With the high cost of measuring, monitoring and recording environmental
parameters such as temperature and humidity, selecting the most cost-effective method
of connectivity for a monitoring system is a priority for many QA/QC
professionals. Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a solution that can save roughly $1,000
on every additional network drop within your monitoring system. That’s why more
pharmaceutical/biotechnical professionals are choosing PoE connectivity for
their core environmental monitoring applications.
Originally implemented for Voice over Internet (VoIP)
technology, Power over Ethernet emerged as a standard in 2003 to supply
electrical power and transmit data via the same Ethernet cable. Since then,
numerous industries have combined data and power connectivity in various manufacturing
applications using PoE capable devices (IEEE 802.af) to ensure gap-free records
and manage costs.
In FDA-regulated applications that require data integrity
and security, PoE trumps any other solution. For example, in the case of a
power outage, the network’s switch is typically attached to an Uninterrupted
Power Supply (UPS), which will provide backup power to PoE-connected devices.
Feasibly, if both the server and the equipment are on backup power, the
monitoring system will be completely unaffected by power outages. Having your
devices on PoE also negates the risk associated with a reliance on
battery-powered devices, which have the potential for failure due to batteries
not being regularly replaced.
In terms of installation costs, setting up a network of
devices via PoE doesn’t require a licensed electrician to create outlets. The
cost of labor required to run wires for each monitoring device can be as high
as $1000 per device. For flexibility of installation, Ethernet cables are easy
to install where other power sources are not. With PoE-capability, you can
locate monitoring devices anywhere a LAN cable can be run and then monitor all of
the points from a central location.
The low cost of network switches with built-in PoE power
capability further reduces lifetime cost-of-ownership because PoE-powered
devices use far less energy than those powered by AC (wired or wireless). The
power costs of a PoE device are much lower than battery-powered standalone
devices that can require frequent battery replacements.
Finally, because the standards for Ethernet communications
are global and well established, the potential for human error in using PoE
powered devices is minimal. There is less need to train staff to maintain
the devices on a simple PoE network and most existing IT infrastructures are
adequate to support hundreds of monitored points, connected via PoE.
Choosing connectivity for your monitoring system is a balance
between security, data integrity, and cost.
While no type of connectivity is without drawbacks, as far as current
options go, PoE is probably the most secure and the least costly — a rare
combination of attributes.