Connections +

It’s An IP World… After All

An opportunity to finally experience the power of the 4th Utility structured cable model is finally here.With Category 6 having been ratified, questions concerning physical cable and debates of Catego...

May 1, 2003  

Print this page

An opportunity to finally experience the power of the 4th Utility structured cable model is finally here.

With Category 6 having been ratified, questions concerning physical cable and debates of Category 5, 5E and 6 can subside for at least five years. Leaving the smoke and mirrors behind, we can focus on connectivity applications.

The “intelligent building” moniker has been kicking around for a long time, however, its definition was entirely dependent on which industry segment was promoting it. Structured cable manufacturers have been promoting it as a physical infrastructure, the “4th utility”, whereby all building systems would share a common structured cable media.

However, building engineers and architects have generally defined it as a dynamic enclosure and support system that can respond automatically to the changing activities, needs and requirements of its occupants.


The latter definition has no requirement for the common cabling, but does require communications between support systems and has been commonly achieved through common head end protocols.

The 4th utility model, promoted by the structured cabling industry, was never truly realized because achieving the functional intelligent building definition using traditional building technologies does not require common structured cabling.

Functional implementation is achieved with traditional building technologies using system specific cabling and head end integration and communications. Since the traditional approach achieved the functional objective, there was no impetus, economic or functional to fully implement the 4th utility structured cabling model.

The universal acceptance and movement to IP (Internet Protocol) can drastically change the traditional approach to intelligent buildings.


IP-enabled devices and IP networks provide both functional and economic benefits over traditional building technologies.

Digitization of information, whether it be data, voice, video or control, and the secure transport of this information to any information node within a building point can be most economically achieved through modern IP based networks.

The network provides a common transport mechanism as well as an open architecture, standards based approach to information security, system availability, system management, information archiving, backup and storage.

Reliance on manufacturer-specific, proprietary interfaces, management and devices (commonly deployed in building technologies) can be eliminated and replaced with the same technologies that have been used for many years by data information systems.

Additionally, significant functional benefits can be achieved by digital data systems. For example, traditional building systems such as security camera systems can be greatly enhanced by the digital video domain.

Digital video systems allow rapid, random access to stored video from any software equipped PC rather than from dedicated viewing consoles and through the use of advanced video recognition software can significantly enhance security monitoring with face recognition and activity recognition software algorithms.

An opportunity for the realization of the 4th Utility structured cable model is finally here. Initially, the model was largely driven by marketing — as a method to increase market share for structured cabling systems.

Its failure was due to the fact that there was no real functional or realizable economic benefit for its implementation.

The need for IP itself is driven by user requirements for digital information, which provides superior functionality over traditional non-digital systems, providing functional benefit. Finally, with both economic and functional benefits to be attained, the 4th utility structured cabling infrastructure for intelligent buildings can be realized.

As a result, new opportunities for the structured cabling industry will result through the provision of structured cabling for IP-based building systems such as security, HVAC, controls and people transport systems controls (elevators, escalators).

In recognition of IP’s significance to this development, and in adherence with the IT communications affliction for confusing acronyms with multiple definitions, it is only appropriate that we leave the traditional Intelligent Building moniker behind and adopt Intelligent Premises (IP), since it is IP that will drive IP.

Zdravko Crne, P.Eng, RCDD/LAN Specialist, is a Senior Consultant and VP, Communications at Mulvey & Banani International Inc. in Toronto and a member of Cabling Systems’ Editorial Advisory Board.

Print this page