Real words or buzzwords?: E-waste – an important security system design issue

Jan. 9, 2024
Now e-waste is an important design issue not just because of growing e-waste regulations, but because educated designers can save enterprise security system customers a lot of money.

Editor’s note: This is the 72nd article in the “Real Words or Buzzwords?” series about how real words become empty words and stifle technology progress.

Over a decade ago, California introduced the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, a comprehensive law that regulates electronic waste (e-waste) management in the state.

Recognizing e-waste as hazardous, it falls under specific regulations. In the U.S., over two dozen states have enacted e-waste laws, which vary based on electronic consumption patterns, environmental priorities and circular economy considerations.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in its article Design and the Circular Economy, identifies "keeping products and materials in use at their highest value" as a key principle of a circular economy. This principle raises an intriguing question: how do e-waste and circular economy principles apply to security system design?

This question is particularly relevant today, as the enterprise security system landscape is evolving rapidly. This evolution is driven by the aging of existing systems, a growing need to enhance security capabilities due to escalating facility security risks, and the surge in AI-driven intelligent video camera deployments.

This transition provides a unique and historically significant opportunity. By repurposing existing copper wiring, such as that initially installed for telephone systems and analog video camera networks, significant cost savings can be realized for customers.

Additionally, this approach enhances their environmental performance. This scenario is noteworthy as it is one of the rare instances where environmental improvements provide financial savings. Usually, enhancing environmental performance is associated with increased costs, but in this case it achieves both economic and ecological benefits.

New Ethernet Standards

This is a much bigger opportunity than most security system designers realize. Did you know that there are over 87 currently-in-use Ethernet standards by the IEEE 802.3 working group?  

Since 1980, when the first Ethernet standard was released, the IEEE 802.3 working group has released over 80 LAN standards. Some of these have been used to meet industrial network needs, which often require connections at distances three or four times longer than office LANs. Examples include:

  • 802.3bp – providing Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T1) over a single twisted pair for automotive and industrial environments
  • 802.3bt – 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)
  • 802.3bw – 100BASE-T1 – 100 Mbps Ethernet over a single twisted pair for automotive applications
  • 802.3y – 100BASE-T2 100 Mbps (12.5 MB/s) over voice-grade twisted pair

IEEE 802.3 developed standards providing Power over Ethernet (PoE) capabilities over various cables, including CAT3, CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, CAT6A, single twisted pair telephone cabling and coax cable. IT network architects, generally unfamiliar with the advanced Ethernet standards used in industrial IoT operations, often don’t consider them for security system network design.

Reusing existing cabling can be effectively repurposed for security system networks, offering a cost-effective solution for both new security installations and upgrades to existing systems.

Cable Reuse

In the last 75 years, rapid advancements in voice and data communications technologies have resulted in many facilities accumulating a substantial amount of now-unused cabling.

This existing cabling can be effectively repurposed for security system networks, offering a cost-effective solution for both new security installations and upgrades to existing systems. This approach is particularly beneficial for deploying video surveillance cameras and IoT sensor systems.

Repurposing cables not only yields significant savings in labor and materials. Additionally, the use of advanced Long Reach Power over Ethernet (LRPoE) technologies reduces the need for network equipment IDF rooms, which require both electrical power and HVAC service.

Here are two case study examples.

Example 1: Leading Global Jewelry Chain

Objective: Perform a phased upgrade of low-resolution analog cameras to high-resolution IP cameras across all facilities.

Situation: High costs to install the network infrastructure meant that budget constraints would drive the pace of facility upgrades at too slow a pace, one that was unacceptable from a business risk perspective.

Solution: Significantly reduce the video upgrade costs by leveraging the existing analog camera coax cable.

Result: More critical locations were able to be upgraded more quickly than typically possible using the original traditional LAN-planned approach.

  • The first 30 locations were upgraded at less than half the originally planned cost – $195,000 instead of $500,000.
  • More critical locations, such as vaults and stores, were able to be upgraded first.

Example 2: Spanish Retail Giant Massive Security Upgrade

Objective: Modernize from analog CCTV surveillance to an IP-based surveillance system in each of its retail locations to deter theft and provide better recognition capabilities.

Situation: One of the largest department store groups in Europe needed to upgrade their current camera count to more than 90,000 cameras but did not have the Ethernet network infrastructure in place to do it. Key concerns were:

  • Extremely high costs and time requirements to retrofit hundreds of locations with new cabling and equipment
  • Loss of revenue and a poor customer experience due to the business disruption caused by the renovations
  • Losing valuable retail floor space from the IDF closets required to connect the IP cameras exactly where they were needed

Solution: Significantly reduce the video upgrade costs by leveraging the existing analog camera coax cable. Maintain a physically separate network path for the security devices and applications to ensure the security and performance of the overall business network.

Result: Existing coax was able to be repurposed, reducing infrastructure costs by more than $20 million; allowing more budget to be allocated to applications and better application adoption.

  • Long-reach PoE provided an Ethernet cable reach of up to 6,000 feet and the option to connect up to four IP cameras on a single cable up to 3,000 feet. The simplified network requirements significantly reduced the total cost and deployment time.
  • Eliminated business disruption to maintain optimal customer experience and avoid loss-of-revenue.
  • Eliminate communications cable e-waste that would have entered a landfill.

For providing the information on the deployment examples above, my thanks go to NVT Phybridge, a proven leader in LRPoE technologies.

Corporate Environmental Interests in Building Design

Architects are increasingly focused on providing clients with environmentally superior designs for new buildings and remodeling projects. At the early stages of design, their considerations extend beyond the requirements for security system network and equipment cabling. They are also attuned to the environmental impacts of their designs.

Reusing and repurposing existing cabling infrastructure, minimizing IDF closet requirements, and utilizing energy efficient PoE switches and endpoints can significantly enhance a building's environmental performance. These practices positively influence a building's ratings in sustainability standards programs like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).

The insights in this article are largely drawn from my forthcoming eBook, "Future-Ready Network Design for Physical Security Systems," set to be released this month.

Ray Bernard is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities ( 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 available on AmazonFollow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.

© 2024 RBCS. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III

Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (, a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. He has been a frequent contributor to Security Business, SecurityInfoWatch and STE magazine for decades. He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights, available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is an active member of the ASIS member councils for Physical Security and IT Security, and is a member of the Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (

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Follow him on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.