Brett Smyth, general manager EMEA of Ideal Industries, the global leader in electrical accessories, tools and equipment, discusses the need for technologies that will enable faster and more consistent data network installation as the transition to smart workplace environments gathers pace

Those who can may be working from home - or working from home again - but office occupiers, owners and FMs are grappling with the challenges of implementing longer-term solutions for a safe transition back to the office following COVID-19.

Agile working is likely to mean much more than hot-desking in the ‘new normal.’ Working from home is now much more of an option – for both employers and employees – than it has even been before, which will allow occupiers to implement social distancing without increasing the space they need. It is also likely to act as a catalyst for increased specification of smart technologies to enable booking of workstations, meeting rooms and break out areas, along with track and trace of staff and visitors. It makes to introduce smart enabled technology during M&E upgrades while office occupation levels remain low.

Faster more consistent data terminations

The challenge is in delivering those upgrades quickly and effectively with minimum impact for businesses that are now trying to ensure they hit the ground running following a period of unprecedented disruption.

This will require upgrades to data networks, involving a large number of terminations. Data networks traditionally require field-termination of CAT5e, CAT6 of CAT6A cables using RJ45 modular plugs. The more complex the network, the greater the number RJ45 assemblies and terminations required. Conventional installation methods for RJ45s require conductors to be trimmed to an exact length before the plug is placed onto the cable. If the conductors are too short, circuits will remain open, if they are too long, there is a risk that the pairs could be left exposed outside of the plug body or cable jacket, which could hinder performance on the network and generally results in a 60% failure rate.

The time-consuming attention to detail required for conventional RJ45 data terminations and the pressing need to upgrade offices to smart technology may be another catalyst for change. Ideal Industries’ FT-45 single-piece feed-thru connectors and application tools eliminate the need for installers to assemble a three-piece connector, even when working with CAT6 cable.

This makes terminations faster, simpler and more consistent, whether using CAT5e, CAT6 or CAT6A cables. Conductor wires do not need to be accurately trimmed to a specific length; instead, installers simply need to remove an appropriate section of jacket, remove the centre spline if there is one, untwist the pairs into the right order, feed through the connector, then terminate and shave the excess with the feed-thru tool.

A chance to create lasting change

The pandemic has driven a juggernaut through the status quo, providing a compelling reason to expedite the office sector’s transition to smart buildings. The next step is to think smarter about how that can be achieved with as much speed and consistency as possible by adopting the latest approaches to installing data networks.