E-Waste Could Mean More Wins for Integrators

April 17, 2024
By factoring cable reuse into proposals, integrators may meet environmental considerations that would give them an inside track to more projects

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

Recognizing electronic waste (e-waste) as hazardous, California led the way in 2003 with the comprehensive Electronic Waste Recycling Act to regulate e-waste management. In the U.S., more than two dozen states have enacted similar e-waste laws, varying based on electronic consumption patterns, environmental priorities, and circular economy considerations.

This is an important development for security integrators and other system designers. Much like the sustainability trend, e-waste considerations for security system deployments can be an important factor in network design with two benefits: networking cost savings and value to the customer.

Integrators who can work a solid strategy to address the e-waste issue into their proposals may find themselves on the inside track to winning bids in a variety of industries.

What is e-Waste?

E-waste regulations aim to protect the health of people and the environment against potential risks associated with chemicals. Not only is copper wire itself hazardous waste that does not belong in landfills, the insulation that protects it often also contains toxic materials.

Although many buildings have recycled their outdated cabling infrastructure (there are companies dedicated just to that), there are still many buildings that have simply left it in place due to the cost and disruption involved in removing the installed cable.

Although many buildings have recycled their outdated cabling infrastructure (there are companies dedicated just to that), there are still many buildings that have simply left it in place due to the cost and disruption involved in removing the installed cable. Telephone system upgrades to Voice Over IP systems (VoIP), have left behind extensive long cable runs in many large buildings.

John R. Abrahams and Mauro Lollo, in their eBook Centrex or PBX: The Impact of IP, estimate that as of 2003, there were 20 million Centrex lines installed worldwide by 20 telephone companies, with the most installations in the United States (15 million), Canada (2 million), and the United Kingdom (1 million). Many buildings still have coax cable in place from analog camera deployments that were replaced a decade or more ago.

Reuse of Legacy Cable

Cable reuse is one way to solve e-waste considerations; in fact, cable reuse is a viable design consideration because there are more than 87 currently-in-use IEEE Ethernet LAN standards, including several that were developed specifically for IoT networking:

  • 3bp – providing Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T1) over a single twisted pair
  • 3bt – Third generation Power over Ethernet with up to 100 W using all 4 pairs balanced twisted pair cabling (4PPoE), including 10GBASE-T, lower standby power and specific enhancements to support IoT applications (e.g. lighting, sensors, building automation)
  • 3bw – 100BASE-T1 – 100 Mbps Ethernet over a single twisted pair
  • 3y – 100BASE-T2 100 Mbps (12.5 MB/s) over voice-grade twisted pair

Ethernet extender products have existed for some time, mostly for point-to-point Ethernet extension. Now, there are enterprise network-class switches that provide Power over Ethernet (PoE) over multiple media types, including both twisted pair and coax cable connections – with terms like Long-Range Ethernet and Long-Reach Ethernet (LRE) both being used to describe the broad range of products available for extending Ethernet connections from between 1,000 ft. and 6,000 ft., depending on the network speed and capacity required.

There are plenty of companies that manufacture such products, including NVT Phybridge, Vigitron, Comnet, Altronix, Planet, Veracity, and more. Before choosing a provider, it is crucial to understand that PoE innovations vary significantly in capabilities and use-cases, so thorough research is essential with a clear picture in mind of exactly what is needed in the field.

For example, does the client need a 24 or 48-port enterprise-grade switch, or are there spare ports on existing switches that could be used by deploying an adapter at the switch port and at the device end?

This is a novel situation, where making contributions to a building’s environmental profile actually reduces expenditures instead of increasing them.

From a business perspective, cable reuse matters because it can:

  • Positively impact a building's ratings in sustainability standards programs like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).
  • Significantly reduce the cost of a networked security system deployment, especially for video surveillance camera installation. The network infrastructure cost reduction for the majority of projects will be 50% to 80%, when you factor in the elimination of IDF cabinets or closets, and the cost of labor. Many case studies exemplify such savings.
  • Minimize or eliminate system installation workspace disruption.
  • Shorten the time and level of effort required for the deployment project.

This is a novel situation, where making contributions to a building’s environmental profile actually reduces expenditures instead of increasing them. The importance of the environmental profile of a building continues to grow in importance, and positive contributions to it are welcome.

Cable Reuse Myths

There are a variety of incorrect ideas regarding cable reuse, often propagated by entities with a vested interest in new installations. In fact, customers, integrators, network designers, and security system specifiers can benefit from security cable reuse, while new cable manufacturers, network switch manufacturers (it reduces the number of switches provided), and companies that rely on revenue from pulling cable undoubtedly do not.

A common refrain is that the reused cable will become obsolete in a few years; however, that is unlikely. Consider, for example, that the useful product life of a network camera is much longer than for typically networked devices. Replacing cameras to upgrade their capabilities will not change network requirements – that will remain true for most security system end-devices.

Very few network segments of a security system, such as the buildings where servers are located, may require CAT7 or CAT8 cable for server-to-server traffic. In the coming decade, few or no end-devices will evolve to that level of requirement. In environments where cabling continues to be exposed to rodents in some locations, reuse may not be possible. Those situations can be easily identified but are usually rare and project-specific.

New Deployments and E-Waste Avoidance

Regarding new deployments where no cable reuse is involved, there are still environmental impacts to consider for the property owner’s benefit. For example, where there is a significant reduction in the number of IDF rooms through the use of LRE and LRPoE – both a cost comparison and an environmental impact comparison can be performed that contrast the cable requirements and network equipment energy usage (including HVAC for IDF rooms) between the traditional office LAN networking approach, and the IoT networking approach. Credits are available for e-waste avoidance and reduced energy consumption.

Editor’s Note: For detailed network design guidance and case study examples demonstrating the value of modern network design and LRE and LRPoE technologies, download Future-Ready Network Design for Physical Security Systems at https://www.go-rbcs.com/future-ready-network-ebook.

Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (www.go-rbcs.com). In 2018 IFSEC Global listed Ray as #12 in the world’s Top 30 Security Thought Leaders. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights, whose Kindle and paperback editions are available on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.