RHINO” Sweepstakes, in which five Yamaha Rhino Side-by-Side 4x4 vehicles were the prizes. The sweepstakes ran from March to the end of November 2007. Entries were accepted via RHINO’s website ww.rhinopromo.com, as well as select tradeshows held throughout the United States.

Winners of the sweepstakes include Loretta Conover of Nevada, Robin Ritter of New York, Tom Showers of California, John Pawson of Pennsylvania, and Terry Honaker of Indiana.

“We are very pleased at the interest this sweepstakes created for our products and the excitement it brings to the labeling category,” stated Ernie Racenet, Global Business Unit Director of RHINO. “The event was a special promotion held to announce the release of our latest RHINO labeling tools: the RHINO 101 Reusable Label Dispenser and the PC-compatible RHINO 6000 and RHINO 6500 Label Printers. Aside from the natural tie-in with the RHINO name, we chose the Yamaha Rhino vehicles as the prizes because they are rugged, tough, and durable — the same qualities featured in our RHINO labeling products. We congratulate the five winners of our sweepstakes.”

For more information on RHINO labeling tools, visit www.rhinolabeling.com.

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New SilverLine™ QMA Test Cables For Microwave Applications Now Available From Times Microwave

The excellent frequency response of the new QMA-SMA, QMA-Type N and QMA-TNC adaptors make them suitable for use up to 18 GHz for most microwave applications.  SilverLine test cables with QMA plug and QMA jack adaptor exhibit a remarkably low VSWR of 1.30:1 through 18 GHz.  Also improved are the ruggedness and durability of the QMA interface, doubling the mating life. 

Features and benefits include:

* Snap on, pull off adaptors

* 18 GHz operation (SMA, Type N, TNC)

* 5,000 mate life cycle

* 360° DUT rotation while mated with little or no performance change.

* Durable, all stainless steel construction

A full complement of 29 coaxial adaptors for 2-way, RF and microwave use are currently are available in both plug and jack configurations.

About Times Microwave Systems

Times Microwave Systems has 60 years experience in designing innovative, high-reliability, coaxial cables and assemblies for demanding interconnection problems. An engineering oriented organization, the company specializes in the design and manufacture of high performance flexible and semi-rigid coaxial cable, connectors, and cable assemblies for RF transmission from HF through microwave frequencies.

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Betsy Ziobron - Freelance Writer

Serving the Telecommunications Industry

Betsy Ziobron has spent the past 15 years writing quality technical copy for a variety of markets, audiences, and mediums. Betsy started her
career as a technical and promotional writer for medical, security, and environmental corporations. In early 2000, she became an independent freelance writer focusing primarily on the networking and telecommunications industries.

Today, Betsy provides freelance and ghost writing services to several leading providers of network infrastructure solutions, specializing in case studies, white papers, technical articles, and brochures. Betsy’s writing has been published in such publications as BICSI News, Cabling Business, Cabling Installation and Maintenance, Communications News, Heard on the Street, Network Cabling Magazine,TED Magazine, and several other print and online technology publications. Well versed in telecommunications and related standards, Betsy is also a monthly contributing writer to Cabling Installation and Maintenance Magazine. She has covered a variety of communications topics including standards, data centers, premise and campus copper and fiber technologies, WiFi, security systems, market trends, and more.

For writing samples, services, or other information, Betsy can be contacted at bziobron@comcast.net.

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The Light Brigade’s April 2008 Training Schedule

Fiber Optics 1-2-3

This course focuses on how to design, install, test and maintain fiber optic communication systems for voice, video and data applications. The course consists of two days of classroom content and two optional days of hands-on practices. Course material and techniques taught are based on ITU, TIA/EIA, IEEE, Telcordia and ANSI standards. Class participants will learn to understand and effectively use any manufacturer's equipment or product designed to conform to these widely accepted standards.

 

 

 

 

 

April 1-4

San Francisco, CA

 

April 14-17

Lansing, MI

 

Atlanta, GA

 

 

Jackson, MS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 7-10

Seattle, WA

 

April 21-24

San Antonio, TX

 

Albany, NY

 

 

Charlotte, NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 28-May 1

Portland, OR

 

 

 

 

Anaheim, CA

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Hands-on Modules

These intensive one-day fiber optic training courses were developed as the next level of training for those who require more advanced skills and experience with major fiber optic disciplines and equipment. Each of the five modules focuses on a specific discipline and incorporates concentrated hands-on exercises.

Module 1: Fiber Optic Cable Preparation, Patch Panels & Splice Closures

Module 2: Fiber Optic Connectorization

Module 3: Optical Loss Testing, Troubleshooting & Documentation

Module 4: OTDR Theory, Operation & Emergency Restoration

Module 5: Fiber Optic Splicing (Fusion & Mechanical)

April 14-18

Denver, CO

www.lightbrigade.com 

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Light Brigade Fiber Optic Active Devices Training DVD

The Light Brigade announces its newest menu-based DVD, titled Fiber Optic Active Devices. Filmed at OFC 2006 and 2007, this DVD provides a basic understanding of optical components from theory to operation. It serves as a primer for anyone involved with lasers, LEDs, detectors and optical amplifiers, whether they are used at the component or sub-assembly level, or in fiber optic transmission systems.

Active devices are electronic components made up of semiconductor materials that actively manipulate electrons to perform the intended function. They require a source of energy to operate and have an output that is a function of present and past input signals. Types of active devices include controlled power supplies, transistors, light sources, amplifiers, and transmitters. Also covered are:

  • The theory and fundamentals of electro-optical components.
  • Optical sources, such as LEDs, VCSELs, laser diodes, and optical amplifiers.
  • PIN, PIN-FET and APD detectors and their application in opto-electronic systems.
  • Transmitters and receivers, and how active components are manufactured, integrated, and tested.
  • Design and packaging for active optical components, and the roles of sources, detectors, transimpedance amplifiers, clock and data recovery, mux/demux, heat sinks and transponders.
  • Transceiver modules, such as TOSA, ROSA, MSA, XENPACK, X2, XPAK, SPF, and XFP.
  • How to employ test equipment with active devices to verify performance, quality and operation, and to characterize components.

The material is divided into menu-selectable chapters for easy access. The DVD’s bonus materials include an acronym list, a glossary of related terms, and a quiz with student and instructor versions. www.lightbrigade.com

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HCM Solutions Exceed Category 6A Standard

Hitachi Cable Manchester (HCM) continues to be a leader in the development of new and innovative copper and fiber optic communication cables. 

HCM was the first manufacturer to have UL verified Category 6A cable in both shielded and unshielded versions.  With the Category 6A standard, TIA/EIA-568-B.2.10, now approved, customers can take full advantage of the benefit of open architecture that the standard provides.  Any connectivity that meets the Category 6A standard, when mated to HCM’s Category 6A Supra 10G (UTP or F/UTP), will deliver reliable 10-gigabit throughput.  This open architecture approach, for which the TIA/EIA standards were developed, allows customers the flexibility to design an infrastructure that meets their specific needs.  And, with a Lifetime Warranty available through HCM, the performance of that infrastructure is guaranteed.    www.hcm.hitachi.com

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The search for the best carrier is over

Tired of beating the bushes to find the best deal from a carrier to meet your needs? We found an outfit that really delivers value. American Communication Solutions, Inc. provides quality solutions for advanced voice technologies, including Carrier Access Services, Voice Conferencing, Interactive Voice Response and Call Recording.

Scott Fairbairn, President of American Communication Solutions, Inc said, “ACS has formulated their offerings around the business client’s values & goals. ACS, by providing assess to multiple sources, can you help reduce costs associated with qualifying vendors and evaluating technologies. ACS and Top Service Providers - a combination that can't be beat!”

American Communication Solutions, Inc. Austin Texas has expanded their Carrier Service portfolio to include 57 voice, data and satellite carrier services.

http://www.amcomsolutions.com

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SMP Announces Issuance of Limited Axcess™ Patent

SMP Data Communications, a leading developer and manufacturer of high-speed cross-connect products for communication networks, proudly announces the issuance of patent US 7,318,754, Keyed modular connection system and associated adapter cable for their new Limited Axcess™ solution.  Under the seal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Limited Axcess patent was published on January 15th, 2008 and as a result of publishing, SMP may assert provisional rights on the Limited Axcess solution and technology.  This published patent joins SMP’s collection of notable telecommunications achievements including recent patents relating to Category 6 and 6A patch cord plugs.

The Limited Axcess keyed copper solution offers enhanced network security by providing physically restrictive access to the network using a unique plug and jack interconnect system.  Using SMP’s signature Bezel system and matching Patch Cord boot combinations, the Limited Axcess system creates multiple levels of keyed access to a network.  In addition, this patented system provides system performance up to and including Category 6A requirements.  

 “The Limited Axcess patent is just the next generation in the family of SMP’s long-standing intellectual property history. SMP has more than 50 active patents globally. Our devotion to developing products that meet the needs of an ever-changing industry is always the primary initiative for SMP and we look forward to continuing this tradition through emerging technologies.” stated Bill Reynolds, VP and General Manager of SMP.

SMP Data Communications, headquartered in Swannanoa, North Carolina, is internationally recognized for its role in establishing the world’s data/communications standards, through its innovative-patented technologies. SMP, founded in 1990, manufactures and develops copper and fiber passive connectivity hardware components for use in commercial and residential applications.  The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Preformed Line Products (PLPC) of Cleveland, Ohio.  For more information about SMP’s complete product line visit our website at www.smpdata.com.

Association News

ACUTA

Colleges, Universities Seeking Improvements in How They Charge Back Network Costs, Latest ACUTA Survey Finds

Communications professionals at colleges and universities are only moderately satisfied with the systems in place for charging back communications network costs to university departments and to students, and they see much room for improvement, according to a survey by ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

The latest ACUTA survey covered attendees at the organization’s annual Winter Seminars, where the issue of cost allocation was a key topic. ACUTA, the only national association committed to serving the needs of higher education information communications technology professionals, represents nearly 2,000 individuals at 770 institutions.

Asked to rate their current system of analyzing costs and charging them back on a scale of 1 to 5, the survey respondents gave their collective systems an overall rating of 2.92, just below the midpoint.

As to where their systems needed the most improvement, 80 percent of ACUTA attendees pointed to allocation of data costs, and 72 percent said the systems needed to be able to factor in newer technologies such as Voice over IP and wireless networking. Sixty percent said the systems need to be responsive to additional future needs. Interestingly, more than half of respondents said the problems were outside the systems themselves, in areas such as the degree of cooperation received from departments and the administration, and a lack of backing at the executive level.

Most of the chargeback systems are older, with 64 percent of respondents noting that their systems are at least five years old; those systems are evenly split between systems developed in-house or purchased from a vendor. More than half of respondents overall said their current systems don’t have any negative impact on their budgets, but among those who do see an impact, 55 percent say the effect on their budget is  “serious.”

Asked how likely they are to make a change in their systems, 84 percent said they are likely to do so, and more than half of them expect an upgrade within a year. The most desired benefits of a new system, the respondents said, would be to provide more accurate cost-of-service data, allocate service costs more fairly, and enable better ongoing analysis of their cost environment.

“As networks continue to converge, the issue of charging costs back is much more complex now than it has been traditionally, and ACUTA members understand that need,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “Clearly, the results of this survey show that information communications professionals see the shortcomings of their current systems and are pushing to improve them as soon as possible.”

About ACUTA
ACUTA, the Association for  Information Communications Technology  Professionals in Higher Education, is an international non-profit educational association serving colleges and universities.  Its core purpose is to support higher education communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions. ACUTA represents nearly 2000 individuals at some 770 institutions of higher education, with members ranging from small schools and community colleges to the 50 largest U.S. institutions.  ACUTA’s Corporate Affiliate members represent all categories of  communications technology  vendors serving the college/university market. www.acuta.org

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ACUTA’s Spring Seminar Focuses On VoIP Technology, Challenges Of Staffing For Converged Networking

An examination of Voice over IP technology from all angles, including the issue of finding the right employees with the right skills in a world of converged networks, is featured in the Spring Seminar of ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

The seminar is April 6-9 in St. Louis, at the Sheraton St. Louis. With a twin topical focus on “VoIP: Costs, Challenges, and Opportunities” and “Staffing in a Converged IT World,” it will feature presentations by representatives of large and small colleges and universities from all over the country.

Representing schools such as Yale, Indiana University, Texas A&M, Columbia, Emory University, Loyola, Washington University, Johns Hopkins, and Juniata College, presenters will share their insight, experiences, and successes with their peers.

Educational sessions concentrating on VoIP technology will explore topics such as upgrading the infrastructure in older buildings and optimizing the converged network for distance learning, and will look at specific deployment details on various campuses. On the staffing side, presenters will cover the mix of skills employees need now and in the future, how to attract them to campus employment, and how to lead them to success.

ACUTA is the only national association dedicated to serving the needs of higher education information communications technology professionals, representing some 2,000 individuals at 770 institutions.

“This year’s Spring Seminar addresses a significant technical issue for ACUTA member colleges and universities,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA.” The migration to a VoIP environment is inevitable, and our sessions will focus on how colleges and universities can manage their evolution. That includes finding staff members who can blend the specific skills required for data networks and for voice networks.

“ACUTA seminars offer more than educational sessions, giving attendees extensive networking opportunities and a chance to learn from their fellow information communications technology professionals. The information they learn and the contacts they make provide real benefits to them and to their schools,” Semer said.www.acuta.corg

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AFCOM

The Road Ahead” and "Sustainable Data Storage” Are Keynote Themes at AFCOM®'s Data Center World®

Microsoft and Hitachi Data Systems Executives to be Featured Speakers

AFCOM, the leading association supporting the data center industry, announced that Michael Manos, senior director of data center services for Microsoft Corp., and Hubert Yoshida, vice president and CTO of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), will deliver consecutive keynote speeches at Data Center World on Tuesday, April 1, 2008, beginning at 7:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. respectively. 

Data Center World will take place March 30-April 3 at the MGM Grand and Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas.

Mr. Manos, who is responsible for the worldwide operations and construction efforts of all Internet and enterprise data centers for Microsoft, will address “The Changing Face of the Data Center.” He will discuss the management, measurement and operation pitfalls data center professionals are likely to face in the coming years. Additionally, he will explore the impact of new technology, coming regulatory reporting—of energy efficiency and carbon footprints—and overall operations for the data center industry.

Following a brief recess, Mr. Yoshida will present “Sustainable Data Storage is More Than Green Technology.”  In his address, he will discuss the importance of sustainable data storage, the disconnect with “green technology,” and the best practices required to ultimately contribute to the bottom line.  At HDS, Mr. Yoshida is responsible for defining the company’s technical direction and currently leads efforts to help customers satisfy compliance, governance and operation risk issues.

Wholly owned and operated by AFCOM, Data Center World occurs biannually and is lauded as a premier networking and educational conference for data center professionals.  Data Center World averages upwards of 1,100 attendees, and has been recognized by Tradeshow Week as one of the 50 fastest growing shows in the U.S.

About AFCOM:
AFCOM (www.afcom.com) is a leading association supporting the educational and professional development needs of data center professionals around the globe.  Established in 1980, AFCOM currently boasts more than 3,700 members and 26 chapters worldwide, and provides data center professionals with unique networking opportunities and educational forums and resources through its annual Data Center World® Conferences, published magazines, regional chapters, research and hotline services, and industry alliances.

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BICSI

Cabling Designers And Installers Rock N’ Roll In Music City

Inaugural Cabling Skills Challenge hosted concurrently at Spring Conference

BICSI, the association supporting the information transport systems (ITS) industry with information, education and knowledge assessment, announces events for the 2008 BICSI Spring Conference. Hosted at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Music City, Nashville, Tenn., April 27-30, this unique conference will help BICSI members, and nonmembers alike, gain invaluable knowledge and take advantage of the rapidly emerging ITS industry to ensure future business success.

Conference highlights include:

  • Nashville Welcome by Kacey Musgraves— Monday, Apr. 28, 8:30 a.m.
  • Kacey Musgraves is a singer-songwriter from Texas who appeared on the 5th season of USA Network's, "Nashville Star" the Country Music version of "American Idol." She was one of ten finalists selected out of over 20,000 hopefuls competing for a spot on the show. She has been performing professionally from an early age gaining experience, learning instruments and playing live shows. Now at age 19, Kacey lives in Austin and has released her self-titled debut album. She is currently nominated for two Texas Music Association Awards, Female Artist of the Year and Song of the Year.

  • Scott Deming— Opening Keynote Speaker, Monday, Apr. 28, 8:45 a.m.
  • Scott Deming started his own marketing and advertising company called RCI in 1983. RCI eventually grew into a multi-million dollar organization servicing Fortune 500 companies and many other medium to large corporations across the country. Scott and his firm helped their clients successfully grow their businesses and beat their competition with renegade branding, sales, customer service and communications programs. Not surprisingly, it was this very same progressive thinking that helped Scott's firm succeed over a twenty-plus year period and achieve many awards, such as The Business Journal's "Most Inspiring Business of the Year."

  • Dick Enberg— Closing Keynote Speaker, Wednesday, Apr. 30, 10:30 a.m.
  • Dick Enberg is celebrating his 50th year in broadcasting. He has reported at football games in weather so frigid that his coffee froze before he could drink it, been challenged to a fight by an irate baseball player, led the Notre Dame band in a rendition of "The 1812 Overture," and been threatened with ejection at Wimbledon because he was shouting too loudly into his microphone. Dick now calls play-by-play for CBS Sports' coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship and joined CBS Sports in January 2000 as play-by-play announcer for the NFL on CBS, college basketball and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

For more information about the 2008 BICSI Spring Conference or the BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge, please visit www.bicsi.org/spring.

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The U.S. Southeast Region Director Charles Wilson, RCDD/NTS/OSP Specialist, invites you to the Southeast Region Meeting.

Date: March 27, 2008
Time: 8 a.m.
Location: OFS Factory, Atlanta, GA

Expand your knowledge with networking and vendor showcases, as well as technical presentations. Seats are limited, reserve your spot now!

There is no charge to attend this meeting and RCDDs will earn four BICSI continuing education credits (CECs) toward designation renewal. CECs for all other BICSI designations will be assessed.

To view the meeting agenda, details and to register, click here or visit: http://www.bicsi.org/content/index.aspx?File=08-03-27_Atlanta.html

Register Today! Charles looks forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

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BICSI Announces Cabling Skills Challenge

- Participants will battle for the title of Installer of the Year -

The inaugural BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge will feature the world’s best information transport systems (ITS) installers testing their skills and knowledge as they compete for the title of Installer of the Year. The event will be held in conjunction with the evening exhibition sessions during the 2008 BICSI Spring Conference, April 27-30, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Competitors for the challenge will be selected from the field of entrants based on qualifying criteria such as professionalism, quality of resume and work experience. Over the course of the three-day challenge, they will compete in the following six (6) events:

Event 1: Structured Cabling Systems (SCS) Installation

Event 2: Copper Cable Terminations

Event 3: Fiber Terminations

Event 4: Cable Assembly

Event 5: Cable Troubleshooting/Technical Support

Event 6: Competency Exam

Competitors will also be scored throughout the competition on professionalism. Scores will be based on resume, orientation (attendance & promptness) attitude, safety, tools and equipment, attention to detail and aesthetics. The award ceremony will be held at 10:15 a.m., Wednesday, April 30, during the closing session of the conference.

“The Cabling Skills Challenge offers a substantial opportunity for BICSI Registered Installers and Technicians to highlight the expertise they’ve gained through years of training and experience working in the ITS industry,” said Dan Morris, RCDD, Chair, BICSI Installation Committee. “We are very excited to develop the event as part of our continuing effort to broaden our outreach to the heart of our industry; the installers and technicians.”

“This event will be the first time that the Installers will have a forum at a BICSI Conference to showcase their talents,” said David M. Richards, RCDD/NTS/OSP Specialist, VP Technical Training for PCC Network Solutions. “Giving the front line BICSI Installers and Technicians their deserved recognition is important to promote BICSI ‘best practices’ and the future RCDDs of the ITS industry.”

The deadline for application is March 15. For complete details, including the challenge schedule and application form, visit www.bicsi.org/skillschallenge.

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BICSI Cares charity to help save little hearts

During the 2008 BICSI Spring Conference, charity donations will be accepted to help Saving Little Hearts Inc. This organization is dedicated to helping children with congenital heart defects and their families in Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, by providing financial and emotional assistance and educational information.

Saving Little Hearts also strives to provide enriching, educational and fun experiences for these children which will help them build friendships and confidence. More than 65 volunteers provide services that include, but are not limited to: surgery care packages (sent out 1000 last year), support groups, online parent matching, and educational materials. Find more information on the charity at www.savinglittlehearts.com.

Focusing on children in need, BICSI Cares, Inc. is the year-round charity outreach program for our association that has given money to charities worldwide to help foster child health and development, build schools, feed the hungry, prevent abuse and violence, combat illiteracy and provide for an overall positive environment. One hundred percent of the money collected at BICSI’s conferences is presented to a charity in or near the host city. This tradition has become an integral part of BICSI conferences and gives attendees the chance to see firsthand where their contributions will be used.  www.bicsi.org

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ACUTA

CABA

Invitation to Participate in Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings (CGIB)

Thurs, March 6, 2008 at 3 PM – 4 PM ET

CABA members and non-members are invited to attend an informational webinar and conference call on Thursday, March 6, 2008.

CABA is an industry association that promotes advanced technologies for the automation of homes and buildings in North America. The CABA Intelligent & Integrated Buildings Council (IIBC) is proposing a market positioning research study “Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings with Frost & Sullivan, a major research firm for the large building sector. This meeting will educate participants in the upcoming “Convergence of Green and Intelligent Buildings” research project.

The research initiative will demonstrate the positive environmental impacts of today’s intelligent and integrated building systems and building technology solutions in the following manner: 

·          Participants will steer research to validate their buildings, technologies, companies and services as “Green  


·          The study will educate stakeholders to view intelligent building technologies as a way to be “Green”  


·          Return on Investment (ROI) case studies will show how technologies can save energy, fuel and water while reducing greenhouse emissions

·          Provide a tool to educate end-users, owners, engineers, architects, integrators, etc. of the environmental and ROI benefits of using intelligent and integrated building systems

·          The CGIB Steering Committee will determine the final research deliverable  

The key objectives of the CGIB research report will demonstrate the green impact of Intelligent Buildings and ROI for end-users and the environment. The focus points will include measurements on the following criteria:    

·                     CO2 or Greenhouse Gas Emissions

·                     Life cycle costs, installation cost, and pay back period

·                     Energy savings and improved efficiency

·                     Occupant productivity ratios  

·                     Performance ratios (business cost)

·                     Occupant retention rates

·                     Reduced risk factors

·                     Indoor Air Environment


The CGIB Steering Committee will be comprised of organization that will fund the research. There will be two levels of participation. The final report will offer the industry participants the means to showcase integrated systems technology and contributions towards intelligent and green buildings. It will also highlight to end-users, building owners, architects, designers and developers how this technology can be incorporated into “Green and Sustainable” Buildings, providing a great ROI!

To receive an information package and meeting details please R.S.V.P. by Wednesday, March 5, 2008 to:    http://wwww.caba.org

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NAED

NAED Learning Center Expands Library Of Free Manufacturers' Product Courses

More than 320 Online Courses Now Available Free to NAED Members

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) has expanded its resource library of manufacturers' product training courses. NAED members can use the NAED Learning Center (NLC) to access more than 320 online courses. The courses enable distributor employees to learn the most up-to-date information about specific manufacturer products.

All training activity is tracked on the learner's NLC training transcript, and all manufacturer product courses are available at no cost to NAED members.

"We were looking for a better way to train our staff," said Scott Drouin, sales manager for Laconia Electric Supply, Inc. in Laconia, N.H. "Prior to committing to use the NLC as our primary training tool, our employee training was scattered and highly ineffective. We were attempting to use our vendor reps as our primary resource, and we found that it was difficult and less than fruitful to coordinate meaningful training sessions for staff members from our five locations. We made the commitment in 2007 to use the NLC as our primary training tool and build our employee programs around it. The response from the employees has been excellent. People were excited about using the system from the moment we rolled out the first course offerings, meaning we haven't had difficulty getting our students to complete their curriculums."

Manufacturers with product courses in the NAED Learning Center (NLC) training library are:

•    ABB, Inc.*
•    Advance*
•    AFC Cable
•    Appleton/EGS Electrical Group*
•    Arlington Industries, Inc.
•    ASCO Power Technologies
•    Brady Corp.*
•    Bridgeport Fittings, Inc.*
•    Burndy Products, an FCI Co.*
•    Coleman Cable Inc.
•    Cooper Bussmann
•    Cooper Lighting
•    Cooper Wiring Devices*
•    CRC Industries, Inc.*
•    Crescent/Stonco, a Genlyte Group Co.
•    Eaton Corp.
•    Edwards Signaling & Security Systems*
•    General Electric Co.
•    Greenlee Textron Inc.
•    Hubbell Wiring Device/Kellems*
•    EGS Electrical Group, LLC*
•    Ideal Industries, Inc.*
•    ILSCO Corp.*
•    Kaf-Tech Inc.
•    Klein Tools, Inc.
•    Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.*
•    Lenox*
•    Lighting Controls Association - Education Express Site
•    Lightolier Inc., a Genlyte Group Co.
•    Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
•    Milbank Manufacturing Co.
•    Osram Sylvania
•    Panduit
•    Pass & Seymour/Legrand*
•    Philips Lighting Co.*
•    Shat-R-Shield Inc.
•    Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc.
•    Square D/Schneider Electric
•    Sola/Hevi-Duty/EGS Electrical Group*
•    Southwire Co. *
•    Wiremold/Legrand*
•    Universal Lighting Technologies

*Some modules are provided by ElectricSmarts.com Training Library.

"This resource library gives our distributor members a one-stop location for manufacturer training," said Michelle McNamara, executive director of the NAED Foundation and vice president of NAED. "We are grateful to the manufacturers that have contributed their courses to the NLC, and we applaud their efforts."

NAED encourages all manufacturers to participate in the NLC. To view the list of manufacturer training available on the NLC, login to the NAED Learning Center (NLC) at www.naedlearningcenter.org. In some cases, the NLC is linking directly to manufacturer courses and in other cases, the NLC provides a link to the manufacturer's site or to ElectricSmarts.com.
www.naedlearningcenter.org

NAED is the trade association for the $70+ billion electrical distribution industry. Through networking, education, research, and benchmarking, NAED helps electrical distributors increase profitability and improve the channel. NAED's membership represents approximately 4,100 locations internationally.

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TIA

TIA Hires Nicolas Fetchko As Director, International And Government Affairs

Newest Addition Brings Extensive International Public Policy Experience to TIA Policy and Advocacy Team

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) today announced the hire of Nicolas Fetchko as Director of International and Government Affairs. Fetchko contributes over ten years’ public sector experience in international telecommunications and information technology trade policy to augment the association’s extensive policy and advocacy operations.

Fetchko will work to further the international interests of information and communications technology (ICT) manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad, advocating TIA members’ positions and facilitating business opportunities through coordination of and participation in bilateral and multilateral dialogues.

“Nicolas Fetchko brings to TIA an extraordinary breadth of experience in international and government affairs,” said Grant E. Seiffert, TIA President. “He has a reputation as a skilled strategist and consensus-builder, and brings valuable competencies to enhance TIA’s efforts as a world-wide organization.”

In his most recent position as Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State, Fetchko advanced international communications and information policy with South and Central Asia, Latin America, Canada, Italy, Portugal, Germany and El Salvador. , Fluent in Spanish, French and German, Fetchko also holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and a B.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University.

For almost three decades, TIA has leveraged its global resources to create the best possible business environment within which our 500+ members can research, develop, manufacture, market and sell their products and services worldwide. The association accomplishes this through its expertise in standards, advocacy, business development, market intelligence, environmental compliance and information security. TIA is committed to expanding market opportunities while protecting and enhancing the reputation of the global communications industry with all its stakeholders.  www.tiaonline.org  

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TIA Hires Taly Walsh As VP, Marketing And Business Development

Association Adds Branding, Tradeshow Marketing, Web and Membership Development Experience

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) today announced the addition to its leadership structure of Taly Walsh, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. Walsh brings over twenty years’ experience in association and tradeshow marketing, strategic branding and positioning, web development, technology and membership relations.

Walsh will work to reinforce and enhance TIA’s leadership position in the information communications and entertainment industries by promoting the association’s efforts to provide its membership appropriate platforms for standard-setting, government affairs, market intelligence, business development and environmental compliance.

“We are delighted with the depth of expertise that Taly Walsh brings to the association,” said Grant E. Seiffert, TIA President. “Her role at TIA will be pivotal to our continued growth and visibility around the world.”

Walsh was previously Senior Vice President for Marketing and Membership at InfoComm International, an association representing the audiovisual industry; prior to that, Walsh led the marketing for CardTech/SecurTech, a tradeshow for the biometrics and security industries, and for Public Technology, Inc., an association advancing research and technology in local and state government.

For almost three decades, TIA has leveraged its global resources to create the best possible business environment within which our 500+ members can research, develop, manufacture, market and sell their products and services worldwide. The association accomplishes this through its expertise in standards, advocacy, business development, market intelligence, environmental compliance and information security. TIA is committed to expanding market opportunities while protecting and enhancing the reputation of the global communications industry with all its stakeholders. www.tiaonline.org.

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TIA Files Net Neutrality Comments With FCC

Calls Network Management an Essential Part of Broadband Deployment.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) filed comments with the FCC this week in response to its two Public Notices on broadband network management practices -- net neutrality -- arguing that reasonable network management may not only be beneficial to users overall but is indeed necessary for widespread deployment of broadband service.

“TIA believes that the broadband marketplace can be vigilantly monitored and complaints of anticompetitive activity can be addressed through appropriate legal and regulatory oversight. TIA has maintained that the Commission has such authority today,” said TIA Vice President of Government Affairs Danielle Coffey.  TIA believes basic consumer protection rules have already been laid out by the FCC’s Policy Statement, drawn in large part from the connectivity principles crafted by TIA and the High Tech Broadband Coalition in 2003.  The Policy Statement offers consumers the right to access information and connect devices of their choosing, and also provides network operators the flexibility required in our ever-evolving technological environment.  This policy statement has succeeded in promoting a vibrant Internet ecosystem and significant investment in broadband infrastructure in part by avoiding the rigid regulatory regime that net neutrality rules would impose.

“Service providers have a responsibility to disclose quality of service, speed and price data to consumers in an open, clear way,” Coffey continued.  “The chief question surrounding broadband network management practices concerns is one of business practices, not technology.” www.tiaonline.org 

Article Contributions

Building Green

BuildingGreen And The Taunton Press Announce Partnership

BuildingGreen, one of the oldest and most respected sources of green building information in North America, announces a partnership with The Taunton Press, publisher of Fine Homebuilding.

The partnership gives Taunton Press an ownership stake in BuildingGreen and gives BuildingGreen the ability to extend its leadership in green building information to a broader and larger audience.

Taunton, which publishes 11 magazines and websites and a wide range of books serving professionals and homeowners, brings financial resources, a long expertise in residential building and 32 years of publishing experience to the partnership.

BuildingGreen, publisher of Environmental Building News, BuildingGreen Suite and GreenSpec® Directory, will be able to better serve its existing customers in both commercial and residential building, as well as extend its reach to a wider audience that is at an earlier stage of adopting green design and construction principles.

Taunton will assume an ownership stake in BuildingGreen, alongside principals Alex and Jerelyn Wilson and Nadav Malin. "We're excited to benefit from Taunton's resources and experience as BuildingGreen grows and matures to meet the needs of an exploding market for green information," said president and founder Alex Wilson, who has been a regular contributor to Taunton's Fine Homebuilding. "We have long admired Taunton's integrity as a family-owned company and the authenticity of its resources, and we look forward to working together."

For its part, "Taunton is thrilled to be joining forces with the leading voice in the green building field," said senior vice president Paul Spring, who will become CEO of BuildingGreen. "We share so many of the same values and will be terrific complements to each other in the skills, knowledge and experience we each bring to this partnership."

BuildingGreen, www.BuildingGreen.com, has provided the building industry with quality information on sustainable design and construction since its founding in 1985. It is headquartered in Brattleboro, Vermont. Its publications include Environmental Building News; the GreenSpec® Directory; the residential product directory Green Building Products; and the integrated, online BuildingGreen Suite.

The Taunton Press, www.taunton.com, has been a trusted source of valuable information and inspiration on the house and home, including home building and design, gardening, woodworking, fiber arts and cooking since 1975. Millions of professionals and consumers purchase Taunton's books, magazines, DVDs, and use its Web sites to improve their skills and expand their horizons.

Publishers of authoritative information on environmentally responsible building design and construction, including the leading monthly newsletter Environmental Building News, and the GreenSpec® Directory.  www.buildinggreen.com

From Environmental Building News, www.BuildingGreen.com

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Building Green News

BuildingGreen provides information outlets such as Environmental Building News (EBN) and BuildingGreen Suite that cover the most pressing issues in environmental design and construction with a clear approach to all sides of an issue, keeping our readers informed on building for sustainability. This email brings you, as a news editor or website owner interested in sustainable design, an excerpt from our top story for the month, as well as links to other stories currently posted in the free area of www.BuildingGreen.com

All materials Copyright BuildingGreen, Inc. 2008

February Feature Article

Water: Doing More With Less

No place is more emblematic of water shortage than Las Vegas. The metropolitan area receives about four inches (100 mm) of rainfall per year and has doubled in population just since 2000 (to 1.9 million). It is 90% dependent on Lake Mead -- a half-full (half-empty?) lake whose level has dropped more than 100 feet (30 m) since 1990.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the United States uses about 400 billion gallons (1.5 trillion l) of water per day. Of this, the vast majority is used for thermoelectric power generation (48%) and irrigation on farms (34%). Water use in and around buildings, from both public water supplies and well water, accounts for about 47 billion gallons (180 billion l) per day, or 12% of U.S. water use.

To see the full feature article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170201a.xml

The full article requires a log-in to view, and is NOT available for re-publication. If you would like to read the full article, and do not have a log-in, please contact Jerelyn Wilson at jerelyn@buildinggreen.com.

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Other Current Stories from Environmental Building News:

Bringing Water Back into the Discussion

Alex Wilson

Atlanta provided a wakeup call in 2007. With the city's primary water source, Lake Lanier, almost dry and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue holding prayer vigils for rain, a region that normally sloshes in over 50 inches (130 cm) of rainfall per year was grappling with drought. Water shortage is becoming a reality in many areas of the United States -- a result of growing populations, shifting precipitation patterns due to global warming, long-term precipitation patterns that may not have anything to do with climate change (there is some evidence that for the past several hundred years the West has been in a period of higher-than-normal precipitation), and unsustainable water-management practices.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170202a.xml

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Good Ozone, Bad Ozone

Backpage Primer from Environmental Building News

The oxygen that we breathe consists of pairs of oxygen atoms, or O2. Add another oxygen atom and you get O3, or ozone. Ozone is the primary component of smog. It is created when pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or nitrogen oxides react with oxygen, which is triggered by sunlight and heat. These pollutants come primarily from motor vehicles and factories but also from paints, coatings, and adhesives. Ozone irritates lung tissues and can lead to serious respiratory problems. Since passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act, ozone levels in most major U.S. cities have declined measurably.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170220a.xml

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California to Require Net-Zero-Energy Buildings

Allyson Wendt

Every two years, the California Energy Commission (CEC) releases an Integrated Energy Policy Report in which it makes recommendations for energy policy in the state, including changes to Title 24, the energy efficiency portion of the building codes. In its 2007 report, CEC recommends adjusting Title 24 to require net-zero-energy performance in residential buildings by 2020 and in commercial buildings by 2030.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170205a.xml

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Revolutionary Vacuum Glass Coming from Guardian

Alex Wilson

Guardian Industries, one of the world's largest architectural and automotive glass manufacturers, with 19,000 employees in 25 countries, has under development a revolutionary vacuum-glazing panel that provides a center-of-glass insulating value of R-12 to R-13.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170210a.xml

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The Architecture Handbook:

A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings

Nadav Malin

Created to update and replace a drafting manual from the 1950s, this high-school textbook is an amazing achievement in the integration and presentation of nearly everything future architects need to know, with a sustainable design focus that is matter-of-fact but not heavy-handed.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=170219a.xml

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BuildingGreen, Inc. is publisher of the nation's oldest publication on sustainable design and construction and the leading national directory of green building products. For more information on BuildingGreen and its resources on environmentally responsible design and construction, visit www.BuildingGreen.com , email Info@buildinggreen.com, or call 800-861-0954 (outside the U.S. and Canada, call 802-257-7300). BuildingGreen is a socially responsible, company based in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Contact Information

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From Environmental Building News, www.BuildingGreen.com.

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Cabling Installation & Maintenance

Green On Green

A few months ago in this space, I brought up the topic of green buildings and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program by recalling a presentation that was delivered at the BICSI Conference last September (see “LEED by example,” October 2007, page 6). Not long after that article was published, I received a call from a long-time contact of mine, who is employed by one of the manufacturers in our industry. He had a response to the final line in my October column: “I’ll be interested to hear more about our industry’s take on LEED.”

His take is that our industry will have a very minimal role in the program. Many of the products you work with on a daily basis—those that get written about and advertised in this magazine, and displayed at exhibitions such as those that accompany BICSI conferences—fall outside the realm of what LEED considers, he said.

After taking that call, I said out loud the figurative, “I don’t believe it.” It’s not that I literally did not believe the information; it came from a trustworthy source who more than deserved the benefit of the doubt. It was just one of those (many) occasions on which I said one thing and meant another. What I really meant was, “I’m surprised to hear that.” Surprised because I have heard all kinds of chatter about cabling systems’ potential impact on LEED certification.

Fast forward just a little, and I’m at BICSI’s most recent conference, held last month. What follows is a true story: While on the exhibition floor with a fellow staff member of this magazine, he was listening to one gentleman talk about the important role cabling-related systems play in LEED at the exact same time that, not more than three feet away, I was listening to another gentleman say that, in fact, most of what our industry concerns itself with is exempt from the LEED program.

Now it’s your turn to say, “I don’t believe it,” and a great many of you may mean it literally. But I would testify under oath that’s exactly what happened.

Still, as much as that scene might have resembled something from a slapstick comedy, the last thing we want to resemble is an assembly of keystone cops trying unsuccessfully to relay intelligent information about cabling’s role in LEED. So, my pledge is this: We at Cabling Installation & Maintenance will work to cut through the clutter and bring you relevant, meaningful information about LEED and, more importantly to us in this industry, information about the extent to which it and other environmental initiatives will affect us.

It appears that many in our industry have much to learn about the topic, and I’ll rank myself as the neediest for such information. But hopefully, not for long. Please stay with us as we peel back the layers of what is sure to be a challenging topic.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN

Chief Editor

patrick@pennwell.com

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance www.cablinginstall.com 

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Fiber-optic technology brings old-fashioned security up to date

Two systems that employ optical circuits to detect intrusion are finding deployment in highly sensitive applications.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

You might not find a more-primitive security system than the chain-link fence. Long before the concepts of phishing and network hacking could be fathomed—well before the invention of Ethernet, in fact—these trusted protection devices prevented unwanted visitors from treading on selected parcels of real estate. Over the years more technologically advanced methods of perimeter protection evolved, including video surveillance and “seeing eye”-type intrusion detection, each of which with its own communications infrastructure, and much of that infrastructure consisting of wiring.

Yet fences did not go the way of the abacus or typewriter in the face of emerging technology. They are still virtually omnipresent as protection systems. And today, many highly sensitive entities are choosing not to replace their fences with cabled security systems, but rather to add cabling—fiber-optic cabling in particular—to their existing perimeter security systems in order to gain the advantages of modern intrusion detection.

Two such systems, the Fiber Defender from Fiber SenSys (www.fibersensys.com) and Fiber Fence from Fiber Instrument Sales (FIS; www.fiber-fence.com), turn optical fiber’s bend sensitivity into a primary security asset.

Fiber’s bend sensitivity

“The optical fiber is used as the sensing element,” explains Fiber SenSys’s Joshua Gardner. “There is a unique phenomenon that occurs in multimode optical fiber, called intermodal mixing. Any movement of the optical fiber, even microscopic movements such as vibrations, changes the way that light is propagated down the core of the fiber. Any movement of the optical fiber causes a change in what is called the speckle pattern. Our detector registers a change in the speckle pattern.

“We employ a sophisticated digital-signal processor [DSP] that runs many algorithms to determine if a signal is an intruder or environmental background noise such as wind. There are several calibration parameters that tune the DSP to respond correctly to the sensor’s unique application.”

Fiber Defender is used in several applications, Gardner states, including chain-link fences, wrought-iron fences, and walltops. It can also be buried in gravel. “Our SecurLAN application employs an optical-fiber sensor cable inside of data conduit to detect cable tampering or tapping. A new application is our FiberMat sensor that is used in the track bed of light rail and subway stations to detect unauthorized access or the deposit of small packages.”

FIS’s Fiber Fence activates alarms and shows breach locations using optical technology and mechanical devices called MouseTrips, which are installed at intervals around a perimeter and detect movement of the sensing fiber or disturbance of the fence to which it is attached, the company says. Its laser-based control unit injects light into the fiber-optic cable, and the MouseTrip sensors are triggered by any cuts to or tugs on the cable. When triggered, the MouseTrip reduces light flow through the circuit, which the control unit detects.

“FiberFence is designed to be implemented on an existing fence line and is designed to go around walls and gates,” says FIS’s William Batchelor, trainer and product manager for security products. “Our FiberFence includes non-electrical mechanical sensors—the MouseTrips—that are spaced every-so-many-feet apart from one another. Fiber-optic sensing cable is run through the MouseTrips. A spring-loaded plunger inside the MouseTrip is triggered when anybody disturbs the fence by tugging, climbing, or cutting. That plunger trip creates a microbend in the fiber, which creates loss of light.

“The system’s control unit is constantly searching for a range of light being sent from the control unit, traveling around the system, and arriving back at the control unit. If there is a loss, an alarm is activated.”

The second phase of FiberFence’s operation, Batchelor explains, is the activation of an optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR), which traces the fiber and locates the point of loss. That loss point flashes on a screen, alerting personnel of the location of the intrusion. FiberFence can tie into other security systems, including video-surveillance cameras, which can zoom in on the intrusion location.

The system has been deployed in military facilities, nuclear-power facilities, factories, storage yards, chemical plants, and hazardous-waste facilities.

Unique characteristics

As fiber-based “bolt-on”-type systems, these product lines differ from more-traditional intrusion-detection systems in several ways. “Many intrusion-detection systems use a copper cable to achieve their function,” says Fiber SenSys’s Gardner. “Examples of these would be leaky coax and piezoelectric sensors. Any sensor that uses copper cable will have a weakness to electromagnetic interference, radio-frequency interference, and lightning. The presence of metal or standing water in a leaky coax system will create detection problems.

“Some other intrusion-detection systems use microwave, passive infrared, or beam sensors. These systems typically get a lot of nuisance alarms in heavy wind, rain, or snow. Fiber-optic sensors employ only silicon glass around the perimeter, which is not susceptible to EMI, RFI, or lightning. It is not conductive to electricity and will not spark or arc. That makes it an ideal medium in facilities such as electrical switch yards, chemical storage, and explosive-material storage.”

He adds that Fiber SenSys systems have been successfully deployed in military/Department of Defense facilities and with DoD contractors. Other verticals that have taken to the system include petrochem, corrections, airports, executive residences, and transportation markets.

Optical familiarity

Because Fiber Fence and Fiber SenSys use optical technology and include cable as a primary element, installers of these systems should have cable-installation experience as well as knowledge of fiber theory and fiber-cabling performance. “Optical termination is required,” Gardner notes. “A good understanding of the tuning and calibration of the Fiber Defender is needed to ensure reliable and accurate intrusion detection.” Fiber SenSys offers a training class at its Hillsboro, OR headquarters, which covers all elements needed to install and maintain the system’s equipment.

Likewise, FIS’s Batchelor says some background in fiber-optic installation is helpful. “Mounting the MouseTrips requires just two screws, so that is not an issue,” he says. “But when it comes to installing around a gate, the sensing fiber runs to a splice box, then run over the gate to another splice box on the other side. Having knowledge of fiber optics and the ability fusion splice is helpful.”

Fiber Instrument Sales offers hands-on live training with its distributor and installation-contractor customers on the Fiber Fence system. FIS personnel accompany new customers on initial installations, ensuring they achieve a comfort level with the system. Batchelor offers a case-in-point about two of Fiber Fence’s earliest installers. One was an electrical-contracting company that had little fiber-optic installation experience; the other was a contracting company that handled fiber-optic installations exclusively. Both became certified installers of Fiber Fence with relative ease, he says, after just a few training classes.

Fiber Defender and Fiber Fence sometimes compete head-to-head, and other times one system is recognizably more appropriate for an environment than the other. In a nutshell, Fiber Fence is offered at a lower price point and provides shorter distance capabilities than Fiber Defender.

Despite their differences, these two systems are similar in that they both have turned optical fiber’s bend sensitivity into an advantage in the realm of security and safety.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance www.cablinginstall.com 

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Improving security through a smarter infrastructure

Intelligent physical-layer management provides a host of benefits, including more secure networks.

Any network manager will tell you the importance of a fully documented network. This documentation should include all workstations, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, router configurations, firewall parameters, and other data. But this documentation may fall short at the physical layer. In particular, older networks that have gone through many moves, adds, and changes (MACs) are not likely to have current documentation. In real time—during a crisis—this can mean the difference between quickly solving a problem and wasting precious time locating that problem’s source.

Perhaps the best illustration is an example taken from a customer that had an issue with an errant device on the network. The company had a five-building campus network, and a laptop was creating a denial-of-service (DoS) attack from the inside due to a virus. The switch would shut down the port, and information-technology (IT) staff would go to the telecommunications area to determine the location of the misbehaving device. But when IT got to the switch’s physical location, the physical layer, largely undocumented, became an issue because short of tracing cable, there was no way to find the laptop’s location. The IT staff began tracing the cables, only to find that the laptop was no longer there; the user believed his loss of connectivity was due to a network problem and each time he was disconnected, he moved to another location—only to find that he would soon lose his connection there too.

Points of compromise

In this scenario, the switches were doing their job by shutting down the user’s port. The user was “troubleshooting” his own problems. IT was having difficulty finding the user to correct the problem. And the cycle continued.

At one point, the user concluded the problem must have something to do with the equipment on that particular floor, so he moved to another floor. After being disconnected again, he decided the problem was with the security settings for that building—so he moved to another building. Again, the cycle continued.

Roughly five hours later, the laptop and its user were found and the problems were corrected. For this IT staff, it was five hours of pure chaos; for the user, five hours of pure frustration.

In other scenarios, compliance and overall network security can also be compromised at the physical layer. Most companies have desks and cubicles that are largely unoccupied and used by staff members who can be considered transient. Conference rooms with available ports can also pose a risk. In many vertical markets in which compliance is required, these open ports can cause a company to fail its audits unless: 1) the ports are shut down completely, or 2) a means exists by which only certain users can gain access to the network through these connections. The only other option is to firewall these ports from the actual network, which would mean a reconfiguration each time an authorized user wanted to use the port. All these risks and their remedies can be burdensome to an IT manager.

In the data center and telecommunications areas, technicians provide an additional risk if they accidentally unplug something that should not be unplugged. If, for example, the accidental disconnect was a Voice over IP switch or a critical server, the results would be devastating. What if a piece of equipment containing critical information left a facility, as has been reported in the news many times recently? How does a network manager know who has accessed the network? Where did this person/these people access the network? How is access documented? And finally, how are MACs managed? These questions are not only intriguing, but also extremely challenging to IT managers.

The intelligent answer

Intelligent patching has been around for some time; however, the functionality has improved from the original releases. In any of the scenarios described above, an intelligent infrastructure management system would have allowed the network manager to right-click on the offending device, view the entire channel, and even locate the device on a graphical map.

An intelligent infrastructure management system’s graphical mapping capabilities include clear markings of outlet locations on computer-aided design (CAD) drawings. By adding the physical layer, network managers are no longer limited to upper-layer information only. While knowing the media access control address (MAC address—not to be confused with moves/adds/changes MACs), IP address, and logon information is certainly helpful, should physical layer documentation be out of sync with the actual infrastructure, finding problem devices can be daunting. Intelligent patching bridges that gap.

The intelligent system works through a combination of sensor-enabled hardware and software. On the hardware side, the patch panels are configured with a sensor pad above each port. The pad is connected to an analyzer via a connection on the back of the patch panel. A standard patch cord with an additional conductor is connected to the front of the system.

The patch cord has a standard 8-pin modular/RJ-45 interface or a standard fiber connector, but also includes a “ninth conductor” designed to contact the sensor pad. This additional connection allows the system to operate in dynamic mode by detecting changes in real time—thus removing the human-error factor from documentation work as the continuity or changes in continuity provide real-time information to the database.

The system works with both copper and fiber, and is scalable to let end users purchase only what they need, when they need it. Analyzers are available in a variety of configurations as well. Software is purchased on a per-port basis and can work either as a standalone application, or integrated with an existing network-management package.

In an integrated configuration, a device and its channel can be traced from within a network management package, such as HP OpenView. A simple right-click on the device and the software can be launched, showing an immediate trace of the physical cable. The trace includes all the information about the channel, including patch cords, where the channel terminates, and the number of connectors within the channel. It can also show the physical location of the device on a CAD drawing.

The software reads the object identification information for network devices through Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and can also send SNMP (including Version 3) traps to shut down ports based on user-defined parameters. This provides great benefit when the physical layer is included. For instance, if you wanted to know the location of every personal computer on your network that was running Windows 2000, you could have that information displayed graphically as well as in report format.

Work orders and security

The Virtual Wiring Closet (VWC) module provides documentation on the telecommunications rack, including connectivity, patch-cord length, where each device is connected, and other information. It becomes a data dictionary for your racks and/or cabinets. One significant benefit of the intelligent patching system is that it will track MAC work automatically, saving IT departments from the manual process of updating spreadsheets and documentation. The package also includes a module for work-order creation. Work orders can be dispatched, and the changes made are automatically tracked, allowing a manager to know when the work was completed.

The intelligent physical layer management system can also be integrated with other security systems, such as APC’s NetBotz or video cameras. Based on user-defined triggers—for instance, when someone unplugs a VoIP switch—a camera can snap a picture, write it on the log and, as you would expect from management software, can provide alarms via email, cell, or pager, complete with escalation for unanswered alarms. Contacts can be placed on entrance doors to rooms or cabinets. As soon as the contact is broken, the same logging can initiate, including a photo of the log indicating not only date and time, but also photographic/video evidence of the culprit.

While this article explains a few of the features of an intelligent patching system, the overall benefits are significant. If we go back to the example described earlier, had an intelligent system been in place, a simple right-click would have saved five hours of chasing down a user. Not only would the documentation be up to date, allowing the network manager to know where that switch port terminated in the building, it also could have shown the location graphically. The IT staff very likely would have gotten to the user before his frustration began and he started moving from place to place.

In search of thorough answers

Where security- and compliance-related issues are concerned, the additional documentation and logging abilities not only enhance a company’s security position, but also answer many of the compliance-related requirements of documentation and access logging. After all, most troubleshooting and investigations start with who, what, where, when, why, and how. By adding the physical layer to your overall management, the answers to these questions are easier to attain and more thorough.

CARRIE HIGBIE is global network applications market manager with Siemon (www.siemon.com).

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance www.cablinginstall.com 

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Index matching gel stands the test of time

Though misconceptions continue to persist, no-epoxy/no-polish fiberoptic connectors perform well, thanks to improved IMG performance.

As fiberoptic cable is increasingly deployed in both private and public networks applications, including fiber-to-the-X (FTTx), the need to install connectors in the field continues to grow. Due to the installation speed, reduced setup/teardown time, deployment velocity and convenience, and dramatic labor savings, adoption of no-epoxy/no-polish (NENP) connectors for field termination has shown a significant increase.

NENP connectors use a factory-polished connector endface in conjunction with a mechanical splice to provide seamless connectivity. The reliability and performance of the mechanical splice within the connector is enhanced through the use of silicone-based index matching gel (IMG). This gel is formulated to have an index of refraction (IOR) that closely matches the IOR for the glass used in optical fibers. In addition, the physical properties of IMG are carefully controlled to ensure optimum performance.

Using IMG allows for greater variation in field cleaves while eliminating the need for expensive fusion-splice equipment or extensive training. In these ways, NENP connectors using IMG are enabling true copper-like optical-fiber subscriber connections.

IMG past and present

IMG has been an integral part for mechanical optical-fiber splicing and termination for more than 30 years. Despite the historical and market-based confirmation of IMG as a viable enhancement for mechanical splice products, there are several misconceptions based on the fact that gel formulations used up until the early 1990s were not as carefully controlled as IMG formulations used today.

For comparison, the table “Changes to IMG performance parameters” (below) shows the changes to performance parameters of past and present IMG formulations used in mechanical splices and NENP connectors.

The performance parameters of today’s optical gel have improved markedly over gels used as recently as the early 1990s. Fluid separation and evaporation parameters are 5x and 10x better respectively. In addition, percent transmittance (%T) has been improved as well, from 79% to 97% with modern gel formulations.

Clarity and optical transmission

Optical clarity of IMG is measured as the percentage of light transmitted through a 1-cm path-length gel sample. The percent transmitted was measured before and after a heat-aging process in which the gel was heated to 80º C for a period of 136 days. The table “80° C heat aging for 136 days” (below) shows change in %T at the wavelengths commonly used in data-communications and FTTx networks.

The decrease in the amount of light transmitted is very small. Additionally, the path length in a typical mechanical splice would be about 10 µm—1,000x shorter than the path length of 1 cm used in the test. If dB loss were calculated for the values of % T given, the losses would be in the ten-thousandths of a dB. This is well beyond the measurement capability of available test equipment, which may only measure to the hundredths of a dB.

Another concern is how the IMG’s clarity is affected over the normal operating temperature range of -40º to +70º C. Recent testing of IMG used in NENP connectors has confirmed that IMG undergoes virtually no change in the percentage of light transmitted at temperature extremes. The table “Test results in %T” (below) shows the test results in terms of change in %T with respect to room temperature (RT). As shown, excellent performance can be expected across a wide temperature range when using IMG.

Gel retention in mechanical splice

Another misconception surrounding IMG involves the thought that the gel will liquefy over time or at temperature and leak out of the connector or splice. Gel retention in mechanical splices and connectors, however, is ensured through careful control of fluid separation and apparent viscosity.

First, fluid separation or “bleed” refers to oil that separates from the IMG over time or at extreme temperatures. Excessive fluid separation could lead to the oil running out of the mechanical splice. Past formulations have been tested and found fluid separation values as high as 2%. This has contributed to the misconception that gel may leave the splice by leakage. The IMG used in modern NENP connectors and splices, however, is formulated to exhibit less than 0.2% fluid separation during a 24-hour heat soak at 100º C--the boiling point for water. For this reason, rest assured that IMG will not leak out of the mechanical splice or connector over time or temperature. 

Another carefully controlled physical property of IMG that prevents the gel from leaking out of the connector is the gel’s apparent viscosity. IMG is a thixotropic gel, which means it can flow when subjected to high shear, such as during dispensing from a syringe. On the other hand, when the gel is at rest between two fiber endfaces in a mechanical splice, the apparent viscosity is very high. In fact, the apparent viscosity is like that of gum rubber and the gel is essentially in a solid state.

With low fluid separation, high apparent viscosity, and splice designs that completely enclose and encapsulate splice parts, the IMG used in modern mechanical splice applications will not leak, wick, or otherwise leave the optical splice.

Gel hardening or crystallization

Four key physical characteristics determine whether a gel will harden or crystallize:

• Fluid separation;

• Evaporation;

• Thermogravimetric stability;

• Glass transition temperature.

Modern IMG used in NENP connectors is designed to have virtually no fluid separation. In addition, the IMG exhibits very low evaporation. During a test at 100º C for 24 hours, the gel exhibited less than 0.1% mass loss due to evaporation.

At low and high temperature extremes, the main concerns are glass transition temperature (Tg) and thermogravimetric stability respectively. The Tg is essentially the temperature at which a liquid or gel starts to freeze or becomes a solid. For IMG the Tg is -59ºC. The most demanding applications for IMG in optical connections only require the connectors to withstand temperatures to -40º C.

At the other end of the temperature extreme, IMG exhibits very good thermogravimetric stability at high temperatures. The thermogravimetric takeoff point (the point at which there was mass loss of 1% due to evaporation and chemical oxidation) was measured to be 279º C. Modern IMG is designed and tested so that it will remain in a stable gel state throughout the service life of the optical device.

Particle contaminants

Another common concern is that the IMG used in an optical connector or splice may become contaminated. During manufacturing, IMG goes through a series of processing steps to ensure optimum performance with respect to particle contamination. For this reason, the initial particle contaminates for practical purposes are non-existent.

While initial particle contaminants are insignificant, some are concerned that IMG will attract dust particles from the air. Manufacturers prevent this from happening during manufacture by dispensing IMG into the optical device in a cleanroom-type environment. During handling prior to installation, the IMG is contained inside the device and protected from exposure to dust by the use of dust caps.

Additional protection against dust particles is provided by the use of active alignment systems incorporated into installation tools. These systems give installers a go/no-go indication that the fiber is properly installed. With these active alignment systems, should a particle of dust get between the fibers in an optical device, the connector-installation tool would give the installer the opportunity to re-clean, re-cleave and re-insert the fiber. Once the connector or device has been activated, even if the particle has been introduced to the gel, due to the high apparent viscosity, the particle will not migrate.

Liquid contaminates

There is some concern that water or other liquids may migrate or diffuse into the IMG at the splice and degrade performance. Several factors affect how severe potential migration may be, including duration of immersion, presence of solvents in the liquid, and the containment of the gel-filled splice.

A recent study by a leading IMG manufacturer measured the performance of IMG when exposed to an 85º C/85% relative humidity (%RH) test and an immersion test. The test measured initial %T, %T after exposure to 85º C/85%RH for seven days, and %T after seven days of immersion in de-ionized water. The gel-path length for the tests was 1 cm. The results of the test are given in  the table “IMG performance test” (below).

The test data shows practically no change in %T with respect to the tests conducted. These tests prove that liquid contamination will not limit the service life of IMG in challenging FTTx applications.

Service-life study

Many doubts about IMG surround the material’s service life when used in optical devices. Naturally, products designed for communication purposes should last for decades rather than years. To understand the usable service life of IMG, studies have been conducted by both IMG and component manufacturers. In the studies, gravimetric analysis was used to calculate service life for the IMG; it was found the service life of the gel to be 203 years at 40º C.

Another study, by a leading gel manufacturer, placed an IMG sample at 80º C for 136 days. Based on the findings, a half-life calculation was made. The study found a half-life of 14.6 years or a full life of 29.2 years at 80º C. It should be noted that these temperatures are well above room temperature, which is 25º C. Based on the studies, it is easy to see that IMG will allow components to provide decades of service.

It is clear that the optical-components market has accepted and even embraced IMG technology. Virtually every major component manufacturer in the market offers products that use IMG to enhance optical performance. From mechanical splices to NENP connectors, there is a wide selection of products and competitors from which to choose. With growing bandwidth demand and acceleration of FTTx deployments to meet that demand, IMG will prove to be an enabling technology. With 30 years of innovation and improvement, the IMGs used today are vastly superior to earlier formulations.

Extensive testing has proven the reliability of IMG over a wide temperature range, at a wide variety of wavelengths, and for extended periods of time. With the enhanced performance offered by IMG, as well as initial tooling and installation-cost reductions, optical components using IMG have proven that they are not only here to stay but, in fact, are leading the way.

RAY BARNES, P.E., (ray.barnes@corning.com) is senior applications engineer at Corning Cable Systems.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance www.cablinginstall.com 

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Cabling Networking Systems Magazine

BICSI Bulletin: Past, Present and Future

Outgoing and incoming presidents reflect on the changes that have occurred since BICSI was formalized in 1974 and also, what lies ahead.

By Richard Smith

On behalf of BICSI, I would like to congratulate CNS Magazine on its 10-year anniversary. Speaking for myself and the past Canadian region directors, Roman Dabrowski, Greg Porter and John Bakowski, it has been a pleasure working with CNS, formerly Cabling System, over the past 10 years.

BICSI truly appreciates having had the opportunity to collaborate and we look forward to many more years of successful partnership with the magazine.

Keeping with the theme of this edition, I will turn the rest of this article over to outgoing BICSI President John Bakowski, who will comment on BICSI's past and present, and our incoming president Ed Donelan who will address the future.

*****

BICSI was formalized in 1974 with 50 members, all of whom were volunteers from the telecommunications industry in the United States and Canada. These early leaders came together to share knowledge, exchange experiences and develop expertise in order to satisfy the needs of a newly deregulated telecommunications industry for network cabling.

The organization's purpose was to educate the members within the industry, to motivate the industry to develop new products and methods and to encourage the development of the structured cabling industry.

Here we are, more than 34 years later, now supporting more than 24,000 Information Transport Systems (ITS) professionals in more than 119 countries. We are continuing to educate and motivate our industry professionals as the worldwide preeminent source of information, education and knowledge assessment for the constantly evolving ITS industry.

Our past speaks to our future, but our membership numbers are greater, industry demands are higher and our focus is much wider. From structured cabling, we have grown to reach out to the other members of the ITS industry who are in need of our services and leadership.

In 2006, the BICSI Board of Directors asked a number of BICSI members and volunteers to review the many changes that have occurred in the ITS industry since the inception of the RCDD program. From this research the group was able to make recommendations for enhancements.

In June 2007 this committee recommended that BICSI take a serious look at what the organization can do to maintain its leadership role in the ITS industry. As a result, an effort called the BICSI NxtGEN Program was formed.

The BICSI NxtGEN Program and the committee's findings were presented to the BICSI Board of Directors in December and, if approved, will be presented to the membership in January. Furthermore, added research and analysis will take place prior to the implementation in the future.

In addition to the BICSI NxtGEN Program, other enhancements to our association are continually being worked on by volunteers and staff members.

Currently, the BICSI Membership and Marketing Committee and the BICSI Communications Department are working on the new Speakers Bureau project.

This will provide us with a defined plan of action to assist with representing BICSI at industry events through presentations and speakers. With this added presence in the industry we are persistently aiming to advance our members' opportunities for continual improvement and enhanced professional stature.

From an international standpoint, the BICSI Board of Directors and staff are continuing to make strides and create solutions geared to the needs of the global members. Currently, we are focusing on the Europe, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Middle East & Africa regions.

We are making significant progress in keeping our members there current and actively involved with BICSI events, training and, ethical guidelines and new networking opportunities .

Internally at BICSI headquarters, we have a staff of dedicated and highly motivated individuals led by Executive Director David Cranmer RCDD.

As a result of his experience in the ITS industry he has gained the respect of his staff, peers and the Board of Directors in steering the operation to achieve the many goals of BICSI.

Going forward, BICSI's new president, Ed Donelan, is bringing a new energy to the Board of Directors and BICSI. His unique style, based on his many years of business experience with his company and on the BICSI Board of Directors, will ensure success for BICSI.

-- John Bakowski

Looking Ahead

Having served on the BICSI Board of Directors for the past eight years, it is an honour to be elected to the position of President by my peers.

As I write these words, my goal is to express the deep gratitude I feel toward each and every member as you pursue your education and especially to the many volunteers who contribute their time and money to such a worthy cause.

So let's get ready! The groundwork has been established in the basic back office functionality for our association through the work of BICSI employees.

We are to continue the one main goal every not-for- profit association must attain -- excellent customer service.

We have been working very hard and burning the midnight oil to ensure our business systems can handle the anticipated growth of our organization while maintaining excellent customer service to our current members. Poised now to truly be an impact to so many in the Information Transport Industry, I am genuinely excited about the possibilities that are at our door.

We have invested in a new association management system, a new finance and accounting system, a new credentialing program and a new Web based program just to name a few.

Additionally, we have partnered with excellent service providers to greatly enhance the conference learning and networking experience.

Over the years we have introduced many new programs such as the Authorized Training Facility program, the manual Translation Program, and Breakfast Clubs, to name a few. These improvements have allowed us to focus on offering new benefits to our members.

I look forward to an amazing opportunity of living up to the task the past presidents have set before me. Thank you for counting me worthy of your confidence to lead the BICSI organization.

The barrier to entry for joining BICSI has never been lower and the benefits are at an all time high. We honor discounts associated with membership for the active military, active students, and the retired and as we continue to encourage installers and technicians to pursue a fascinating career in the ITS industry.

The passion that our members have towards assisting us with revitalizing our programs and expanding our product offerings is matched only by the willingness of our professional staff, educators and volunteers to assist each and every student in achieving success.

Very simply, we want each member to be a true advocate of BICSI so that the message is spread throughout the world.

My tenure as president will be marked by this one simple yet very important goal: To practice excellent customer service through our programs in what ever way we possibly can.

As a business owner of a small company, I have been designing and building wiring systems for ITS for many years. I remain passionate about the ITS industry and look forward to wiring buildings around the world for many more years. Based in Manhattan, N.Y., our business caters to the private sector and Fortune 1000 clients. I know what it takes to provide excellent customer service and our demanding customers remind me daily. My business has practiced this customer service concern for the past 23 years and has never taken it for granted.

At BICSI, we know that by providing unexpected ways of taking care of you, we will grow together.

We also know that each day a business is run without the proper tools -- hardware, software and firmware --it is a more difficult day in delivering on those customer service expectations.

Rest assured we are constantly aware of the need for better business practices and are rapidly taking action and wisely investing your membership dues to ensure our goals are met.

Finally, I would like to thank John Bakowski for his tenacious pursuit of the finest details during his presidency.

He has performed way above and beyond in his capacity to provide all of us with excellent customer service, leadership and most important; a real concern for helping us achieve our goals.

John has worked many hours as a volunteer, not just during his Presidency, but for over 12 years contributing on the Board of Directors and even more years proctoring exams and mentoring members.

-- Ed Donelan

Richard Smith is the Canadian Region Director of BICSI and the manager of Aliant Cabling Solutions in Moncton, N.B. He can be reached at rsmith@bicsi.org.

John Bakowski is the past president of BICSI. He is also president of ITS Design and Audits, a company that provides telecom support to the SMB market. He can be reached at jbakowski@bicsi.org.

Ed Donelan is the current president of BICSI. and the owner of Telecom Infrastructure Corp., a New York City-based ITS company that serves Fortune 1000 firms. He can be reached at edonelan@bicsi.org. 

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Networking Systems www.cnsmmagazine.com

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2008: Year of the iThings?

It is always dicey to predict the future, but while we're waiting for the iPhone, businesses might want to take a look at the iPod Touch

By Trevor Marshall

Happy New Year everyone and a belated welcome to 2008. How are things so far? It is always dicey to predict the future, but once again I'll put my neck on the line and throw out some ideas about what might happen this year.

First, what is up with the iPhone? Here is one of the slickest wireless devices yet produced and here in Canada -- one of the slickest wireless markets in the world -- we cannot get one. At least, not officially.

In case you've been living under a rock, the iPhone was launched in the United States in late June and in the United Kingdom, Germany and France in November.

In each case, Apple offered exclusive agreements to carriers -- AT&T in America, O2 in the UK, T-Mobile in Germany, and Orange in France. And by all accounts, the device kicks serious wireless butt -- from the touch-screen user interface, to the applications, to the fun stuff you can download, to the excellent online support guide, to the sheer cool factor that is a credit to Apple's design team.

iUnlocked

It isn't too hard to find an iPhone, I'll admit. Within three blocks of my downtown Toronto home there is a mobile phone/PDA shop and an iPod repair kiosk that both advertise unlocked iPhones -- devices that, in theory, will work on any network the device supports.

But I'm betting that unlocking them voids a warranty, and there are probably some features on the iPhone that are not supported by Canadian networks. So as of this writing, we're still waiting for the iPhone. Will we see it this year?

Well, that depends. Apple is currently embroiled in a trademark dispute with Toronto-based Comwave Telecom Inc., which has been using the iPhone name for a suite of Internet-driven telecom services. Comwave argues it has prior rights to the name. Before we see the iPhone in Canada, Apple will need to do two things:

First, hammer out a deal with a carrier. For "carrier,"read "Rogers Wireless," since the iPhone runs on GSM networks and Rogers is the only Canadian operator that operates GSM.

Second, settle the Comwave dispute. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office will decide the case and if it rules in favour of Comwave then Apple will likely be forced to walk away from the Canadian iPhone market, or buy the name. One's a financial cost; the other, a blow to its goodwill with customers. I wonder which will cost more?

The Wi-Fi alternative

While the iPhone stakeholders get their ducks in a row, we will probably see more iPod Touch models sold to business users. The iPod Touch has all the same slick characteristics as the iPhone, but instead of having a wireless network option, it connects via Wi-Fi.

That is significant because although many industry-watchers have dismissed Wi-Fi because of some high-profile failures to launch citywide networks in the United States, Wi-Fi is out there. Canadian cities are deploying new networks or expanding existing ones. Airports, hotels, conference centres, sporting venues and other public spaces are either operating their own Wi-Fi networks or are contracting with wireless network operators to do so on their behalf. And businesses are finding that these networks are not just good things to offer to the public, but are also useful for their own operations.

For example, an airport might offer Wi-Fi Internet access for travelers to check e-mail or surf the web while waiting for a flight -- but also use the same network for tracking baggage or connecting workers on the apron to the administration's corporate Intranet.

What does this mean for IT departments? I would say if you did not get a new iPod Touch over the recent holiday season, ask for one for your birthday and then figure out how to use it -- not to play music (it does that too) -- but for browsing, accessing web-based-applications, personal information management, data back-up, and the other business-appropriate functions that this device supports.

Then think about rolling the device out in your company. Employees will be more productive and look cooler doing it, and you'll be a hero. What's not to love about that?

Trevor Marshall is a Toronto-based reporter, writer and observer of the Canadian wireless industry. He can be reached (on his mobile) at 416-878-7730 or trevor@words-tm.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Networking Systems www.cnsmmagazine.com

Communications News Magazine

The truth about blogs

We have two blogs on the Communications News Web site, one that I write and one penned by Associate Editor Denise DiRamio. Mine is used more to run ideas by site visitors, gain some insight from those readers and create a dialog. Denise’s is more utilitarian, covering an area important to our visitors that is not covered editorially–trade shows that IT decision makers attend.

A few years ago, hers would have been called “Trade Show Report” or something similar and would have been treated as news material. Now, it’s called a blog.

These blogs just don’t happen on their own. Denise and I have to find time in our already busy schedules to provide regular content for our blogs. We didn’t discontinue other tasks necessary in our jobs, we just added this new one. We thought it was important in this day of “engaging readers online.”

But how important are our blogs?

Surprisingly, we have a significant number of people viewing our blogs. Unfortunately, we don’t know what they think, because, like the vast majority of blogs I’ve seen, visitors rarely provide comments. I’ve noticed this problem is not unique to ours. Virtually all the blogs I’ve seen in the past year have the same reader comment traffic–virtually none.

I’m not talking about political blogs, here; everyone has an opinion on that subject and is more than happy to share it. Trade magazine blogs, however, even with experts writing them, generally do not generate more than a few comments. So are these blogs actually engaging visitors?

Then there are the other problems:

A prolific and popular blogger for a California newspaper was found to be plagiarizing her content word for word from print publications and online resources.

Companies are using blogs to denigrate competitors and their products, without supporting evidence.

Straightforward, thoroughly researched blogs often are considered boring. Rumor-centric blogs are apparently far-more interesting.

Content that used to be product reviews are now packaged as blogs.

The lawyers are getting into the act, as libel claims related to blogs grow.

For some reason, many people seem to think that the information they read in a blog is accurate and researched by the blogger. The truth is that a great many bloggers would be helpless if they didn’t have real journalists writing articles that they could comment on or steal from.

“If I were the king of journalism, I’d force newspapers to stop publishing for a month,” says Patrick Williams, managing editor of the Dallas Observer. “Then let’s see what would happen to blogs. Facts have to be the basis of opinion at some point. And if a blogger is collecting facts, then at what point does the publication cease being a blog and become an Internet news site?”

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News Magazine www.comnews.com

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When do you take the plunge?

VCU bridges the gap between old and new with hybrid integrated communications infrastructure.

For enterprise CIOs and telecom directors, the question of when to consider a migration from traditional private branch exchange (PBX) or Centrex systems to IP-based telephony is all too familiar. For Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), CIO Mark Willis knew the decision would impact more than 45,000 students, faculty and staff spread across 120 buildings on two campuses located in the heart of Richmond, Va. In addition to the Monroe Park campus, VCU’s Medical College of Virginia campus includes the VCU School of Medicine and a 780-bed hospital that has its own IT infrastructure and organization.

“We were a Centrex shop for years and our Monroe Park campus is in the middle of a residential area,” says Willis. “As we have grown, we’ve taken older neighborhood buildings, converted them to academic space and incrementally added Centrex lines for phones. We were spending a lot of money, and we had some service issues in terms of how quickly we could respond to the needs of users.”

In administering the old Centrex system, the VCU telecom team was relegated to the role of middleman, translating and passing customer requests for new phones and services to their provider (Verizon) for implementation. “Some departments were managing their own key systems thinking they could save money and add features we couldn’t deliver easily,” says Willis. The resulting patchwork created issues with university-wide features such as integrated voice mail and five-digit dialing.

In addition to the need to reduce costs and improve service for customers, Willis’ team also had a wish list of improvements to the network’s functionality, security and enhanced 911 (E-911) readiness. One final pain point ultimately tipped the scales in favor of a major change: The manufacturer of the old key-system phones had gone out of business, so getting replacement parts had grown difficult.

Willis tasked Bill Jones, a veteran VCU network architecture and project manager, with leading the effort to draft requirements for a new system that the university would manage in-house. Job one was to agree upon a system model; should they go with a traditional PBX or an all-IP telephony environment? Would a hybrid approach best meet the needs of their diverse environment?

The team settled on an approach that called for a voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution for the university and a digital PBX solution for VCU Health Systems, primarily due to initial VoIP reliability concerns for the hospital that Willis admits did not materialize–thanks to quality-of-service (QoS) standards in the network. A short-term decision also was made to leave the residence halls on the existing Centrex system while more closely examining options for the future that take into account students’ mobile phones, the university’s existing wired and wireless broadband infrastructure, emergency communications requirements and other factors.

With the platform decision in hand, Jones created a comprehensive RFP that called for:

                  a unified management platform;

                  a system that could meet the current needs of both campuses and scale to meet future needs for five to 10 years without a “forklift upgrade”;

                  potential for advanced features such as unified messaging;

                  redundancy and failover capabilities;

                  comprehensive 911 protection and accurate E-911 location information;

                  an integrator that could handle a large implementation in a short time-frame; and

                  a cost-effective solution that would meet the budget needs of a public university.

The duration of the initiative was critical due to the fact that VCU’s technology services department also acts as a service provider, operating the university’s telecommunications system much like an independent enterprise. “We’re a telco company for VCU,” says Willis.

Quick implementation necessary

The team’s financial modeling determined the switch needed to take place relatively quickly so the projected cost savings could be used to help pay for the new system–rather than spent on multiple vendors during a lengthy transition.

“Finding a partner with experience implementing a project of this size ($11 million, 10,000 phones) was key for us,” says Bob Neale, director of computing and communications for VCU technology services.

VCU’s requirements led to the selection of a partner team of IBM Global Technology Services (integrator), Avaya (systems) and RedSky Technologies (E-911 location information). The system of choice would be the Avaya Communication Manager, a hybrid IP PBX that would support the mix of Avaya IP phones, digital phones and legacy analog phones that would be in place at the completion of the migration.

The convergence of voice and data required VCU to upgrade its network to support the QoS requirements for VoIP. As the university’s primary data network partner, Cisco implemented virtual networks using multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to handle the many different types of traffic the university’s network now required. VCU is one of the first large universities to deploy MPLS across its campus network, according to Neale.

“We also wanted to re-engineer our data network to support a better security model,” says Neale, who credits the project with helping VCU implement changes required by a new Virginia regulation that sets new security standards for networks containing sensitive data.

Combining a data network upgrade with a major phone system upgrade created challenges for the implementation team. “We knew we’d have to replace about a third of our 1,700 switches, and they all would have to be touched for QoS and VLAN configuration,” says Jones. “And we had to do this with a very tightly controlled schedule.”

“If we had it to do over again, we’d have started with the data network upgrade sooner to make implementation easier,” says Willis.

To keep the complex process moving, the team developed a 14-week implementation schedule for each of 42 distinct implementation groups. The first four weeks of the cycle were devoted to network remediation and changes. The subsequent 10 weeks were spent meeting with users, determining needs, ordering, configuring and installing phones and, finally, switching phone numbers from the old Centrex lines to the new system.

“You had 14 groups at the various stages of the process at any given time and only one of those actually involved putting phones on the desk and cutting them over,” says Willis.

few delays experienced

To keep the intricate schedule rolling, the project team reserved a conference room in VCU’s technology building for the entire 18-month process and held weekly face-to-face meetings involving all the partners. “We had Thursday ‘go/no go’ cutover meetings each week because we had to tell Verizon by 9 a.m. Friday morning not to move the phone numbers if we weren’t ready,” says Neale. “If we weren’t ready and didn’t make the call, people wouldn’t have a working phone.”

Out of the 42 implementation groups, “only two or three” were delayed according to Jones. Given Verizon’s scheduling requirements, any delay would push back implementation five weeks. The delayed buildings were rescheduled into subsequent implementation groups so the overall project schedule was not impacted.

The massive project also created the opportunity for VCU to assume responsibility for providing E-911 protection for students, faculty, staff and visitors to its two campuses. Taking control of this critical public safety, security and liability issue was a priority for VCU that became even more important after the shootings at Virginia Tech and the passage of legislation in Virginia requiring all organizations operating a PBX or multiline telephone system to implement E-911. Thirteen other states have E-911 legislation on the books.

Before the migration, Verizon managed the E-911 location information for the university’s Centrex lines and could only track the location of a 911 caller to a network interface device (NID) that could serve one or several buildings.

“The best case (with the old system) was a 911 call could be tracked to a single building,” says Jones.

Such 911 calls from the university or VCU health systems were routed Richmond’s public safety answering point (PSAP), which would then pass requests for police assistance to VCU’s campus police department.

For VCU, the new system would have to do better. “On our medical campus, we have a 12-story, 500,000-square-foot building,” says Willis. “How would you find someone if you only knew they were somewhere in that building?”

RedSky’s E911 Manager was chosen to integrate with the Avaya Communication Manager to automatically capture location changes for all types of phones and update the regional automatic location identification (ALI) databases that provide location information to emergency dispatchers. To make sure the location information was accurate, IBM helped the implementation team conduct a complete location audit for every new phone, identifying it down to the room and jack level. The process uncovered several street addresses that were not E-911 compliant, which could slow response in an emergency.

With VCU’s new network configuration, the location of a 911 caller can now be tracked at least to the floor within a building, even more specifically in larger buildings.

VCU also is using RedSky’s emergency on-site notification (EON) feature to speed emergency response to 911 callers. With EON, campus police dispatchers are notified the instant a 911 call is placed and provided with the location of the caller.

“We get 10 to 15 911 calls per day,” says Rachel Ross, communications manager for VCU campus police, one of the largest campus police forces in the country. “EON saves two to three minutes per call and helps us send help sooner.”

One of the key benefits of VCU’s new IP communications system is the ease with which moves, adds and changes (MAC) can be made. With campus expansions and renovations, Jones estimates that 25 percent of their phones are involved annually. Turnaround time for VoIP phone MAC activities has been reduced from two weeks to one business day for most tasks, thanks to centralized, in-house management.

Maintaining accurate E-911 location information in this constantly changing system would be an administrative nightmare if handled manually. The RedSky solution captures network changes the moment they occur and sends updates to the regional ALI database. “We don’t have to worry about when a phone is moved to another place, it’s automatic,” says Jones.

For users, the project was virtually transparent until a new phone showed up on their desk. Behind the scenes, VCU technology services has had to learn a new way of doing business. The converged network now requires data and voice teams to work together more closely. One help desk number now handles all IT-related customer issues.

“Our data people were used to focusing on hardware, while our tele-group was used to talking with users all the time,” says Neale. “We’ve had to educate one group on understanding users better, while the other group has had to come up to speed on technology. It’s really been a challenge, but the staff has been up to the task.”

The new system also transferred all maintenance responsibility to the technology services team. No longer can the team pass voice-related issues along to Verizon. Helping to make the transition smoother has been new centralized monitoring features that allow issues to be discovered before a customer calls to complain.

With the main implementation phase recently concluded, Neale says the technology services team is now turning its attention toward leveraging its new system to improve business processes at the university. At an infrastructure level, these improvements will likely include the use of fax servers and expanded use of automatic call distributor applications. For individual users, the team plans to use marketing and training to make users more aware of the benefits of system features such as “find me” to route calls to users with multiple phones, and Web-based voice mail.

In addition, the new system is also paying off financially. Jones estimates VCU has seen a 50 percent reduction in carrier costs by eliminating the majority of its leased lines. The university is also no longer paying one-time deployment charges for putting a phone on the desk, including handset costs, line fees, fees to set up voice mail and maintenance charges. Eliminating these charges and rolling them into the monthly per-line fee has simplified the billing process and allowed departments to establish more predictable budgets.

“Don’t attempt to do something this massive without an outside partner,” Neale advises. “We needed an outside partner to assist us, not only with the technology but to coordinate with all of the outside vendors necessary for the project. Some organizations might try to take on all of these activities themselves, but it would be nearly impossible to do. The co-existence and colocation of the vendor project team with our internal project team was expensive but worth it.”

Exchange trades up to 10 gigabit

The consensus was to standardize the data center from end to end on a single vendor’s products.

Joe Sternbauer, director of electrical engineering at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), has witnessed his organization’s evolution from a mainframe-computing environment utilizing coax and shielded cabling to a distributed PC environment using unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cables. When the CBOE’s data center network infrastructure needed upgrading, he played a major role in the process, having designed the original cabling infrastructure and power network as a consultant more than 20 years ago.

“As a consultant, I had only provided the structured cabling design concept, while the buildouts over time were implemented using a best-bid approach,” says Sternbauer. “When I came on board as a CBOE employee, I faced a cabling environment that consisted of products from a multitude of vendors. When you start mixing and matching like that, what you get is a conglomeration of systems that is not easy to manage or maintain.”

In Sternbauer’s opinion, the system as it existed was fundamentally flawed, inefficient and not cost effective.

In addition to coping with a multivendor environment, the task of supporting the thousands of moves, adds and changes required in a busy trading environment had resulted in an extremely complex cabling network throughout the data center. When CBOE decided to upgrade its data center to support higher transmission speeds, the CBOE electrical group and IT department saw the opportunity not only to design an advanced 10-gigabit structured cabling system, but also to ensure their ability to properly manage the system and execute the day-to-day work orders that direct and track the electricians’ activities in making required moves, adds and changes.

Founded in 1973, the CBOE is a fast-moving securities exchange, and one of the largest options marketplaces in the United States. Network performance in such a data-intensive environment is mission-critical. On any given day, CBOE’s trading volume can reach 3.5 million trades or higher, with orders having to be electronically executed in a matter of sub-seconds. To make this possible, thousands of computer screens on the trading floor must convey volumes of information at high speed to the traders who rely on the data, literally from minute to minute.

When the CBOE needed to upgrade its network data center, the consensus was to standardize the data center from end to end on a single vendor’s products. Following an evaluation of marketplace offerings, Belden was named the supplier for the network backbone. CBOE chose the Belden IBDN System 10GX, an augmented Category 6 UTP cabling solution designed specifically to support 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

Future-proofed network

“When it came time to upgrade with the higher-density servers and faster switches, we looked to move to a full 10-gigabit solution to future-proof our network as far out as possible,” explains Sternbauer.

The CBOE data center upgrade called for the installation of robust copper-based backbone cabling between 10-gigabit switches provided by Cisco and servers housed in Belden’s Ultra Deep server enclosures. The IBDN System 10GX cabling system components include: 10GX cables, 10GX modular cords and 10GX 1U 48-port ultra high-density patch panels.

These components incorporate a series of performance-enabling technologies that allow the system to improve alien near-end cross talk (NEXT), NEXT and impedance over traditional technologies, resulting in performance beyond augmented CAT 6 standards. The system provides performance up to 625 MHz.

For fiber links between data center locations, Sternbauer specified Belden IBDN FiberExpress, which includes 10-gig laser-optimized 50-micron multimode fiber, fiber patch cords, Optimax field-installable LC connectors and FiberExpress Manager.

Some single-mode fiber is also used for specific switching applications, such as outside links to other Chicago trading facilities. To enable gigabit horizontal connectivity to PCs and the nearly 6,000 screens on the trading floor, the team installed Belden DataTwist enhanced Category 5e cable, IBDN Gigaflex CAT 5e patch cords, 1U 24-port flex patch panels and GigaFlex jack modules for workstation outlets.

For efficient cable management and maintenance within the data center, CBOE deployed Belden’s Ultra Deep server enclosures with a 24-inch by 42-inch footprint. The enclosures feature numerous top and bottom entry points for easy configuration and access. Also specified were an assortment of Belden cable-management tools and accessories designed for use with the racking systems and enclosures.

CBOE contracted with Commercial Light Co. to implement the 10-gigabit system throughout several of its data center locations, using a phased implementation approach. Commercial Light’s electricians are trained and certified to install and test Belden IBDN systems to existing 10-gig copper and fiber standards.

This training and certification were important to Steinbauer. “We inspect, pretest and precertify everything we install using fiber cameras, OTDRs and the latest 10-gig testers and analyzers,” he explains.

As one of the world’s largest financial exchanges, workflow continuity on the CBOE trading floor is paramount, with downtime not an option. So, in addition to updating the network data center, the CBOE’s staff of electricians and IT techs must continue to respond to day-to-day requests for moves, adds and changes–with more than 4,000 work orders handled annually and close to 30,000 feet of copper cabling to maintain. The trading floor uses a raised-floor system that ranges in depth from two to seven feet, depending on location.

To manage the installation project’s scope and complexity, Sternbauer established a workflow plan designed to facilitate implementation of the 10-gig system in a timely fashion, while respecting day-to-day operational requirements. “I have one crew dedicated to pre-wiring each new cabinet and setting it up to seamlessly transition out the old cabinet,” he explains.

“There’s a lot of stress in this environment,” Sternbauer asserts. “We are dealing with over 3,000 traders responsible for millions of dollars, and we have to be very careful about how we approach construction and recabling.”

No project of this magnitude proceeds without installation challenges, and the CBOE upgrade is no exception. Sternbauer admits that the transition to 10-gig has not been completely seamless. For example, because of specific data center space constraints and density requirements, several modifications to the cable-management system were needed.

“Belden and the national distributor, Communications Supply Corp., have been very responsive to our needs throughout this entire process,” he offers regarding such challenges. “They sent people out, and when we told them what we needed, they designed it for us.”

According to Sternbauer, the upgrade project is on track for completion this year. At that point, the old cabling and connectivity equipment will have been phased out and the CBOE network wholly cut over to the new system. He estimates that by that time approximately one million feet of Belden fiber-optic cable, one million feet of 10GX copper cable and 500,000 feet of CAT 5e cable will have been installed.

Despite the challenges posed by upgrading such a data-intensive and dynamic environment as the CBOE, Sternbauer says he is confident that the careful planning and the implementation path taken will ultimately result in the 10-gigabit network performance, reliability and scalability he envisioned from the start. “At the end of the day, I am confident that CBOE will have a network we can be proud of,” he says.

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News Magazine www.comnews.com

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The key to broad use of 10GigE

Traditional RJ-45 Ethernet at 10-gigabit speed will mainstream copper connectivity.

by Kamal Dalmia

BASE-T, or twisted-pair copper cable with RJ-45 connectors, is the most cost-effective and easiest way to create Ethernet local area networks. It is the connectivity of choice for more than 90 percent of the links in data centers, and the nearly exclusive connection to the corporate desktop and notebook computers. It provides a simple plug-and-play paradigm that allows IT managers to connect any RJ-45 to any other, with the technology providing automatic connection and rate sensing that promises interoperability with the vast variety of equipment present in every IT installation.

10GBASE-T brings this time-tested use model to the 10-Gbps rate of Ethernet. The IEEE standard for 10GBASE-T prescribes full-duplex operation over the four wire pairs present in every RJ-45 jack. In addition, the standard incorporates enhancements to the traditional auto-negotiation protocol, enabling backward compatibility to the billions of RJ-45 ports already deployed in IT installations worldwide.

Continuing the ease of deployment theme, 10GBASE-T is specified to work over existing CAT 6 cable, as well as a number of other cable types. The standard requires a channel with 500 MHz of bandwidth on the cable. CAT 6 cable complying with the IEEE standard is guaranteed to support transmissions up to 55 meters.

The cable industry is providing further support for the standard and has created an augmented CAT 6 (CAT 6a) cable that has been designed to reduce cable-to-cable crosstalk (i.e., alien crosstalk) and enables links of up to 100 meters. Additionally shielded cable, or CAT 7, is called out in the standard to also operate up to 100 meters.

Several vendors are in production with silicon products that implement 10GBASE-T and have demonstrated interoperability between their implementations. This is a clear signal of the maturity of the standard and the ability to carry the written document to a practical implementation. A number of equipment vendors of switches, network interface cards and servers have recently announced they are now sampling 10GBASE-T products, and full networks were demonstrated at November’s SC-07 show in Reno, Nev., using products from a number of companies.

This year 10GBASE-T is expected to hit the data center floor. Several switch and server vendors performed field trials of their products in late 2007, with others scheduled for early 2008, gearing up for general availability of the products in coming months. Switches priced near or below $500 per port are promised, and, at these port prices, 10GBASE-T will be cheaper per gigabit than 1-GigE connections.

Early applications are likely to include high-performance computing clusters, as the increased rate of communication from 1 gigabit to 10 gigabit reduces the transport latency of the link to well under that of 1 GigE. In more mainstream data centers, 10GBASE-T will be used in applications where previously multiple 1-gigabit links needed to be deployed with “link aggregation” and can now be replaced by a single cable, providing both cost and ease-of-management benefits.

As 10GBASE-T-enabled servers come online both in rackmount and blade configurations, they will be deployed with server virtualization technology, providing a multiplier on the effectiveness of each server dollar invested. In the long run, as technologies such as Fiber Channel over Ethernet and iSCSI mature, 10GBASE-T promises to be a candidate for unifying the whole fabric of the data center on the simple Ethernet BASE-T model.

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News Magazine www.comnews.com

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Electrical Contractor Magazine

Renovation Nation

The only constant is change, which is certainly the theme of this winter so far, with one presidential candidate after another touting his or her status as an agent of change. With politicians, the idea of change may only amount to empty rhetoric. With construction, things really do change, as it is all about growth, building something from nothing, updating to suit the technological imes/advancements and turning something that already exists into something else. Change is the main focus of this issue, as we take an in-depth look at renovation, historical and otherwise, and the growth in moves, adds and … what’s the word? Ah yes, changes.

We looked at renovation from various directions, from the general to some “how-to” type application notes, to some product features that should provide tools to get the job done. Some notables include “Up to Snuff” by Darlene Bremer, who looks at MACs in retrofits, while “Everything Old Is New Again” by Claire Swedberg addresses integrated building systems in renovation. Jeff Kohmstedt writes in “Downtown CPR” about the revitalization of some city centers, which in past decades faced steep decline and abandonment. John Paul Quinn tackles historic renovations underway in New Orleans, in “Historic Makeovers.”

As we mentioned last month, the rosy spot for the troubled residential market is remodeling, and one ray of light for many contractors is structured wiring to fully network and outfit current homes. Jim Hayes writes on this renovation aspect in “Sell Low (Voltage), Score Profit.”

Two project profiles focus on renovation this month, both written by Claire Swedberg. In “On the Plaza,” you can read about the world-famous Plaza Hotel in New York, which now houses condos and shops, thanks to work by three New York-based electrical contractors. “Renovation Remedies” profiles Sal Electric’s work on the former headquarters and manufacturing facility of Block Drug, which is being turned over to a New Jersey county to serve as its administrative building.

Like Electrical Contractor last month, our special report, Security + Life Safety Systems underwent a renovation in the form of a redesign, launching this month. In addition, S+LSS now is being managed by Edward Brown, who introduces himself on page 88. He’s looking to revamp some of the content of this publication and would love to hear ideas from the readers involved in low-voltage work. We want to know that we’re serving you, our readers, in the best way we can.

If I were making a stump speech right now, I would ask, “After reading this letter, have we proven Electrical Contractor is the true source of change?” Hopefully, you’ll find it is and that it’s the information you need to keep up with the changing times.

President’s Desk by milner Irvin

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com 

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Construction Firms Go Green from the Top Down

Next month, dozens of people in various cities all across the nation will undertake the rigorous solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installer certification exams offered through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Only a few will pass.

That’s the way it should be. The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and our partners in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are integrally involved in NABCEP’s efforts. Our National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) was the driving force in launching this volunteer board of renewable energy stakeholder representatives in 2001. The NJATC had been developing and delivering work force training on alternative energy, including solar and wind power, for more than a decade by then.

All these organizations—NECA, IBEW, NJATC and NABCEP—realize it takes a lot of study and experience to master green technologies. Accordingly, we believe those who seek professional credentials as renewable energy installers should be held to very high standards. I’m sure you can agree.

I’m also sure we all can agree it is wise to invest in training workers for the green building market, given that this market is continuing to expand. However, this investment will be wasted if we contractors neglect our own education.

As company owners and employers, we—not our electricians or technicians—determine what type of projects we want to take on. It is up to us to land these projects and bring them in at a profit while ensuring our customers’ needs are met. But, if you set your sights on the green building market—which most of us eventually must, whether by desire or necessity—simply staying in budget and on schedule while having your crew put quality work in place is no longer sufficient.

Green contractors need to understand sustainability and how to manage the various processes that go into sustainable construction. They need to be able to talk intelligently with customers about their options and to work with designers and other contractors from the very start of a project. They need to keep abreast of new green products and be able to evaluate their appropriateness for a given project. And, if the project is following a green rating system, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, green contractors need to understand the system thoroughly.

Where can you acquire the necessary knowledge? Well, a Google search on “green contractor” or “green building” will lead you to tons of information. But, to simplify matters, I recommend that you start by going to this Web site: www.neca-mei.org.

That’s the online home of NECA’s Management Education Institute. Once you are there, click on “Catalog of Courses” and then “Emerging Green Markets” (under “Online Management”) to learn about a course now available online, ready whenever you choose to acquire the knowledge of green construction services that will give you a strategic advantage. Reflecting the findings of research conducted for ELECTRI International, the “Emerging Green Markets” course is targeted to the executive management level.

This is just one of the resources NECA has developed to help electrical contractors grow and prosper in the green building market. And, you can expect our association to step up its efforts in providing education and training and credentialing programs for green contractors and their employees now that we have become an official member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the developer of the LEED standards. Other USGBCmembers include builders, designers, legislators, policymakers, educators, manufacturers, developers, activists and scientists.

Watch these pages for news on developments. The green building market is here to stay and so is NECA, your “ever-green” source for dependable advice and support!           

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Green Building Standards Growing in Los Angeles

It’s a locale not necessarily regarded for being friendly to the environment. Then again, it’s also a place known as a pioneer for change.

The city and county of Los Angeles, known for its smog and crowded freeways, are both in the midst of adopting ambitious green building standards, which will improve energy efficiency and lower the environmental impact of new construction.

In November, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved a green building program that will require large new developments to be 15 percent more energy efficient. The standards, which the city council will consider this year, would apply to new buildings with more than 50 units or 50,000 square feet of floor area. They would be required to meet national standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization working to advance the cause of environmentally friendly building construction across the country. The standards, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), would reduce the amount of energy used in large developments to well below what is required by California’s building code, which already is the strictest in the nation.

The Los Angeles proposal includes wiring buildings for solar-energy systems, using high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units, and installing toilets and showerheads that use less water. Half of demolition and construction waste would have to be recycled, and low-irrigation landscaping would be mandated for lots greater than 1,000 square feet.

Los Angeles, along with more than two dozen other cities, already requires LEED certification for publicly funded buildings, such as schools and libraries. If the planning commission proposal were approved, Los Angeles would join a small but growing cadre of cities that impose the same requirement for private construction.

Meanwhile, a similar proposal is in the public hearing phase in Los Angeles County. The county ordinance will combine requirements for energy efficiency, low-impact design and drought-tolerant landscaping in new development projects.

—Rick Laezman

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Evolution of a Standard Let’s create our own

By Jim Hayes

I know I have said enough about industry standards, so this will not be another column on that topic. However, I’m going to recruit you and your customers to create a new standard using a time-proven technique—just doing what makes sense! You see, standards come in two very distinctive varieties. What we refer to as “de jure” (meaning “by law”) are created by an authority, such as TIA, and take years to research, develop and then negotiate among the standards developers to produce a standard. But most standards develop from a “de facto” standard: something that people are doing anyway.

Consider the most common multimode fiber optic cable plant of the last 20 years: 62.5/125 fiber with ST connectors. How did that combination become so widely used?

Until the mid-1980s, there were several multimode fibers available: 50/125 micron that had been used for the initial telephone links before single-mode fiber became commercially available; 100/140 micron optimized for LEDs; a proposed 85/125 micron fiber that could use the same connectors as all other fibers, which was a problem affecting 100/140 fiber’s popularity; and 62.5/125 fiber, which was the original AT&T fiber that was set aside when 50/125 fiber proved better for long-distance telco links using lasers.

When IBM created its first fiber link in the mid-1980s—the 3044 channel extender for mainframe computer peripherals—the company chose an AT&T transceiver that just happened to be specified to use 62.5/125 fiber. So it became the specified fiber for IBM’s new product. Since this was back when IBM was the “3,000-pound gorilla” of the data industry, everybody else jumped on the bandwagon and adopted 62.5/125 fiber as their choice, too.

Concurrently, AT&T—the 3,000-pound gorilla of telecommunications at the time—introduced a new connector called the ST (straight terminus) with a cylindrical ceramic ferrule and bayonet locking nut. Compared to then-current choices, SMA connectors with metal ferrules or biconics with molded plastic ferrules, the ST was great. The ferrule’s precision helped improve connection geometry, the ceramic improved bonding to the glass fibers and simplified polishing techniques, and it was cheaper than some other connectors. Instant acceptance followed.

Practically overnight these technology gorillas changed the entire landscape in fiber optic cabling. Premises cable plants to support mainframe data centers and the large number of different LANs currently available (Ethernet, DECnet, Token Ring, ARCnet, etc.) all were designed and installed with 62.5/125 fiber and ST connectors, creating a de facto standard.

To show the power of de facto standards, look how this one withstood the onslaught of standards committees. When TIA started writing 568 standards several years later, it choose the SC connector for political and patent reasons, but users didn’t buy it. Even today, the ST connector has not been displaced. When the TIA committees considered standardizing on a new “small form factor” connector in the late 1990s, no decision could be made because no manufacturer had sufficient support to get a majority of votes. Nearly a decade later, the market has decided the LC connector—another AT&T design, no less—is the small form factor connector of choice, i.e., the de facto standard.

As the LAN market has gone to gigabit and 10 gigabit networks that require more bandwidth than the 62.5/125 fiber used for the last 20 years can offer, the older, more laser-friendly 50/125 fiber, updated for modern manufacturing techniques, has made a comeback. In fact, new development had led to even higher bandwidth 50/125 fiber, called laser-optimized fiber, or “OM3” in international standards terminology. And transceiver manufacturers use the LC connector exclusively for its small size.

Today, knowledgeable users are installing cable plants with OM3 fiber with LC connectors. The fiber is good for 10 gigabit networks (and more), and the LC connectors prevent mixing these new cable systems with older 62.5/125 ones.

So let’s all create a new standard—me, you and your customers. We’re going to call it “OM3,” for the fiber it uses. It will have LC connectors and every component (connectors, mating adapters, cable jackets) will be color-coded aqua to distinguish it from earlier fiber types.

Unlike Category 6, we don’t have a limited cable design, requiring running tons of messy cables; we have the flexibility to run dozens of fibers in a cable the size of a single Category 6 cable. We have the advantage of dry-water blocking to run outdoors or even use indoor-outdoor designs on a campus. We don’t have to worry about crosstalk, high power consumption or removing abandoned cables every couple of years in order to upgrade, all of which are hounding the copper cabling business.

Use this spec in your new projects. Advise all your customers to use it. We’ll promote it on the FOA and SCA Web sites and include it in the next update of the NECA/FOA-301 installation standard.

And we’re going to be so successful with OM3 cable plants that its adoption in the next TIA 568 update cycle will be a shoo-in. Here is the OM3 spec for designers to use in documentation:

The fiber optic cable plant will be type OM3, using laser-optimized (OM3) fiber in a cable with aqua-colored jacket, terminated with LC type connectors and mating adapters all colored aqua. Individual fiber cable runs will be specified by number of fibers and cable type (riser, plenum, indoor-outdoor, etc.).     

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Retrofit applications and MACs

by DARLENE BREMER

New advances in technology, changes in personnel and new deployment needs of a company’s human resources. The need to improve operations, reduce energy consumption or cut costs to increase profitability. Any one, or combination, of these trends in an existing facility or building means an opportunity for electrical contractors to acquire retrofit moves adds and changes (MAC) work.

The MAC market

MAC work runs the gamut from providing the required electrical and voice/data/video (VDV) outlets and jacks for moving or adding a single person in an existing office or building, to reconfiguring large swaths of space and moving great numbers of workstations at a time, to running phone service from the communications provider to workstations or other outlets. Known as restacking, such a large redesign of space requires the electrical contractor to move and add a great deal of cabling to accommodate the physical restructuring of personnel environments.

MACs on the traditional electrical side of the business, mostly defined as service work, still involve working in existing spaces and dealing with VDV devices and computer and telecommunication systems. The work primarily entails upgrading and servicing outlets, improving power distribution efficiency, and providing reliable power quality for computer networks and other systems. There are no discrete figures for the MAC market, but the consensus is that it is growing on an ongoing basis.

 “Ninety percent of the time, the electrical contractor that performs the initial installation is chosen for the subsequent MAC work because that company is already familiar with the building,” said Pete Archacki, director of structured cable systems for Continental Electrical Construction Co., Skokie, Ill.

Electrical contractors that don’t already have a dedicated division to handle MAC work might want to consider forming one and staffing it with the necessary expertise, so they can be prepared to fulfill the customer’s MAC requirements even before the construction process is complete.

The MAC market in parts of the Mid-Atlantic has grown 50 percent in the last 18 to 30 months, according to Pat Azzole, operations manager of VDV for Mona Electric Group Inc., Clinton, Md.

“A lot of companies are expanding in certain geographical markets like Washington, D.C., and the electrical and teledata markets are experiencing consistent increases in the demand for MACs,” Azzole said.

MAC work represents about 15 percent of Des Moines, Iowa-based Baker Electric Inc.’s business, and the company believes the market will continue to expand.

“The number of groups that have been tasked with finding local contractors to provide MAC support for companies with a national presence have nearly doubled in the area in the last four years,” said Kevin Reynolds, RCDD, service manager of Baker Electric’s voice and data division. Growth is expected to remain steady as companies expand, remodel or adopt new technologies, including g wireless, all of which require adaptation of the existing infrastructure to accommodate the changes.

Ron Roberts, president of Schmidt Electric Inc., Ft. Wayne, Ind., agreed that growth in the MAC market, including the traditional electrical side of the business, is great.

“No matter how tight the economy gets in terms of new construction, MAC work is always growing as companies and organizations change size and try to reduce costs and maximize the use of their space,” Roberts said.

MAC vs. new construction

MAC work takes place in an occupied work environment and requires employees who can perform their jobs without disrupting the activities of the end-users.

“New construction is performed in an empty environment, and there is less interaction between field electricians and the customer or end-users,” Archacki said. As opposed to new construction, MAC work doesn’t require waiting for other trades to reach a certain point before the electricians can begin.

“The finished environment of MAC work makes it more complex to perform,” Azzole said. For example, electricians performing MAC work must ensure their activities don’t interrupt or disrupt the business’ operations, which means frequently working at night. In addition, MAC electricians have to work closely with the customer and end-users to schedule tasks and must consistently maintain a professional appearance and clean up after themselves after each task. The fact that the contractor usually is dealing directly with the building owner, rather than with a general contractor, provides more control over negotiating agreements and allows the contractor to build a more personal relationship with the end-user. In addition, much of MAC work requires understanding the electronics involved in the systems being wired.

“MAC electricians and technicians must be able to assist in troubleshooting and in engineering the switchgear that will power the low-voltage systems,” Reynolds said.

That’s not all. MAC work takes fewer people to perform it, the jobs usually are smaller in scope than in new construction and, perhaps most importantly, response time to accommodate a customer’s nonemergency request is only three to five days.

“It can take months, even years, for a new construction project to get up and running,” Reynolds said.

According to Fred Sargent, former CEO of Sargent Electric Co., Pittsburgh, the greatest differentiation between new construction projects and MAC work is that the former has become more of a commodity or assembly item, while the latter requires greater individual skills and craftsmanship.

“MAC work is a great opportunity for electrical contractors to use their high-quality, trained work force to gain a steady income stream and to grow long-term relationships directly with the owner,” Sargent said.

According to Archaki, One of the issues specific to MAC work is dealing with a building’s existing pathways and spaces. Today’s cable diameters are increasing in size, which requires upgrading the existing space’s pathways to accommodate the technology. In addition, Archacki said, when upgrading technology for a customer, the new systems must be implemented so end-users don’t experience a service disruption.

“That kind of work requires running parallel systems as well as extensive coordination between the contractor’s technicians and the customer’s information technology staff,” Archacki said. In addition, it takes a unique ability to envision an area’s new configuration and to rewire it effectively, while retaining and using as much of the existing infrastructure as possible.

New codes adopted by many jurisdictions calling for the removal of abandoned cable before the installation of new cable is  another issue specific to MAC work. Customers must be educated on the requirement to destroy the abandoned cable, but fortunately, according to Azzole, building managers now are incorporating demolition clauses into their lease agreements, making the contractor’s job somewhat easier.

Minimizing damage and disruption

In a MAC environment, it is vital that the existing infrastructure and environment not be damaged and to keep disruption of business operations to a minimum. Therefore, it is essential to have the appropriate personnel and equipment at the site. Some of the equipment found on a new construction project has no place in an office building or historical structure, and the electricians chosen to be on the team performing MAC work must have the appropriate technical aptitude and be trained to work in a finished environment.

“Every contractor has its niche specialties and has crews within the organization that have experience working on specific types of projects. You can’t expect high levels of customer satisfaction if you don’t staff MAC work with the right people,” Archacki said.

Environmental damage also can be mitigated if the MAC crew has access to and uses the building’s as-built documents to plan the wire routing with the least number of pathway changes.

“Of course, new pathways occasionally must be made if the existing ones are inappropriate for the new cabling,” Reynolds said. Minimizing damage also requires that the crews are properly trained to understand the importance of not destroying the existing infrastructure and that they have the proper tools, such as especially flexible drill bits for working on walls or other obstructions discovered during the work.

The safety of the MAC electricians is equally important.

“Most MAC work is in commercial or light industrial environments, which can present terrible safety hazards,” Sargent said. MAC electricians, if not properly trained and alert, may be lulled into a false sense of security by working in a finished environment and think the potential risks of construction work don’t apply to them.

The issue of minimizing damage is a paramount concern in historical buildings.

“In a historical environment, the contractor must work closely with the architect and structural engineer to maintain the building’s integrity and still deliver the appropriate upgrade to the customer,” Archacki said.

Working in historical buildings requires a great deal of skill and creativity to engineer the appropriate pathways for the larger cabling required by today’s technology, which do not fit in an older structure’s spaces. The solution frequently is the use of decorative exposed raceway to avoid cutting into a building’s walls or changing the aesthetics of the building.

Another issue in historical building MAC retrofit work is that materials usually need to be custom-made to match the existing architectural style.

“The lead times for these materials can be extensive and requires a great deal of planning,” Azzole said.

Contractors also need to be constantly aware of the value of the existing materials in and of the building and must have the required skills for planning and handling the work. In addition, contractors must have the work force with the expertise and experience to effectively deal with this type of environment.

MAC work is expected to experience continued growth and to offer electrical contractors a wide breadth of opportunities.

“As VDV technology continues to advance and customers require the appropriate upgrades, the electrical needs to power those systems will also change and evolve, providing long-term opportunities,” Roberts said.        

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Sell Low Voltage, Score Profit

by jim hayes

Developers need to differentiate their offerings, think MDUs

With all the baD NEWS about the housing and mortgage industries, writing about how to make money in residential cabling might seem untimely, but maybe not. During one recession long ago, I was working for an electronics company that had been growing very rapidly up to that time. As worries about the recession’s effect on the company began to cause unease among employees, the president, then a young techie entrepreneur, called all the employees together into the company cafeteria.

First, he acknowledged the uncertainty of the -economy, but he noted that the company was in a rapidly developing technology, peripheral to the then-new microprocessor industry. The company was a small fish in a big pond. Most competitors were large, publicly held companies whose major concern was consistent profits. The company, he said, could benefit from this recession if it continued funding research and development and advertising while it cut only expenses that would not affect product development and sales.

Did it work? You bet. That company grew to be a major player in the electronics business in only a few years, with much of its success built on the aggressive actions it took during that recession. It was a lesson worth learning: When others are timid or fearful, look for opportunities, and take advantage of them.

Residential cabling may be a real opportunity now. Many contractors do not pursue residential work for a number of good economic reasons. A single-family home has limited income potential. Developers of subdivisions generally look for the cheapest contractors or installers. Most do not want to deal with after-installation service calls from the homebuyer. All good reasons to ignore residential work.

But the downturn in housing starts has created some potential opportunities for contractors. The timing coincides with a massive consumer demand for broadband connections to the home (for more information, see “Connecting to the Future” Electrical Contractor, June 2007), which has led to telcos and CATV companies competing fiercely to connect homes, especially in new developments where the installation cost to the home is cheapest and the “take rate” is highest. Verizon’s FiOS fiber to the home (FTTH) service, for example, appears to have up to a 70 percent take rate in new communities in Southern California.

Verizon is aggressively pursuing customers with banners in shopping centers, towed behind planes and anywhere else it can get exposure to consumers. In addition, the company is soliciting home builders, installers and home technology integrators to work with. Verizon has been going to specialist trade shows and presenting seminars on its FTTH programs to explain what it is doing, who it is recruiting and how to contact the right people. Last year, for the Fiber Optic Association and Verizon, two “FTTH Summit Meetings” were held to help recruit contractors and installers for these ambitious programs.

CATV companies are responding with aggressive sales and pricing and even offering premium Internet service with faster speeds. Municipalities unhappy with the broadband rollout schedules of telcos or CATV companies are building their own FTTH or wireless networks. Although citywide Wi-Fi has fizzled—because cities have found the service demands are not easily met, and real installation and support costs are higher than expected—a new challenger, WiMax, has emerged on another tidal wave of hype. Wireless technologies continue changing faster than standards or markets can respond, making a decision to invest in wireless for a city a difficult proposition, so landline connections continue to dominate the broadband connection marketplace with CATV cable modems and telco DSL each connecting about 30 million households and growing.

So when home builders are “mothballing” developments, and real estate listings show listings for single-family houses are equal to a year’s average sales, where’s the opportunity? When selling new homes becomes more difficult, developers need a way to differentiate their offerings in the marketplace. Some offer all sorts of incentives, including one condominium developer in Los Angeles offering a free three-year lease on a car with each unit sold. Others have adopted a high-tech approach, offering a high base level of tech capability in each home and options to provide a wide variety of customization services for security, networking, home automation and home theater.

One home developer/builder said it had adopted a policy of hiring only certified network-cabling installers for this work, as it had problems with the quality of the work in some installations. The developer can justify paying for qualified installers because high-tech cabling in homes was extremely profitable, generally returning more than 50 percent profit margins, as opposed to the 10 percent typical with normal upgrades, such as kitchen counters or cabinets. This is the kind of developer to work with.

Although we have mainly been discussing the single-family home, one should not ignore condominiums and apartments, which are having to absorb the people who cannot now afford homes. People who cannot afford to purchase a single-family home still need somewhere to live. Some have the means to purchase a condo, but most end up in apartments. Apartments are becoming scarce and expensive in Southern California, while the housing market is flooded with unsold homes. Therefore, condos and apartments may prove to be a more lucrative market opportunity for cabling contractors. 

Perhaps most importantly, young people not yet ready to settle down are much more likely to rent than buy. If they have recently lived in college housing, they are accustomed to high-speed Internet access. Colleges are providing every student with high-speed Internet access for all their assignments. Colleges also are sites for all sorts of networking experiments where technology companies let the school and the students test the latest gadgets and connectivity. When these people leave school and move into an apartment, broadband access is considered a necessity.

Apartments and condos (lumped into a category called multi-dwelling units or MDUs) are more like commercial networking installations than residential. The landlords must provide entrance facilities for telcos and CATV providers, perhaps several. Large units may need backbone cabling and telecom closets to provide telephone and Internet access just like a business. If fiber to the building is available, there may be options for bringing fiber directly to the units. Besides phone and network cabling, each unit needs one or more coax cables for TV, intercom and entry systems, and most buildings now have multiple security cameras and recording systems. Each location with electronics needs power and grounds, of course, just like an office building.

 While a single-family home developer may be able to convince himself that installing a few extra cables in a home is no problem, the complexity of a multidwelling unit is obvious. The cost of such a job also is larger, demanding more attention from the architect, developer and general contractor. Hiring an experienced, certified cabling contractor for such work is a good business decision. Justifying the additional expense for an apartment owner is easier, as the services may be unbundled and charged separately, or the owner may offer certain services—such as Internet access—directly and charge as a separate monthly item.

 The biggest challenge is to educate developers, architects and general contractors on the special needs of a “high-tech residence” to take advantage of the broadband connection. This subject came up at the annual conference of the Building Industry Association of Southern California last November. Attendees included developers, home builders, architects and a lone home theater installer. Each had a different viewpoint.

The developers or home builders were mostly concerned about payback. What did they need to install, who could do the installation properly, how much would it cost and how much would the customer pay for it? Those are the typical issues we deal with, so they were satisfied with our presentation.

Architects sometimes are not convinced. One way to address architects is to inform them of the industry standards and codes regarding high-tech cabling and hope it gets translated into the project paperwork properly.

Of the groups involved in installing residential cabling, home theater contractors are the closest to having a complete understanding of the needs of the home. However, the ones I’ve talked to generally focus on custom installations, generally upgrades to existing housing, that are very expensive. Typical home theater installations run from $20,000 to $100,000 or more, including electronics (stereo, TVs, etc.), and the contractors usually are not interested in installing just the cabling, since most of the cost is in high-margin electronics.

So let’s recap. Is there money to be made in residential cabling? Absolutely. The best opportunities for professional cabling contractors are probably in MDUs being equipped with state-of-the-art communications and security systems, but developers still are working on new subdivisions, and all have broadband service available.

In making presentations to developers and builders, it is important to point out that buyers demand new homes be designed and built for high-tech devices, and they are willing to pay for it. Home cabling not only makes houses easier to sell, especially in a competitive market, but home cabling has a much higher profit margin than most traditional home options, such as kitchen upgrades.

Architects should be assured that industry standards are available and you are familiar with them. Show your industry credentials; training and certification will help you make a positive impression on the architects. In addition, get to know some home theater installers. Most are not interested or capable of taking on big cabling jobs, but they may be aware of opportunities they will share with you, and you can reciprocate when you find opportunities for custom installations.

Next month we’ll look at the “nuts and bolts” of residential network installations.     

HAYES is a VDV writer and trainer and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com 

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HYBRID SYSTEMS Coexistence is the new norm

by debbie mcclung

It’s no surprise that the proliferation of electronics continues to redefine work and play. Local area networks (LANs), which have long performed as distribution workhorses, are rapidly evolving with the breakneck pace of wireless (WLAN). As Kourosh Parsa, a senior wireless systems engineer with Ortronics/Legrand put it, “We are experiencing a global wireless ‘gold rush.’”

The introduction of next-generation wireless technologies and the expansion of 802.11 WLAN systems are driving demand for a domain that still relies very heavily on wired infrastructure. Not too long ago, convention suggested that computer networks for the home and business could be developed from either wired or wireless technology. Both technologies can claim advantages over the other. Both represent viable options for residential, commercial and industrial LANs, but they needn’t compete against each other anymore. Nobody expects one size to fit all. Coexistence is the new norm.

Product developments and manufacturer alliances continue to provide proof that neither a wire nor air interface will emerge as the single solution to deploy next-generation applications and platforms. Rather, there is a growing realization that the seamless integration of hybrid systems is the ticket to the future, and electrical contractors are in the driver’s seat.

“If anything, there is a single-mindedness among industry leaders to adopt hybrid solutions—that is, wireless and wired solutions combined together in a single system,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst at Parks Associates, a Dallas-based market research firm. Scherf and others agree that it is not wise to box yourself in by thinking there’s only one solution to the exclusion of the others. In nearly every segment of systems work, there are a variety of hybrid capabilities to build future network configurations.

It’s all hybrid, all opportunity

According to David Veneski, Fluke Networks marketing manager for certification products, the common perception of a wireless network is tied directly to the visibility of the final link. Although users are not tethered, the wireless access points that transmit to those end-users are connected to the network through a structured wiring system.

“Some installers are worried that wireless will destroy their cable installation business. They should remember that there is no such thing as a purely wireless network. All the wireless access points need data cabling, electrical cabling or possibly the new combination of Power over Ethernet [PoE]. This is an opportunity, not a threat,” Veneski said.

PoE is a relatively new addition to the cabling market that can pull double duty to provide both data and electrical power. The dual functionality, Veneski pointed out, results in a simplified installation—fewer wires to pull—but requires added knowledge on the part of the cable installer.

The use of structured wiring as a backbone for home automation and networking applications is increasing, especially in new home construction.

“We anticipate that hybrid solutions will make up 60 percent or more of the home networking products—data, voice and multimedia—that are shipped by the end of 2008,” Sherf said.

Building automation and industrial controls incorporate similar infrastructure. In the vast majority of wireless networks deployed today—also known as 802.11 in IEEE Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) standards, wireless is the means of connecting end-users to the wired 802.3 Ethernet LAN where network resources reside.

Wireless is the access method, but the core and backbone of the network still is wired. “All networks have wires, even wireless networks. In order for the access points to deliver performance the users expect, they must be connected by cabling that meets the design specifications for that network,” Veneski said.

In hybrid systems, wireless access points and hardwired resources, such as coaxial, structured wiring and fiber, are teaming up to provide data and communications networks, sensors and controls, security systems and energy management systems. But don’t let the semantics of the term “hybrid systems” create confusion.

In your region, the deployment may be known as “wired-wireless integration,” “converged network” or a “wireless overlay,” according to Wiring.com Inc.’s John Colodny.

“Typically, it’s putting in Cat 5e or Cat 6 wiring to the faceplates and putting a separate wireless infrastructure into the same space. We find that 99 percent of the time wireless is being installed to support a specific application. Wireless is not a replacement yet; instead, it’s an enhanced capability,” Colodny said.

Regardless of the nomenclature, a centralized wired network architecture is required for the wireless system to operate. It’s the successful foundation for adding wireless in retrofit situations in homes and historical structures where opening walls for additional wiring can be intrusive.

Partnerships expand functionality

Although a conventional hybrid system teams wired and wireless components, there are recent examples of hybrid partnerships between data cabling and wireless access point manufacturers that can offer a comprehensive infrastructure solution.

In the past year, Ortronics/Legrand introduced the Wi-Jack Duo, a small dual band/dual radio access point that fits into a standard wall box in the footprint of a standard faceplate and extends 12 mm from the wall. The device supports 802.11 a/b/g operation, allowing simultaneous operation at 2.4 and 5 GHz at speeds up to 54 Mb/s, and can be used with a dedicated air monitor.

“By bringing the access point into the wall outlet, we have more closely integrated the WLAN into the existing structured cabling infrastructure,” Parsa said.

Scherf said that even service providers are pushing home networking to extend the value and utility of hybrid-based services.

“Take, for example, the deployment efforts of both AT&T and Verizon to deliver deep-fiber-based broadband and television services to the home. As they are installing these services, they’re using residential gateways that have both a wireless (802.11g) and a coax/twisted pair solution to distribute TV content, broadband, communications, etc. They definitely see the value in having the wireless component, since it provides a homeowner with much greater flexibility of where to use a laptop computer or locating a desktop PC that may not be near a coax, Ethernet or phone outlet,” Scherf said.

The ZigBee Alliance is an organization of approximately 250 companies working on standardization and common interoperability platforms for wireless devices. Based on IEEE 802.15.4, with the goal of creating a global standard for sensor and control networks, ZigBee also has a stake in hybrid compatibility.

“ZigBee knows how to talk to 802.11, which knows how to talk to Ethernet, which knows how to talk to the Internet. By design, all these platforms are part of the broader standards solution and should be capable of working together,” said ZigBee chairman, Bob Heile.

One of ZigBee’s initiatives is to collaborate on the interoperability of protocols for back office functions in building control systems. “One of the solutions on the wired side is BACnet. We’re working with ASHRAE and the BACnet standards group to create joint common solutions that not only allow communication on both sides of the network, but allow applications to be shared and to create a seamless user-friendly experience,” Heile said.

Testing wired and wireless traffic

One of the primary reasons for WLAN’s popularity is its host of mobility applications, and the next generation of 802.11n devices promise sufficient throughput for many business users. But it’s not for everyone. WLAN can be susceptible to interference and service attacks. Industry experts, such as Eric Anderson, Fluke Network’s product manager for portable network analysis, predict that new, more complex applications are expected to require even greater bandwidth than even 802.11n can provide.

“WLANs generally have more latency and jitter, which impact VoIP and live video applications. Security is a much bigger concern with WLANs. So in industrial and commercial environments, IT managers employ a hybrid approach, using WLAN where it’s applicable and wired where it’s best suited,” Anderson said.

Hybrid technologies are placing new challenges on technicians who must increasingly troubleshoot mixed network environments, which up to now required different tools and different techniques. According to Anderson, wired and wireless networks have both passive and active components. Within wired networks, the passive components typically include the twisted-pair cabling, RJ-45 jacks, patch cables, optical fiber cabling, fiber connectors and patch panels. The certification of the passive wired infrastructure is a mature-use model, and best practices, standards and instrumentation are available for certifying wires.

“But certification of active 802.3 wired LANs is not a common practice. Wireless is even less mature. There is no industry-recognized best practice for certifying the ‘passive’ component of the WLAN or the RF environment. And there’s no best practice for certification of the active 802.11 wireless LAN,” Anderson said.

Seeing the future through optics

Telecommunications researchers the Georgia Institute of Technology have demonstrated a novel communications network design that would provide both ultra-high-speed wireless and wired access services from the same signals carried on a single optical fiber.

The new hybrid system could allow dual wired/wireless transmission of the same content, such as high-definition television, data and voice up to 100 times faster than current networks. The new architecture is projected to reduce the cost of providing dramatically improved service to conference centers, airports, hotels, shopping malls and, ultimately, to homes and small offices.

The optical-wireless access network envisioned by Gee-Kung Chang, an electrical and computer engineering professor and his colleagues would connect to existing optical fiber networks located throughout the country. Using a technique developed at Georgia Tech, wireless and baseband signals carried by multiple wavelengths would be converted onto the millimeter-wave carrier simultaneously.

“If you look into the future, the broadest bandwidth possible would come through combining and integrating optical and wireless services in a single network,” Chang said.

Added Fluke Network’s Anderson, “If a contractor wants to grow his business, he should learn more about WLAN technology. Networks will increasingly become hybrid, and knowledge of both wired and wireless network deployment and testing will become more important in the future.      

MCCLUNG, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa. She can be reached via e-mail at mcclung@lisco.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com 

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Everything Old Is New again

by claire swedberg

Educational facilities, especially, must maintain modern amenities and, generally, the buildings are updated to fit current needs, rather than being replaced by new because of
restrained budgets.

Integrating building systems enliven old facilities

Even as structures age, tenants expect up-to-date building automation, lighting controls, security and voice/data information. This expectation creates a new niche for electrical contractors. Contractors who can comfortably handle an integrated building system (IBS) retrofit have low-voltage wiring knowledge in addition to specialized engineering and the flexibility needed to make a modern system fit into a not-so-modern facility.

Commonly, demand for IBS retrofits comes from hospitals and schools. Educational facilities, especially, must maintain modern amenities, and generally, the existing buildings are updated to fit current needs, rather than being replaced by new because of restrained budgets. For instance, most IBS retrofits that San Diego-based electrical contractor Dynalectric performs are in the educational market, said Bob Riel, vice president and division manager. In the past year, the company has upgraded heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting controls at College of the Desert, Palm Desert, Calif.; Citrus College, El Camino, Calif.; and El Camino College, Torrance, Calif.

Older commercial buildings also are being updated and integrated. In one such project, Diamond View Tower, a 14-story office building in San Diego, Dynalectric added fiber closed-circuit television (CCTV) and video conferencing, bringing the building tenants necessary capabilities for today. Older buildings tend to have single, stand-alone systems, which make these retrofits necessary, especially when building owners are trying to compete for tenants with new buildings. “The new buildings tend to be more integrated,” Riel said.

Retrofit tips

Large IBS retrofits often are missed opportunities for electrical contractors. Construction Electronics Inc. (CEI), Poway, Calif., is one of the contractors that has focused on low-voltage work since its 1975 founding. CEI is an exclusive installer for Rauland-Borg nurse call systems and completes a large percentage of the area’s healthcare market. The company also performs new construction and retrofits for schools.

CEI specializes in the big jobs that other contractors may avoid, said Don Walters, the company’s CEO. Instead of taking smaller jobs, CEI electricians are more likely to be found wiring or rewiring large industrial and office buildings. They commonly retrofit security, including access control, CCTV and fire alarm systems.

At San Diego Gas & Electric’s 20-story building, CEI is supplying an entire fire alarm system upgrade. With older structures such as these, the project often begins with asbestos abatement teams. CEI arrives on the site ahead of those teams, marking the locations where the work will be done, and letting the asbestos abatement team remove what is necessary.

“Before we ever even order parts, we walk the building, lift ceiling tiles, open terminal boxes and look at it with engineering eyes,” Walters said.

Once workers understand how the conduit and raceway systems are mapped out, they come back in-house and work with the engineering team, doing CAD drawings and beginning to plan the new system.

With that process, Walters said, “We have 90 percent surety of the pieces and parts we have to order and how much labor will be needed.” Once the drawings are complete, they are presented to the authority having jurisdiction to ensure they meet codes.

“We can spend as much time like this upfront, doing the engineering and drafting, almost as we do pulling wire,” he said. “The low-voltage industry is different. We probably have as many people in house as we have in the field.” CEI does all its own engineering.

Also common in a building retrofit such as San Diego Gas & Electric, CEI has tenants to work around. The company moves its employees one space at a time.

“If we do the south-end second floor, they move their employees out of the area,” Walters said.

“[Tenants] don’t even want to know we exist, let alone work with us,” he said. CEI schedules shifts an hour after the office has closed, and workers begin cleaning up a few hours before the office reopens.

“We sweep the floors, put everything back. They want to come to work and sit at a nice, clean desk and not hear anything.”

Renovation from the ground up

Some retrofit projects can be huge. Egan Cos., Brooklyn Park, Minn., is completing a large scale IBS retrofit at Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. The company had already completed several building renovation projects that have included all new voice/data, security, fire alarm and building automation systems, said Ward Arms, vice president, Egan Cos., Electrical Construction. The company has a separate automation group (voice/data, fire alarm, security, and building automation/energy management) and an industrial controls group for jobs such as these.

Foshay Tower’s renovation project, transforming the building into an upscale hotel, includes gutting it completely. Egan was tasked with building new systems for the voice/data, security, fire alarm and audiovisual systems.

The 32-story Foshay Tower is a historic building in central Minneapolis and its design mimics the Washington Monument. Its construction offers some challenges since the sides of the building slope inward, and each floor of the Foshay Tower is slightly smaller than the one below it. In addition, it is set back from the street, with a two-story structure surrounding it on two sides. The other two sides are now surrounded by the 17-story TCF Tower.

For the renovation, Egan Cos. is a subcontractor to Ryan Cos. U.S. Inc.—the developer and part-owner of the project. In addition to the IBS, Egan Cos. is providing a new electrical system, including new incoming services; normal power; lighting, including lighting controls; and emergency generator and power distribution. Demolition started February 2007 and the project must finish up by the end of June 2008.

“Right now, our greatest challenge [with the Foshay Tower] is the fact that construction is advancing faster than some of the design, decisions that probably should have been nailed down several months ago,” Arms said. Those decisions are still being made, but the finish line hasn’t been moved.

To stay on schedule, workers have to be organized.

“We have to be flexible, work on parts of the project where the design is complete, and come back to other parts later. This often requires doing work out of sequence,” he said. “If in a normal project you would do things 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, we may have to do things 1, 3, 5, 2 and 4. Not nearly as efficient, but it’s the nature of this kind of work.”

Working around tenants has not been as much of a challenge, Arms said, because most of the tower has been vacated for reconstruction. One tenant, specifically, hasn’t vacated.

“There is a street-level restaurant that we have to keep up and running the whole time, except for a two-week window that we were given last month to cut-over their new systems,” he said. To keep the restaurant operating, Egan removed all the building systems and kept the restaurant running on temporary systems.

In addition, there is the added challenge of working with a historic building, with different parties weighing in.

“We had to adhere to the hotel operator’s specifications and requirements, while simultaneously meeting the owner’s and developer’s aesthetic and budget goals,” Arms said. Even more challenging, since the Foshay Tower is a national landmark and the National Park Service has jurisdiction over many aspects of the renovation, the company had to satisfy demands related to historic preservation. To make it all happen, Egan Cos. chose products that would help the company meet performance and budget requirements.

“Everything on this project is unique,” Arms said. “Taking a national and community landmark that has fallen on hard times the last two decades, and turning it into a jewel that the city can be proud of, that will be very rewarding.”

And when it comes to working in the middle of downtown, Arms said, staging becomes a challenge.

“We often have to shut down half a street in order to receive large material and equipment,” he said. 

Also, he said, movement up the tower has been a challenge. The building has four elevators; however, all four are being replaced, and at any given time, workers may be down to only one or two elevators, which are shared by all the trades.

Altogether, Egan Cos. will install 10,000 feet of speaker cable, 8,000 feet of line-level audio cable, 8,000 feet of Category 5 cable, 500 feet of mini high-resolution cable and 500 feet of RG 6 video cable. The voice/data work was subcontracted to Structured Network Solutions Inc., Golden Valley, Minn. For the voice/data system, the company will run 125,000 feet of Category 5e and 1,300 feet of six strand 50 micron fiber. For the fire alarm, Egan Cos. is installing 15,000, 2 No. 16 twisted pair and 23,000, 4 No. 16 notification circuits for fire alarm communications. Bosch installed its own security system.

What renovation means today

The growing move to integrated buildings creates a drive to update older buildings to fit today’s needs and requirements, incorporating sophisticated voice and data and streamlining other systems, such as fire, security, lighting and HVAC, for efficiency.

Integration can mean installing one network for building automation and control, another for the IT functions, and another one for voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and then tying all these systems together through a single control system. In the case of a single network control, data and voice communications are all on one network, instead of multiple independent networks, which can serve to reduce the owner’s cost of installation and management.

With all sophisticated systems being installed in historic or decades-old buildings, the electrical contractor called on to install IBS must figure out how to approach these projects.

“It’s an expertise all on its own,” Walters said. For instance, he pointed out that many contractors do work with fire alarms, the fire marshal and other intricacies involved, get fed up at some point.

“Well, they’ve all dabbled and undabbled,” he said.

Training in fire alarm systems as well as training in how to work better with building owners may offset some of that frustration, especially since these projects could lead to a constant stream of revenue. For example, CEI seeks work where the company can secure a long-term relationship doing maintenance.

“We look for recurring revenue,” Walters said, adding that his company also seeks to keep its suppliers happy (i.e., finding work in which their suppliers can have a part).

Follow-up maintenance on IBS systems is a huge spot for future growth, Walters said.

“Big customers don’t want to fool with it at all. They want to be able to pick up the phone. Those are the kind of customers we look for,” he said. 

The concept of a building, as has been said before, is changing, and new buildings must be updated to fit that new conception. For instance, a building was once thought of a series of independent systems, and now the building itself is being regarded as a system. With this shift, comes a greater push to renovate and a greater need for a contractor that can make integrated building systems a reality.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Bygone Fishing

by allan b. colombo

It is essential that low-voltage contractors know how to efficiently fish cables into internal and external wall cavities in retrofit applications. Unlike pulling wires through half-inch EMT conduit, fishing requires skill, experience and the right equipment. 

Fishing wires in retrofit applications

Installers know all too well the difficulties involved with installing multiple-conductor, 18-AWG cables into external walls packed with insulation.

No more than a decade ago, this task required two men—one up and one down—to bring a difficult retrofit job within budget. Advances in retrofit installation techniques over the last decade, however, have made the job of retrofitting less troublesome.

Armed with a myriad of ingenious tools designed to assist the installer fish low-voltage cables, a single installer now can perform the task easier and faster than ever before.

Self-made fishing tools

One reason why low-voltage installers experience anxiety when they have to fish an external wall involves the time it takes to negotiate the insulation therein. It’s not easy to insert, locate and pull a wire from atop a wall into a basement location. A single wire can take from 10 minutes to more than an hour. Fishing wires under a carpet or above a suspended ceiling also can take considerable time.

Ten or 20 years ago, there were only so many factory-made tools available for fishing walls, carpets and ceilings. Installers often fashioned their own tools from household items or objects found in an office, workshop or service van.

The ordinary coat hanger is probably one of the most common self-made fishing tools. Using a pair of large diagonal cutters, the hook is removed and the hanger straightened. A small hook is then formed at one end and a small handle at the other.

A cable is first inserted into the wall using some means of weighting it, such as a string or chain with a weight attached, (see sidebar on right) so gravity carries it as deep into the wall cavity as possible. The hook is inserted into the wall, usually through a hole placed where the wire is intended to exit.

The easiest wire to fish with this contraption is one that involves a single- or two-gang box where you can put your hand into the wall to find the string. By adding a slight double bend to the hook end of the coat hanger, it is possible to rotate the hanger assembly until the hook catches the wire or the attached string or chain.

Today’s modern marvels

When I searched for prefabricated fishing tools on the Internet, I was surprised at just how far these modern marvels have come. Some of the available resources on the Web include videos you can watch, such as on the Magnepull Web site (www.magnepull.com).

The Magnepull consists of a strong, hand-held magnet and a metal sinker-type object that the technician fastens to the wire when he drops it into the wall. The sinker is located by moving a magnetic roller back and forth on the surface of the wall. Once found, the technician works the Magnepull back and forth as he moves toward the exit hole.

The same magnetic-based tool can be used to retrieve magnetic tools and drill bits trapped in a wall cavity. According to the manufacturer, this method of retrieval may not be viable where it involves metal studs.

When you watch the Magnepull videos, you’ll note that the demonstrator drills the entry hole close to the edge of the top plate. In the real world, extreme care must be exercised when doing this because of the possibility of breaking through the drywall into the room.

Additional wire-fishing aides

There are other interesting modern marvels on the market, all designed to make the job of fishing easier and faster. One is a fiber optic scope with a built-in infrared (IR) illuminator.

Labor Saving Devices’ model VS48 (www.lsdinc.com/content/product_details/32) allows the installer to actually peer into a wall to see where the pull string, chain or long flexible drill bit is (see sidebar on flexible drill bits, below). This particular model comes with two settings on the IR illuminator portion.

Fishing also can be a challenge in horizontal spaces, such as ceilings. Here, installers can use an expandable fiberglass pole assembly equipped with a hook designed to snag a cable. These poles can be expanded 12 to 18 feet, depending on the model.

Fiberglass rods can be connected together, which allows installers to run a wire the entire length of a ceiling or under a continuous floor space for relatively long distances without interruption.

When using any of the above cable fishing tools, always use caution. For instance, when the job involves suspended ceiling spaces and code is a consideration, cable hangers usually are necessary.

Safety is the installer’s first priority, because accidents can be costly to both an injured installer as well as the company that employs him.    

Colombo is a 32-year veteran in the security and life-safety markets. He currently is director with FireNetOnline.com and a nationally recognized trade journalist located in East Canton, Ohio.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Network & Cabling

The Intangibles Of Business Leadership

By Anthony Capkun

There are several things you expect a trade-specific publication such as Network & Cabling to deliver, such as updates on technology and services, news on what’s going on in the marketplace, feature articles on things of interest in the world of ITS, and so on. With this issue, we endeavour to do even more, by providing you with information you can use right away in your business—in your daily routine.

This editorial of mine plays a part in this renewed focus on you and your business needs, as it draws upon a presentation I attended Sunday afternoon at the BICSI Winter Conference entitled, “Business Management”, by Mary Powell, the vice-president for strategic sales and marketing at A1 Teletronics. In this presentation, she explained a few things about how customers think, how they act and how you fit into the picture.

The funny thing is that everything she said is common sense; something we would all figure out if we only sat down and actually thought about it. Let’s face it: we can’t go through life without being someone’s customer at some point. So what works for us, works for them—we just need to remember to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes when we’re not the customer.

But we need reminding, and that’s where “Business Management” comes in. Mary started by quoting several statistics, such as:

• 95% of complaining customers will be repeat customers when you resolve their problems on the spot.

• A satisfied customer will tell five to six people about a problem, whereas an unsatisfied customer will tell eight to 10 people.

• A business will spend six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep current ones.

“People don’t care how much you know,” said Powell, “They want to know how much you care.” Many business decisions are based on our emotional responses, she argued, despite how much logic we may infuse into defending our decisions later. People buy good feelings and solutions to problems, Powell continued. “If you believe you’re selling something of value, chances are the customer will believe he’s buying something of value.”

She explained that “perceived” service leaders can charge up to 10% more than the competition will grow twice as fast and improve market share up to 6% annually. She concluded with five simple measures that, when followed, will keep your customers coming back:

1. Be reliable (do what you say you will).

2. Be credible (provide peace of mind).

3. Be attractive (everything the customer sees, hears and feels will form their opinion of you).

4. Be responsive (accessible, available and willing to help).

5. Be empathetic (put yourself in your customer’s shoes).

Ultimately, success today does not guarantee success tomorrow, Powell said, concluding with the following statement: “Excellent service isn’t the result of doing any one thing 1000% better, but rather the result of doing 1000 things 1% better.” I couldn’t agree more, and it’s a lesson that makes sense in any business.

Reprinted with full permission of Network & Cabling Magazine www.networkcablingmag.ca 

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Security & Life Safety Systems Magazine

Planning to Teach and Learn

Editor’s Eye

By Edward Brown

It’s a new year as I write this and the start of what feels like an exciting adventure. I’m the new managing editor of S+LSS, and I’ve been given the task of making a good magazine even better. What a great opportunity! I’m looking forward to working with our writers, our editorial advisory board and the terrific staff, but most especially, I’m looking forward to working with you readers. I would love to hear about what you like, what you don’t like and what you’d like to see more of in our magazine (-ebeditor@gmail.com).

This being February, our focus is on education. I read through the issue with Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas’ Management column in mind: “Selling solutions and products to end-users is basically the same in any vertical market. … Schools, short of a few extra rules, regulations and constraints, have funds to spend the same as everyone else.”

Sure enough, our profiles highlight the truth of her words. They all show how working with schools is basically the same as working in any other market—but also how it is different. That’s a lot of useful information. Most of the projects involved both renovation and new construction, and, of course, began with contracts and negotiations (see Timothy Hughes and Alison Mullins’ Legal column, page 37).

One of the typical constraints for renovations is timing the work to minimize the disruption to the education process—a tricky challenge. What spoke to me about each of these projects was that they were mainly driven by two forces: a need to accommodate an expanding population and a desire to bring to these schools the benefits of modern technology. School boards were willing to spend money on giving classrooms access to the Internet, improving teachers’ ability to use audiovisual resources, helping students and teachers across the district communicate with each other because they believed these things would improve their children’s education, and updating security and other life safety systems would help ensure their children’s safety. These, in my opinion, are valid beliefs. I think as the evidence accumulates about how effective these new technologies are, this vertical market will continue to expand at a rapid rate.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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Maintaining Cybersecurity in Higher Education

As colleges and universities move to wireless networking, security risks are escalating with the transition. Higher education IT administrators are worrying about nonuniversity individuals hopping onto their networks for malicious reasons. It is not easy to balance their mission to keep universities as open, accessible learning environments with as much interactivity as possible with their need to maintain cyber security.

“The greatest challenge we face is the user challenge,” said Fred Cates, director of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. “We are dealing with a wide variety of people, many of whom have no technical knowledge. For example, we’d all like to require extremely vigorous passwords, but many individuals have trouble just figuring out how to get their wireless devices to start.”

The myriad new devices that people want to connect—such as cell phones, computers and PDAs—compounds the security challenges.

“It’s not just about security of our networks, but the security of the devices that connect to it as well,” Cates said.

Institutions of higher education are taking steps to protect their networks. Many require all users to register their Media Access Control (MAC) address—a hardware address that uniquely identifies each node of a network—in advance. They also are trying to enforce better standards of security for laptops, advising their communities to run filters or virus software.

“We’re using stronger encryption and requiring that all devices support that encryption,” Cates said. “If you’re using a wireless card or laptop, you may find that you can’t connect it unless it supports the type of encryption that the university wants to see.”

Intrusion detection and monitoring are vital to preventing hackers from breaking into systems. Educating and training users about risks and responsibilities also is vital.

“I don’t think we’ll see a magic bullet in the future to resolve these cybersecurity challenges,” Cates said. “Nevertheless, wireless technology is here to stay.”        

—Susan Feinberg

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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University Campuses Face New Security Challenges

After 9/11 and the events taking place in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, many colleges and universities realized that they needed to update and enact security policies and procedures to respond effectively to new threats to the safety of their faculty members, students and staff members.

“Colleges and universities are dealing with threats they’ve never experienced before,” said Paul Denton, chief of police at The Ohio State University. “In the world after 9/11, we’ve had to refocus.”

Denton and his team at Ohio State have updated their response policies to incorporate new procedures for evacuation and detection. Their response plans detail the roles of university security and local police and fire personnel and how they need to work together.

After the shootings at Virginia Tech, Ohio State decided to train in national incident management systems (NIMS), which require university officials to work closely with the community.

“We focus on how our integrating command structure looks and who is working in leadership and decision-making roles,” Denton said.

The security plans emphasize the importance of creating new pathways to cooperating and building partnerships with local, state and federal agencies.

“That’s certainly where it all starts,” Denton said.

According to Michael McCarthy, director of security at St. John Fisher College, universities can’t rely on technology alone to combat new security threats.

“The human element is vital,” he said. “We are training security personnel to detect anything of a suspicious nature. For example, we have to know where and how to look for suspicious packages as well as international and domestic terrorists.”

Despite the heightened security threats, McCarthy still believes that institutions of higher education are safe.

“Statistically, college campuses are one of the safest places you can be,” he said.

—Susan Feinberg

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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New Technologies Meet Evolving Security Needs on College Campuses

There has been a dramatic change in the role that technology plays in ensuring safety on college campuses.

“I heard Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security chief, say that our budgets won’t allow us to triple or quadruple the number of people responsible for safety,” said Ted Collins, president and chief operating officer of InterAct Public Safety Systems, a company headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Technology will have to carry the load with the same number of officers and act as a force multiplier of their abilities.”

Most college campuses are looking at campus notification systems that respond to and perhaps anticipate emergency situations. Pagers, cell phones and even loudspeakers in dorm rooms have become key elements in alerting college communities of danger.

There is a new emphasis on technology that ensures the safety of first responders and helps them to perform their jobs effectively. According to Collins, this technology must be mobile to protect a widely dispersed public. Officers on bikes or horses, as well as those in police cars, must be able to receive and transmit information at any time.

These technologies also must provide interoperability to enable first responders to communicate with their dispatchers, officers in the field, neighboring towns and the private sector. In the event of a catastrophe, information must be shared to ensure that universities quickly secure vital resources.

Collins predicts that in the future, biometrics, which includes fingerprint technology and retinal scans, and remote video wireless technologies will be increasingly popular at colleges and universities.

“This trend will be pushing the needle back and forth about what is the appropriate use of technology versus what constitutes an invasion of privacy,” he said.       

—Susan Feinberg

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine  www.ecmag.com 

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FIRE FOCUS

By Wayne D. Moore

How to retrofit New Systems in Existing Educational Buildings

The National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72, Section 10.4.1.1 requires trained technicians to perform an acceptance test on all new fire alarm systems. Specifically, the section states, “All new systems shall be inspected and tested in accordance with the requirements of Chapter 10. The authority having jurisdiction shall be notified prior to the initial acceptance test.”

Many contractors assume the testing required by NFPA 72-2007 applies strictly to the components that make up the fire alarm system. However, the integration of fire protection systems and the fire alarm system within a building significantly broadens the scope of acceptance and periodic testing. In fact, the fire alarm system often serves as a management tool to oversee the operational readiness of all other fire protection systems.

NFPA 72-2007, Section 6.8, provides for a fire alarm system to monitor alarm and supervisory conditions of all building fire protection systems. Section 6.16 lays out the requirements for when the fire alarm system provides a command and control interface with other building fire safety functions, such as elevator recall; elevator shut-down; fire-door release; door unlocking; smoke control actuation; stairwell pressurization; smoke and fire damper release; and heating, ventilating and air conditioning system (HVAC). In addition, the 2007 edition of the National Fire Alarm Code includes provisions for the interfacing of mass notification systems with building fire alarm systems.

Contractors will find many of these systems and functions in both new and existing educational buildings. Fire alarm system replacement in an existing building provides additional challenges when a contractor must perform an acceptance test.

Up for the test

By focusing on the alarm system replacement or upgrade, contractors may overlook the other functions and systems that are controlled or monitored by the fire alarm system. The contractor must program and test these interfaced systems to ensure they perform as originally intended for the safety of the occupants.

For more than a decade, common practice has provided for the simultaneous commissioning of all systems in a building. The wise contractor will carefully consider this when they have the responsibility to install a fire alarm system in any building but especially in an educational building.

The Building Commissioning Association (BCA) serves the fast-growing building commissioning industry. Its stated mission is to guide the building commissioning industry through establishing best practices, educating providers and promoting the benefits of building commissioning.

According to the BCA Web site (www.bcxa.org), “The BCA’s goal is to achieve high professional standards, while allowing for the diverse and creative approaches to building commissioning that benefit our profession and its clients. For this reason, the BCA focuses on identifying critical commissioning attributes and elements, rather than attempting to dictate a rigid commissioning process. Building commissioning provides documented confirmation that building systems function according to criteria set forth in the project documents to satisfy the owner’s operational needs. Commissioning existing systems may require developing new functional criteria to address the owner’s current requirements for system performance.”

According to the BCA, the definition of the purpose of commissioning is:

“The basic purpose of building commissioning is to provide documented confirmation that building systems function in compliance with criteria set forth in the Project Documents to satisfy the owner’s operational needs. Commissioning of existing systems may require the development of new functional criteria in order to address the owner’s current systems performance requirements.”

Essentially, commissioning of the fire alarm system and any building systems integrated with the fire alarm system is a quality management process, with the initial activities related to quality assurance (installation and system programming) and subsequent activities (testing and maintenance) related to quality control.

In order for contractors to ensure a proper fire alarm system commissioning process takes place, they must focus on details, such as scheduling, participation of various parties, actual lines of reporting, level of documentation, development of prefunctional testing requirements, and detailed functional performance test procedures.

Unfortunately, when retrofitting a fire alarm system into an existing educational building, the parties who participated in the initial installation and test of the integrated systems most likely will not have any part in the retrofit project.

This requires that the fire alarm system contractor review the original system documentation in detail to determine what other systems integrate with the existing fire alarm system. The contractor also must determine what fire safety functions the fire alarm system controls.

The BCA defines “Retrocommissioning (a type of existing-building commissioning)” on the Web site as “a systematic process for investigating, analyzing, and optimizing the performance of building systems by improving their operation and maintenance to ensure their continued performance over time. Retrocommissioning helps make the building systems perform interactively to meet the owner’s current facility requirements.”

All of this information should alert the professional contractor to pause before quoting a price to replace an existing fire alarm system. The contractor must first be sure of the detailed operation requirements for the existing system.

Test requirements

NFPA 72-2007, Section 10.6.2.3 requires those performing all inspections, testing and maintenance after the initial installation to provide a record that includes the following information:

            1.         Date

            2.         Test frequency

            3.         Name of property

            4.         Address

            5.         Name of person performing inspection, maintenance, tests or combination thereof,

                     affiliation, business address and telephone number

            6.         Name, address and representative of approving agency(ies)

            7.         Designation of the detector(s) tested; for example, ‘Tests performed in accordance with

                     Section _________.’

            8.         Functional test of detectors

            9.         Functional test of required sequence of operations

            10.        Check of all smoke detectors

            11.        Loop resistance for all fixed-temperature, line-type heat detectors

            12.        Other tests as required by the equipment manufacturer’s published instructions

           13.         Other tests as required by the authority having jurisdiction

           14.         Signatures of tester and approved authority representative

           15.         Disposition of problems identified during test (e.g., owner notified, problem

                      corrected/successfully retested, device abandoned in place)”

Item 9 references testing all of the required sequence of operations. An input/output matrix offers one method to define the required sequence of operations and to document the actual sequence of operations (See Figure A.10.6.2.3(9) from NFPA 72-2007).

As a minimum, the contractor should request the as-built drawings and the system operational matrix.

If this documentation does not exist, the contractor must either perform a complete functional test of the existing fire alarm system or determine the owner’s fire protection goals and how the owner expects the fire alarm system to perform. Then, the contractor must develop a detailed design to accomplish those goals.

Design

A simple guide for the best practices for design and commissioning of fire alarm systems includes the following:

            1.         Establish a clear understanding of the fire protection goals:

Code compliance (minimums?)

Life safety

Property protection

Mission protection

2.         Understand the issues of the building (for example, class changes, laboratory locations.

            and use) and the impact of the fire alarm system on the building occupants

            3.         Understand the impact of the fire alarm system on the operations of the educational

                      facility.

            4.         Understand what other fire-safety functions the fire alarm system must perform beyond

                       detection (HVAC control, door control, lighting, elevator recall, connections to the FD,

                     etc.).


5.         Establish the System Performance Matrix. Determine system programming needs.

Commissioning

            1.         Establish a clear commissioning plan.

            2.         Determine all system interfaces (for example, will a mass notification system (MNS)

                        interface with the fire alarm system?).

3.                   Understand the requirements for acceptance testing and commissioning the fire alarm system.

Contractors must remember that today’s fire alarm systems can be quite complicated. A contractor may program such systems to perform many important fire safety functions. For this reason, the commissioning process has a heightened importance. It must verify that the installed fire alarm system meets the code, and it must verify that the fire alarm system complies with the owner’s design and performance intentions.

A thorough commissioning process will include all of the appropriate operation and maintenance documentation. And, of course, the contractor must provide training for the personnel who will operate the fire alarm system, in order to ensure reliability and minimize downtime of the system.

The broad goal for both the contractor and the owner remains continued high performance and reliability of the installed fire alarm system.           

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field,
is a co-editor of the current “National Fire Alarm Code Handbook.” Moore is a principal with
Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com 

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School Security

BY claire swedberg

Two years ago, Lynn (Mass.) School District had many problems in the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Students were fighting in the public areas. The building was being vandalized. There were several arson attempts, and one teacher was suspected of being poisoned. Although district administrators knew they needed to make changes, according to Lynn school deputy superintendent Cathie Latham, “We didn’t know where to begin.”

Since then, the district has installed a security system with closed-circuit television (CCTV) and controlled door access and has made other improvements, which have changed the school setting in just two years. There had been trees blocking cameras outside the school, overgrown foliage at the entrance and broken doors.

GE Security, Bradenton, Fla., brought a team of experts to the school and reviewed that facility and others in the district. Since then, the district has a full camera installation that covers public areas in all its secondary and most primary schools and a card access system that controls entrances. However, some security problems can be too extreme for these measures.

Until recently, the main concern at schools was vandalism and theft. While those problems may still exist, they have been overshadowed by the threats of intruders, fights and gang-related violence and crime, said Tim Hickey, marketing communications and product manager at Sonitrol, which makes access control, intrusion, video and fire solutions for more than 12,000 schools in North America.

“Facility managers are still concerned about vandalism,” Hickey said, “but at a district level, the primary concern is about safety. No one wants to be the next school in the news.”

Emergency notification has been at the forefront for college campuses. It has been a concern for some Kindergarten through 12th grade schools, as well. With a notification system, messages can be sent to an unlimited number of recipients about everything from a crime on campus to bad weather closures.

At K–12 public schools, more districts are spending their security budgets on analog or IP cameras that can be managed over a network. Smartcards and photo IDs, while commonplace on college campuses, are entering into public schools for faculty and staff. And while biometrics is still too expensive for most districts, they are beginning to draw interest, Hickey said.

“Schools always have a challenge with funding,” Hickey said, “They need to identify what their needs are, work out a strategy that suits them and that can grow with their needs.”

And keeping the openness of the school is even more challenging.

“Schools aren’t just schools anymore,” Hickey said, “They are multiuse facilities with lots of people in and out for many hours.” Keeping multiuse facilities safe yet open can be a balancing act.

“You don’t want to feel like you are walking into a prison. You want a safe atmosphere but not to be overzealous,” he said. 

Fostering team work

In 2006, GE Security, created a new kind of team approach, preparing a group of experts in security to meet with schools and do a full evaluation before making any recommendations. That means identifying both the needs of the community and the safety concerns.

According to GE Security team member Ray Lauk, education solutions manager, “[Upfront,] every district has to have a discussion of the philosophy of security in order to have a system they demand and can also tolerate. Every community has to make that balance for themselves.”

The team also works with teachers and students, parents, custodians and police officers, said Paul Baratta, solutions manager. Team members look at the school environment and scan for easy fixes—cutting back shrubs that create a shelter for potential criminals or a place to hide drugs or weapons, or cutting back trees that make video surveillance too dark or obscured.

“And you have to look at what’s going to be tolerated in the community,” Lauk said, “You have to ensure that the security philosophy matches the mission of the school.”

The first thing the team members look at is what they have; they must determine if it is sustainable. And they also evaluate how realistic the goals are. Many schools want to know the identity of everyone who enters between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day, but to accomplish that, they may need to make more changes than they realize.

Baratta said the team gets calls from contractors who provide the integration on a regular basis, and they help guide the contractors through the process.

“Our goal is to work with the integrators. As much time as we spend face to face with superintendents, we also talk to integrators,” Baratta said.

Ultimately, Baratta said, every district is spending money on security, some on planning and others on technology, and others on simply keeping up with the effects of the crime they were unable to deter, such as painting over graffiti.

Visitor management

According to Paul Terschuren, vice president of sales and marketing for visitor-management software company STOPware, knowing and keeping track of who is on campus and where they are going drives school districts in their search for technology.

But can school districts accomplish everything on their wish list and stay within budget? And can they do it while maintaining an open environment that makes students, parents and members of the community feel welcome? Probably not, according to security experts, which is why each school district needs its own approach that achieves a system that meets the needs and desires of its users.

“Overall, schools are becoming more savvy and looking to employ visitor-management solutions that can be integrated with other functions and resources, such as the Internet,” Terschuren said. Many schools are becoming closed campuses to help manage security. Of these, several are starting to integrate access control systems. To complement access control, they are choosing to add visitor-management software and using badges to identify their visitors.

STOPware has a new version of its PassagePoint visitor-management software solution tailored for schools, known as “PassagePoint EDU.” In EDU, STOPware has incorporated features, such as automatic sex offender searching based on a person’s name, preregistration for visitors, badge printing based on category of people, student tracking and management of custodial rights of students.

Patrick Fiel, public safety adviser, education, for ADT Security Services, Boca Raton, Fla., agreed that visitor control is one of the most prominent school concerns. As executive director for school security in Washington, D.C., from 1997 to 2002, Fiel was tasked with making the city’s schools more secure, and access control was one of his first steps.

However, ADT and Fiel take what they call a holistic approach to school campus security—putting measures in place that are most applicable to a district’s specific problems.

“We try to become a partner,” Fiel said.

Visitor-management systems eliminate many of the hazards other schools face since they keep the source of a problem from getting into the school in the first place. If the district can afford to take it to another level, access control systems can allow schools to scan visitors’ driver’s licenses, other government identification and passport information before they are granted a temporary visitor badge.

“Every school in every district needs to have a security plan,” Fiel said. “If they don’t have one, they need to create one.”

New construction facilities often offer the best opportunities to install a comprehensive security plan. However, all too often, Fiel said, the budget for security isn’t considered until the school is already close to completion.

Video surveillance on the rise

Panasonic has seen growing sales of IP-based systems, such as its i-Pro network-based video surveillance solutions that allow school administrators and security personnel to access live video images over their networks, according to Frank DeFina, president, Panasonic System Solutions Co., Secaucus, N.J.

Networked video surveillance systems allow for integration with related security systems, such as access control and visitor management, where specific sequences of events can automatically trigger alarms and notifications.

“There has definitely been a rise in awareness for tighter security at educational facilities across the nation as a result of the increased media coverage of unfortunate events that have taken place at schools,” DeFina said. This, combined with the overall trend for networked integrated security systems, has broadened the scope of responsibility into the IT domain. 

DeFina noted that more manufacturers are entering into partnerships in an effort to achieve greater interoperability among formerly disparate security systems, such as video surveillance, access control and intrusion systems.

“At Panasonic, we launched a business initiative aimed at improving open infrastructure so that our systems can be seamlessly integrated with other systems on a network platform or in a hybrid configuration consisting of some combination of traditional analog and networked devices,” he said.

Sanyo also has recognized a need to migrate security systems in schools to an IP-based platform.

“This was the impetus behind our ‘IP-ready when you are’ engineering strategy and product roadmap,” said Frank Abram, vice president and general manager, Sanyo Security Systems, Chatsworth, Calif. Every Sanyo pan-focus or pan-tilt-zoom camera is now designed to be IP-ready with the addition of a network board. The conversion can be made quickly and right in the field.

“This will help accelerate schools’ abilities to upgrade their systems to network-based operation and apply the latest advancements in PC-driven control solutions that are scalable for future growth and can be upgraded much more efficiently than conventional analog solutions,” Abram said.        

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com 

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TED Magazine

A market heats up

The data center industry is facing the need for high-dollar investments in

upgrades, facility replacements, and the recruitment of new workers.

Increased demands for data center power efficiency and computing density are generating new construction—and excessive heat. All of this activity is creating significant opportunities for distributors providing power efficiency and distribution, air handling, and cable management solutions.

Today’s businesses and organizations literally run on data—thus making the world of data centers a vital market that plays a critical role in the U.S. economy.

AFCOM, an association supporting the data center industry, represents the professionals at the heart of data center operations. In 2006, in order to find out what is shaping current concerns and future planning among data center administrators, AFCOM’s Data Center Institute surveyed more than 1,000 AFCOM members. The published findings, entitled Five Bold Predictions for the Data Center Industry That Will Change Your Future, reported that by 2016, 53% of data center managers expect to physically expand their data center facilities, with 45% of them planning to make major im­provements to these facilities. Of those that were surveyed, 32% said they will have to relocate their data center operations. Reasons for this in­cluded 41.8% reporting business growth, 33% claiming aging facilities, and more than 32% indicating their need for newer technology.

When asked to identify the greatest facility problems facing data centers, the AFCOM members listed three that are directly linked to the massive increase in computing density: insufficient power, excessive heat, and insufficient raised floor area.

“All of these problems happen to be related issues,” ex­plained Mark Guy­mon, director of product management for Leviton’s Power Solutions Products. “Wattage-hungry servers and other types of equipment are requiring more and more electrical power to feed the ever-increasing processing power. These faster, more powerful processors in turn generate more heat, which leads to a need for more cooling—and a need for more raised floor space for power and cooling infrastructure.”

Efficiency saves

According to a 2006 report to Congress by the EPA, in 2006, “Data centers in the United States have the potential to save up to $4 billion in annual electricity costs through more energy-efficient equipment and operation.” The report indicated that the energy consumption of servers and data centers has doubled over the past five years, and that existing technologies and strategies could reduce server energy use by approximately 25%.

“When a data center is being de­signed, computing density is a critical engineering concern, and a primary re­quirement for older facilities,” said Roger Jette, president of Snake Tray. “Because one server cabinet can generate a 4,000W thermal, load cooling is extremely important. Access floors are the primary means of delivering cooling air to the cool aisle, so reducing congestion under raised floors by designing higher floors and installing cable tray closer to the floor allows greater circulation of cool air.”

 “A well-run data center is a core competency for any major organization,” said William DiBella, president of AFCOM. “A few years ago, 1kW power per rack was the norm; however, power has since grown to 14kW to 24kW per rack. The proliferation of blade servers in the data center has increased computing density, which, in turn, is causing power consumption and cooling issues. As a result, the question for today’s data center manager is: How do we continue to increase computing power without increasing energy consumption?

“Power and cooling are the industry’s squeaky wheels that are getting much of the attention,” continued DiBella. “We’re seeing a greater reliance on modeling software to help data centers manage their power efficiency and cooling needs. These tools help identify potential hot spots before hardware gets laid out, and help design the most efficient airflow patterns to unavoidable hot spots, which allows you to reduce your overall cooling costs.”

Guymon noted that one way that data centers are dealing with the need for more power is by using 208V input power rather than standard 120V power. “A lot of servers and other equipment accept either 120V or 208V, but 208V is about 73% more efficient in terms of how it uses the available amperage,” he said.

Cabling concerns

According to a study from FTM Consulting, the U.S. data center cabling market is poised to grow at an average annual growth rate of 26.8% from $680.9 million in 2006 to more than $2.2 billion by 2011. The study projects the data center cabling market will account for 30.8% of the total structured cabling systems market by 2011.

Frank Murawski, president of FTM Consulting, noted, “One surprising findings is that the market is strong for both fiber and copper cabling. We found the market is segmented into three distinct groups of users: small sites with an all copper cabling architecture; medium sites with hybrid copper/fiber cabling; and large sites with all fiber cabling.”

A key driver for this growth is the increasing storage requirement, which leads to the centralization of databases at servers within data centers. “Storage has become so cheap that data centers are getting much bigger, with many IT departments outgrowing their older facilities,” noted DiBella. “Many older data centers are relocating to areas with cheaper power.”

DiBella also projects a shift from the explosive growth seen in server/rack installations. “We’ve seen a shift away from mainframes, which greatly increased server density, space requirements, and heat generation,” said DiBella. “Now we’re seeing a cycle back to using mainframes in place of a far larger number of servers. It’s easier to manage 30 mainframes than 3,000 servers.”

Carazo provides B2B marketing services for electrical industry organizations. He can be reached at dcaraz@optonline.net.

Reprinted with full permission of The Electrical Distributor Magazine www.tedmag.com  

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Private labeling: The risks and benefits

Plugged in: The U.S. data center cabling market is poised to grow to more than $2.2 billion by 2011.

Like many distributors, Border States is trying to learn about the pros and cons of selling private label products. We have seen a few large distributors make statements against private labeling, while other large, medium, and small distributors have had some success selling private label products.

The benefits of a private label strategy may include capturing the manufacturer’s margin and the ability to control profit from the top of the supply chain to the bottom. In addition, customer relationships may improve because of lower costs and distributors may be able to differentiate themselves by providing the ability to create products that may not already exist in the market.

On the downside, private labels may strain relationships with U.S. manufacturers because they challenge the distributor’s traditional role. With private labels, the distributor is no longer a sales and marketing agent, but rather his or her own agent on behalf of the customer. In addition, private labels add responsibilities for the distributor, as well as supply chain risks. And, with an increasing number of components coming from offshore manufacturers, these risks can be substantial.

As you continue to do your homework on the pros and cons of selling private label products, consider the following:

1. Is your purchasing team trained to do global sourcing?

2. Is your accounting team experienced in dealing with foreign currency issues?

3. Is your operations team ready to deal with global transportation issues?

4. Is your warehouse team trained to handle container load shipments, and do you have the space to do so?

5. Is your marketing team geared up to market private label products without manufacturer support and resources?

6. Is your risk management team ready to deal with potential warranty and other liability issues that may arise?

To help members evaluate product liability exposure as it affects distributors and installers in the global marketplace, NAED’s Education & Research Foundation funded the project Product Liability Exposure: How to Manage and Mitigate the Risks in Today’s Global Market (learn more about this research at naed.org). The study suggests proactive measures those considering private label products should take, such as:

1. Doing business directly with a known, established, or reputable manufacturer or intermediary

2. Checking UL-listed products’ “E” numbers on the UL website

3. Doing due diligence—and documenting it—before doing business with an unknown manufacturer

4. Retaining all samples to compare against product delivered.

5. Undertaking an independent evaluation to assess potential exposures from products sold or services provided

6. Examining the contracts and strength of indemnification agreements, vendor endorsements, and insured endorsements with manufacturers

7. Ascertaining the ability and responsiveness of manufacturers to provide defense and indemnification for their products

8. Examining all existing insurance coverages and making necessary adjustments to ensure full protection is obtained

9. Examining the financial security of the insurance company—for both the distributor’s and the manufacturer’s policy

As companies try to find innovative ways to maintain or boost existing margins, private labels will continue to appeal to some distributors as an option. Many resources are available to help increase awareness about the potential risks and rewards of selling private label products. Take advantage of these many resources to ensure you make an informed decision. If you are considering launching a private label, do your homework to determine whether such a move makes strategic and financial sense for your organization.

Reprinted with full permission of The Electrical Distributor Magazine  www.tedmag.com  

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Who’s the biggest?

The post-2007 top five electrical distributorship shake-out.

Thanks to headline late-2007 acquisitions, which saw the absorption of USESI and the prospect of a takeover of Hagemeyer NV, there’s been a shake-up at the very top of the electrical distribution business in the United States—and the world.

With Hagemeyer to be divvied up by Rexel SA and Sonepar SA, and USESI now a part of Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED), the cards have been dealt in new ways. Add WESCO’s 2006 acquisition of Communications Supply Corporation (CSC), and the major deals in the past two years put new cards in the hands of four of the top five electrical distributors in the United States.

Who’s the biggest? Here’s how this reshuffling is playing out today:

• CED emerged in October to acknowledge its major move to purchase USESI. Here’s what is known about the transaction:

• CED has never previously purchased a company of such size.

• USESI’s sales before the transaction topped $700 million.

• Owners of USESI—the sellers—included top executive Richard Worthy (who led Sonepar’s initial acquisitive foray into the United States) and two private equity concerns. One of those (the primary owner) was a family in­vestment arm owned by Michael Dell, founder of Dell.

• Worthy remains with USESI and, thus, with CED.

• CED has shifted a previous acquisition (Standard Electric Supply) to USESI’s silo.

According to the table below, it’s possible that CED owns close to one-third of the combined total U.S. branches operated by it, Graybar, Rexel, Sonepar, and WESCO.

Forbes magazine’s list of “America’s Largest Private Companies” put CED’s 2006 sales at $3.28 billion, a 17% in­crease over one year earlier. Add USESI (and the Stan­dard Electric acquisition, which is being folded into USESI), and some growth, and it seems CED could have perhaps $4.5 billion in 2007 sales, if not more.

Is CED the biggest electrical distributor? In terms of the number of U.S. branches, it certainly seems so.

• Hagemeyer. Rexel appeared to outbid Sonepar in November and won the right to purchase Hagemeyer. But the deal—which was taking time to come together—included a provision that Rexel would sell off pieces of Hagemeyer to Sonepar. Hagemeyer’s 2007 global sales seem likely to top $9 billion.

So what happens to Hagemeyer? Rexel reportedly is taking most of the Euro­pean operations (perhaps 58% of the sales dollars). It has contracted to sell off Hagemeyer’s not-small North American and Asia/Pacific operations, and some minor European slices, to Sonepar.

Essentially, the companies that house the world’s two largest electrical distribution operations—one with stock in public hands (Rexel) and one family owned (Sonepar)—have made a meal out of the once-struggling Dutch company.

Note: While Rexel and Sonepar are not on the same team, together they are a powerful global force. After absorbing Hagemeyer, these two France-based firms will, together, account for 4,426 of the branches represented on the table.

• Rexel SA. One quickly gets to some breathtaking numbers when add­ing up the pieces of Rexel and throwing in the big Hagemeyer bite:

• Rexel’s pro forma 2006 sales were 10.7 billion euros, which works out to $15.8 billion.

• In the first nine months of 2007, Rexel’s worldwide sales were up 3.5%.

• Add in Hagemeyer’s sales in Europe—where that company had a 7.1% sales increase through the year’s first three quarters—and Rexel’s annual sales could total $6.25 billion.

All told, Rexel’s 2007 global distribution sales could top $22 billion.

What did the company obtain by consuming Hagemeyer? Before the deal, North America made up close to half of Rexel SA’s sales—thanks in significant part to its 2006 acquisition of GE Supply (now known as Gexpro).

Now, sales on this continent will comprise roughly 37% of the company’s global revenues; Europe will comprise more than 50% of Rexel SA’s total sales.

• Sonepar SA. With 9.45 billion euros in 2006 sales—about $14 billion—Sonepar was (and remains) the world’s second largest electrical distributor.

Plans detailed during the Hagemeyer acquisition call for Sonepar to take over U.S. (approximately $2 billion in sales) and Asia-Pacific (more than $700 million in sales) operations.

Omitting 2007 organic growth that came from smaller acquisitions (the com­pany bought two companies in Latvia during the Hagemeyer dealings), Sonepar’s annual sales could end up at $17 billion or more.

Of that, roughly $4.4 billion (more than 25%) comes from the United States. (Some of that is nonelectrical—safety supplies added with the purchase of Hagemeyer.)

Note: If one credits all of Hage­meyer’s U.S. branches to Sonepar, the company will have more than 450 locations in this country—roughly equal to what Rexel has, including Gexpro.

• WESCO’s name was thrown about by financial re porters seeking to stoke the flames of a hot bidding war for Hagemeyer, but an offer never materialized. Here’s what’s known about WESCO’s current situation:

3 Through nine months of 2007, almost all of the com pany’s growth ($524 million of $568 million in added sales) came via its 2006 acquisition of CSC. To put that another way, WESCO’s sales at the three-quarter mark were $4.514 billion; the increase outside of CSC was only $44 million (or 1.1%) over sales at the nine-month mark of 2006.

3 Integration of CSC seems to be going well. CSC’s 2006 sales were reported as roughly $600 million. That operation seems headed for a double-digit sales increase this year.

3 WESCO has the wherewithal to make additional purchases. At this moment, however, it seems to be concentrating on shrinking the number of shares it has outstanding. After completing a $400 million stock buy-back in September, the company immediately announced it would invest another $400 million in open-market purchases of WESCO stock.

Blanket finish

If one combines its electrical and datacomm operations, how big is WESCO in the United States? In 2006, U.S. sales were given as $4.6 billion. Hold that flat if you like, for 2007, but add in $660 million, or more, for CSC. Now subtract something for WESCO’s fledgling fastener operation and its manufactured housing business. For a back-of-the-envelope number, peg WESCO’s U.S. electrical and datacomm sales at roughly $5 billion.

How about Rexel? When the com-pany acquired GE Supply, press releases indicated the combo would have $4.7 billion in 2005 sales. One must add something to that for growth in 2006, and even more for acquisitions (including Rexel’s U.S. acquisition of CLS of New England). Now subtract something for the foreign operations included in GE Supply’s total and for slight declines in 2007. In round numbers, a guesstimate for Rexel (including Gexpro) in the United States in 2007 comes in at around $5 billion.

Sonepar’s total U.S. sales (including Hagemeyer) were given earlier at about $4.4 billion. Let’s stick with that number, knowing that we should subtract something from it for the nonelectrical (safety) sales that the company is acquiring with those various Hagemeyer operations.

What about Graybar? The company’s 10-K filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission does not break sales down by geography. Sales this year seem headed slightly north of last year’s $5.2 billion; however, something must be subtracted for its Canadian operations—so let’s put Graybar at about $5 billion.

Then there’s CED, which seems to be a stab in the dark at any given moment. For consistency’s sake, let’s stick with the $4.5 billion previously noted.

Essentially, then, this handicapping effort puts the five competitors very close to each other. It’s what they call a “blanket finish” at the racetrack.

Salimando is an Oakton, Virginia-based writer. He can be reached at eddotcom@

gmail.com. See his weekly column on tedmag.com and his electrical construction industry blog at eleblog.com.

Noteworthy

Klein Tools announces $250K scholarship

Program is designed to help educate tomorrow’s trade professionals.

Klein Tools recently announced a five-year, $250,000 tool scholarship commitment during the 2007 NJATC National Training Institute (NTI) week, and awarded its first-year commitment of $50,000 to 10 local IBEW-NECA training programs.

The scholarship was awarded in two parts: 25 Klein 14-piece apprentice tool sets awarded to each of five winning training programs (the tool sets are intended for distribution to individual apprentices based on criteria determined at the local program level) and a $5,000 endowment for each of five training programs to purchase needed Klein tools for use in classrooms and/or training labs.

For more information about Klein Tools, circle 200 on the Direct Info Card.

Who’s still a buyer?

Identifying the largest electrical/datacomm distributor in the United States is interesting, as what it boils down to for many TED readers is simple: If and when I want to sell my electrical distribution company, who’s likely to make an offer?

Here’s some conventional wisdom on which very large electrical distributor might buy your company, with regard to the players named in the story to the left:

• CED/USESI. Richard Worthy’s career at Sonepar and his shaping of USESI has been all about buying companies. Also, Worthy has signed a six-year contract with CED; USESI will continue to do the things that it has done recently—buy distributors to integrate; and USESI will grow by opening branches. The company has opened 19 so far; in 2008, Worthy plans on double digits.

• Graybar’s philosophy, as revealed in public statements, does not anticipate a major new program of acquisitions.

• Rexel. Dick Waterman, boss of the holding company that overseas Rexel and Gexpro, has said that further acquisitions to build out each operating unit were not only possible, but also anticipated.

• Sonepar. Word is that Sonepar will have some work to do to blend the Hagemeyer units it has in the United States into its fold.

• WESCO doesn’t seem to be suffering from the effort of integrating CSC. Furthermore, the company’s free cash flow seems to be healthy—which could enable it to make purchases.

What’s more, the company’s debt-to-equity ratio is decent, and it has made several small acquisitions. Still, the company’s internal focus might lead one’s thinking away from a slew of new acquisitions. —J.S.

Miller is CEO of Border States Electric in Fargo, N.D. Reach her at 602-206-9502 or tmiller@border-states.com.

Reprinted with full permission of The Electrical Distributor Magazine  www.tedmag.com  

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Gear up for green

Get a handle on this market—or risk losing sales opportunities.

When it comes to green and sustainable building issues, many electrical distributors have two main concerns: the impact all of this green talk is likely to have on their businesses, and just how well they are positioned to benefit from it.

“The green building market is growing about 50% per year—far faster than the commercial market,” said Rich­ard Walker, senior national environmental solutions manager for Siemens Building Technologies.

“Electrical contractors and distributors need to get up to speed and add value to this growing market,” said Jordan Lerner, director for TAC Energy Solutions Division.

At Eoff Electric, a Sonepar USA distributor in Portland, Ore., a decision was made more than six years ago to support energy management applications in green projects. Today, the company has a dedicated team focused on automated energy management. “Our projects have saved more than 3 million kilowatt hours each year—and we have only scratched the surface in a huge untap­ped market for industrial retrofit,” said Les William­son, president.

The company holds training sessions on the financial payback of installing new, high-performance, energy-efficient lighting at industrials and utilities. “We’ve also completed an energy audit and helped customers file for energy trust rebates for installation of energy-efficient electrical products,” noted Williamson.”It’s powerful when you can deliver the rebate check to a customer.”

According to Williamson, those in CII construction in the next five years will miss a huge opportunity if they don’t train personnel to handle the green initiative. “If the channel fails to get a handle on this market, it could lose sales opportunities,” he warned. “New companies are popping up that are totally focused on providing green expertise.”

Fortunately, many distributors already have the tools to take advantage of the green movement.

“Many don’t realize how green they are,” said Dave Davidson, solutions cen­ter manager for Eaton’s electrical group. “Most already sell many of the ballasts, lighting fixtures, and lighting dimming controls that, if integrated properly, maximize energy efficiency.”

“Companies see that they must meet the code and take notice of LEED,” said Mike Crane, product marketing manager for Hubbell Build­ing Automation.

Rebecca Hadley-Catter, manager, SOURCE Cooper Lighting Center, expects LEED will continue to increase the demand for sustainable lighting as indicated by LEED NC v2.2, which requires minimum compliance with ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2004.

“To gain additional points in lighting projects, demand lighting systems that integrate fixtures, daylighting, and controls and exceed power densities required in ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2004 by 7% to 42%,” said Hadley-Catter.

She also noted that companies should have taken advantage of the EPAct tax deduction and installed new lighting systems before the Dec. 31, 2007, deadline.

According to Eric Lind, director of commercial marketing for Lutron Electronics, sustainable design is affecting every part of the U.S. construction industry because of the value it brings to building owners. “Energy savings go di­rectly to the bottom line. Almost every electrical aspect of a building project is impacted by sustainable design. It’s a key area to focus on when trying to achieve LEED certification.

“Lighting and lighting control have the biggest impact on the sustainability and LEED viability of a project,” continued Lind. “Lighting is the single biggest energy draw in a building. Dimming saves energy, so every product we manufacture contributes in a major way to the sustainability of a building.”

Susan Anderson, manager, energy re­lations for Osram Sylvania, noted that the watts-per-square-foot allowances in 2007 ASHRAE 90.1 de­clined from the 2004 standard. “This mandates the use of more energy-efficient products, so the distributor supplying the contractor needs to be aware of the best high-efficiency products. Most states have already adopted an energy code, which means that most projects that require permits are affected,” she said.

According to Ty Foren, market development manager of commercial, industrial, and OEM for Cooper Power Systems, “Green and sustainable product and service offerings will grow more than the new construction market as existing building owners seek green, sustainable solutions as well.”

Carazo provides B2B marketing services for electrical industry organizations. He can be reached at dcaraz@optonline.net.

Reprinted with full permission of The Electrical Distributor Magazine  www.tedmag.com  

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Q&A

Q: What is LEED?

A: In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED calls for construction projects to be in compliance with ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1; LEED-registered projects earn points and awards for meeting energy reduction.

Submit questions to mbyers@naed.org

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Market the message

Given the current clamor about sustainability, many companies are rushing to announce new green products and eco-initiatives in both the mainstream media and industry publications. Many are also publishing their green accomplishments in their own marketing literature, through trade associations, and on the Internet.

All reports indicate that customers, suppliers, employees, investors, and surrounding communities welcome companies’ green programs and policies. “We’ve seen an increase recently in the number of job seekers who want to work for green companies or in industries that are helpful to the environment,” said Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer of Adecco USA, a human resources consulting and research firm.

Applying this information to distribution, the following questions might spring to mind:

• How can value be added to current product lines and services, green-certified products, and electronic billing?

• Can entirely new revenue paths be created—such as a recycling service for electronic waste or a consulting service to help municipalities reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

• How can we differentiate ourselves from the competition? Can things like biodegradable packaging, hybrid delivery trucks, or well-publicized support for a local environmental organization do this?

As progressive corporate leaders are demonstrating in virtually every industry, there are myriad opportunities to capitalize on green—and to secure free publicity in the bargain.

Jan Niehaus is a St. Louis-based free-lance writer. She can be reached at JanNiehaus@charter.net or 314-644-4135.

Reprinted with full permission of The Electrical Distributor Magazine  www.tedmag.com  

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That’s all folks!

Next month we hope to have several powerful articles from Rexel’s Power Outlet Magazine.

www.rexelusa.com


REMEMBER TO RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE

   
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