New Alternatives in Ethernet Media

As Ethernet networks have moved to becoming the norm for IP-based transmission of video, audio and data signals, I wanted to examine some alternatives for transmission. By now, most of us are familiar with common Ethernet media — Cat 5e, Cat 6...

Imagine as cables for power supplies, access control systems, intercom, telephone, and more become candidates for Ethernet transmission. Existing installations which have not undergone cabling or network upgrades can be provisioned with network capability. The infrastructure for analog devices can support some networking functionality until the time is right for upgrade to IP.

Another future variation on this theme is free space optics. LVX Systems, a Washington, D.C., startup, has installed a pilot system where specially constructed light fixtures contain LEDs which pulsate, sending high-speed data to special modems attached to computers or other network devices. LEDs are specially modulated to produce a high frequency string of 1s and 0s, while performing their other mission, illumination. The technology can transmit a signal even when the light appears off. The fixtures themselves are connected to the network and, in essence, can become access points in a building-wide wireless communication network, immune to EMI and RFI. The opportunities for integration with the building management system are obvious — just remember to leave the lights on!


Ray Coulombe is Founder and Managing Director of, enabling interaction with specifiers in the physical security and ITS markets; and Principal Consultant for Gilwell Technology Services. He can be reached at or through LinkedIn.