What Makes a Smart Building Smart?

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What if employee satisfaction with IT could skyrocket by adopting what the people want? And that this same adoption could move IT budget dollars from the keep-the-lights-on budget to the innovation budget?

Interested? If yes, read on.

We have been posting about the evolving applications and enterprise communications landscape and have been building a foundation for sharing the concept of “universal wireless”.

These past posts shed some light on this idea of universal wireless:

This post describes universal wireless as a strategy of migrating to fully wireless end user computing. This is where employees are equipped with laptops on Wi-Fi and voice services on softphones (in laptop) or smartphones (cellular). And, universal wireless provides an opportunity to phase out structured cabling to work areas. The positive financial ripples for IT capex and ongoing opex will also be touched upon in this post as all parts of the enterprise benefit from this decision.

Introduction

We have reached yet another tipping point in enterprise networking where we are driven to revisit our assumptions, historical design templates, and how to approach end user connectivity. The tipping point is this: wireless air-link speeds between individual devices and the shared infrastructure, even under very heavy loads, are now faster than a typical category cabled connection. This fact enables IT to phase out cabling to workspaces without paying a performance penalty. We think you’ll agree that the implications of universal wireless are profound to any enterprise, and the balance of this post outlines many of the areas of benefit.

Benefits

Benefit #1 – Customer satisfaction. For enterprise IT, every employee, contractor, or guest who uses the infrastructure are customers. Imagine that wireless connectivity just works everywhere without limitations, special intervention by device owners, or configuration required for mobile devices.

Benefit #2 – Greenfield construction capital expense (capex) reductions. The universal wireless strategy affords the opportunity to reduce capex on the internal network by questioning the voice/data design templates we have operated under for 80+ years.

Opportunities to reduce capex costs:
• Eliminate cabling to workspaces
• Reduce/eliminate IDF closets on every floor
• Reduce HVAC and electrical capacity required for remaining IDF closets
• Reduce size of cable trays and pathways
• Scale down the enterprise backbone network to support high-speed Wi-Fi
• Complete the evolution of indoor wiring to a future-ready fiber-to-the-edge architecture like the data center and telecom industries have

Tech-tip: Corning’s new Optical Communications headquarters in Charlotte is a full implementation of this strategy with our Everon product family. To learn more, we have a virtual tour available here. Also, we have specialists that can share our internal network architecture templates and assist in the design process. Contact us!

Benefit #3 – Brownfield structures capital expense and operating expense (opex) reductions.
The universal wireless strategy can be adopted in existing structures. Every planned upgrade to existing infrastructure is an opportunity to invest in the pivot to universal wireless.

Opportunities to reduce costs:
• Reduce equipment and HVAC/electrical usage in IDF closets on every floor
• Scale down the enterprise backbone network to support high-speed Wi-Fi
• Abandon-in-place cabling to workspaces
• Migrate voice use from desk phones to mobile devices for knowledge workers

Tech-tip: Adequate indoor cellular coverage is the main prerequisite to adoption. From a business perspective, cellular coverage could be funded by allocating savings from reduction in scope of building backbone network investments.

Benefit #4 – Workspace cabling maintenance and employee location MAC (move, add, change) OpEx elimination. Cable maintenance opex escalates in older buildings, depending on the age of the installed cabling. MAC labor for employees adds up when cables need to be repatched or jumpers moved to find open ports in the IDF. Universal wireless removes workspace cabling and MAC opex from the cost equation completely.

Tech-tip: In long term occupied buildings, before committing to funding cable plant upgrades from Category 5e to 6a or 7, it is wise to consider investing in a fiber-to-the-edge universal wireless deployment instead. Wireless is the future for most enterprises.

Benefit #5 – Moving to mobiles from enterprise PBX systems. For those who have already observed that enterprise phones have been abandoned by mobile equipped employees, the last year of work from home has enabled us all to ask the larger questions around the future of the enterprise PBX.
In talking to visionaries in the industry, we have heard about the following:
• Evaluating lifetime needs vs the total cost of ownership costs for a desk phone, licenses, and operations expenses compared to smartphone
• Divesting of desk phones and their costs for mobile equipped employees
• Cloud based voice and contact center switches replacing on-premise
• Using the enterprises Directory infrastructure to enable seamless reachability of employees regardless of use of a desk phone number or a mobile phone number
• Phase out of most cabled phones

Tech-tip: Actually, not a tip, but an honest question - At this time of wireless services and smartphone adoption totally upending the enterprise communications landscape, perhaps the majority of the physical phones currently installed in corporate offices won’t be there much longer?

What can enterprises do to move forward?
Without question, universal wireless can benefit your business and we suggest a pilot test can be used needed to prove it out. For example, where enterprise IT occupies a building that fits the profile under the brownfield benefit, it is a low-risk approach to adopt universal wireless by IT before taking it to the business.

An adequate pilot test will validate the strategy and enable development of a wider scale implementation and support plan. For enterprises in the midst of capital budgeting, any upgrades to the network that are still aligned with wired infrastructure present an opportunity to fund the transition to universal wireless.

Summary
Universal wireless is envisioned as a major enterprise evolution that depends on full coverage wireless networks with the capacity to support the traffic demands as if the devices were still on Ethernet cables. For many of us who have worked from home, experiencing 100% wireless over the last year; we do want to maintain that freedom. And, because Corning Optical Communications is one of the pioneers in adopting universal wireless, we have design information and implementation experience to share.

Please take the first step and contact our in-building network specialists if you want to reach us or drill down further on the universal wireless strategy.

To quote the philosopher Lao Tzu, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".



Art King is part of the IBN Technologies group for Corning Optical Communications. A 20-year veteran of both global enterprise IT and the cellular industry, Art’s long-term vision of wireless as “digital oxygen” that enables a totally unwired world is happening around us now.

To learn more about Corning’s Everon indoor systems, our universal wireless foundation, visit us here.