Glenn Buck, Transition Networks and Matt Conger, Igor look at how PoE and smart LED lighting can work together in smart building deployments

Nearly 70% of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban environments by 2050. To help make these environments safer and more productive, the installations of Internet of Things (IoT) technology is growing. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a rush to implement new IoT technologies that ensure optimal sanitization and safety.

When looking for a solution to meet these needs, building owners and facility managers should tap two key technologies that enable smart buildings: Power over Ethernet (PoE) and smart lighting.


PoE plays a key role in delivering the connectivity, bandwidth and power required by the connected devices behind smart building implementations. In IoT installations, devices often need to be placed in locations that may not have power sources available. PoE provides an alternative method of powering devices in those locations.

With PoE, power and data can be delivered through one cable, eliminating the need to build out separate cabling for data and power and greatly reducing installation time and cost of materials. PoE also allows flexibility for adding, changing or removing attached devices.

In addition to cost and installation savings, PoE also provides an added security layer because wired connections are more secure than wireless connections. System reliability is also improved because PoE is not disrupted if a wireless outage occurs.

PoE’s latest upgrade to the IEEE 802.3bt (PoE++) standard enables power sourcing devices to safely send up to 90 watts of power. This newest standard tripled the previous standard’s 30-watt power level. The increase is significant enough that PoE++ can now be used for devices that require higher amounts of power, while traditional PoE and PoE+ are still suitable options for lower power applications.

Smart Lighting

Just as PoE evolved, so has lighting from fluorescent lighting to smart LED lighting. Because LED lighting is so energy efficient, a single PoE switch can provide power and connectivity to several commercial light fixtures.

When powered by PoE, an intelligent lighting system can be an important element of smart buildings. Beyond providing power, using PoE for intelligent LED lighting provides a data connection that sends information between the lights and other IoT sensors to control software. The control software can use this data to monitor motion detection and daylight levels. For example, lighting can be adjusted accordingly for occupant comfort and productivity or to schedule appropriate on and off times. The use of this data can also result in additional savings in cost and energy.

There are many new and exciting benefits of combining PoE with lighting. For instance, PoE is being used to power UVC lights to attack viruses such as COVID and SARs.

Utility Network

When implementing PoE and smart lighting, network administrators might want to add PoE switches, smart LED lights, and other IoT sensors to the corporate LAN. However, if these devices are added to the corporate LAN, the organization risks performance and security issues that can impact critical business activities.

Instead, a utility network operates as a separate network for IoT technology. This allows PoE lighting and other devices to communicate without adding data flow to the corporate LAN. A utility network is also easily managed by groups other than IT without worrying that changes or issues might impact the corporate network functions.

Smart lighting is just one example of how PoE can be used in a smart building. Additional applications include controls for occupancy comfort, access, and monitoring of energy and water usage. These are among the many diverse applications enabled because PoE is the ideal platform to move power and data efficiently and securely over a globally accepted standard.