For the more than 1,800 telecommunications professionals who traveled to Seattle in early September for the BICSI 2004 Fall Conference, the event was a chance to celebrate the organization's three decades of service to the industry. For the organization itself, it was an opportunity to introduce its vision for the future and redefine the role — and identity — of the industry it represents. “For 30 years, we have been called a telecommunications association, but times have changed,” BICSI President Russell Oliver told attendees. “Now we are much more.”

He went on to explain that BICSI members design and install the systems and infrastructure that transport information from point A to point B, but that the information carried in between is constantly changing. Now, thanks to the increased use of Internet protocol (IP) in many building devices, it can be audio, video, voice, data, electronic safety and security, environmental and building controls — anything with a unique Internet address.

That broadening scope, Oliver pointed out, means the word “telecommunications” no longer accurately describes the industry BICSI serves. Instead, it has been replaced by “information transport systems (ITS).”

Portions of the ITS industry are constantly evolving and coming together, and the “glue” is the IP protocol used to send packet-based information. The trend is to carry voice over IP (VoIP) on a building's telecommunications cable plant, along with integrated audio/video systems, intercom, paging, public address, and other distributed communications systems, such as specialized audio systems and sound masking. Add to that electronic/digital signage systems, tracking systems, internal cellular and paging, clinical communications, hospitality and entertainment systems, clock systems, access control, intrusion detection and surveillance and integrated automated instrumentation control and life safety systems and you've got one powerful ITS.

For example, IP security video monitoring takes advantage of the open standards and the ubiquitous nature of IP networks. Accessing these hi-tech cameras is as simple as logging on the network locally or remotely, not only for viewing, but also for recording and managing the recorded video. These capabilities accelerate a shift from reactive to preventive monitoring, in an era when facility security is increasingly important.

Changes in the CSI MasterFormat that spread low-voltage wiring out over Div. 25 — Integrated Automation, Div. 27 — Communications, and Div. 28 — Electronic Safety brought about the use of three titles that have been combined to describe the industry: communications, life safety, and automation (CLA). However, CLA still didn't cover all of the services that can be carried on a structured cabling system in a facility. So, when the time came for a new vision and mission statement, BICSI felt the term information transport systems (ITS) better defined this new direction.

While transitioning to a new organization title, BICSI is still working with other associations and manufacturers to promote the Communications, Life Safety, Automation Design Institute (CLADI). This institute will help BICSI members, installers, and technicians integrate their skills into the converged services used by the building industry.

Reflecting the expansion of the knowledge and techniques required by installers and technicians, the BICSI installation program is now known as the ITS Installation Training and Registration Program. The program's teaching manual also has a new name: the ITS Installation Manual. Additionally, BICSI recently applied to the U.S. Department of Labor and received the title listing of ITS Technician under the Standard Occupation Code (SOC) Assignment.

News from the cabling front revealed three factors are driving the renewed interest in copper cabling for the horizontal wiring of a building, and for other applications, such as data centers.

  • Low-voltage or power-limited services (48VDC) for wireless access points, phones, surveillance cameras, and numerous other devices can be provided on one or more pair sets in copper cabling. This ability increases interest for power-over-Ethernet technologies. Thus, the cost to install numerous wireless access points in a building is greatly reduced, because line voltage power wiring doesn't have to be run to each electronic device.

  • The simplification of horizontal wiring to electronic devices, such as wireless access points or VoIP phones, results in a less costly installation.

  • A 10GBase-T copper solution may provide a lower cost twisted-pair cabling option than optical fiber for 10-Gbit/sec equipment up to 100 meters. Copper cable manufacturers are introducing constructions able to support 10G/bit/sec transmission speeds, even as the industry awaits a completed standard and corresponding testing methods.

Wireless service in a building could be seen as a mixed blessing since many ITS professionals might see it as possibly putting them out of business; but that's not the case. Wireless transmission is essentially the “last few feet” in a wired network, since the wireless access points are a bridge to the wired network, power-over-Ethernet only strengthens the argument.

How big or important is all this activity aimed at convergence of building services? Very. Having a standards-based structured cabling system with all of the systems supported on the horizontal wiring in a building can reduce the initial construction costs by 10% to 15% and even 30% in some cases. Another benefit of an integrated wiring system is it allows management to respond rapidly to changing tenant needs, which directly affects the overall cost to occupy the space. “Power to everybody on the network” is the mantra.

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