A Truly Connected Home Begins with Structured Cabling

The number of connected devices in the home has grown significantly over the last few years. To adequately support this continuing trend it is important to build residential networks on an organised structured cabling foundation.

Too often, homeowners knowingly accept poor network reliability and quality for the convenience of a wireless system. Many put up with long download times or streaming videos that buffer during a climactic moment of the movie. And while wireless technology has improved, the hunger for bandwidth outpaces it. Modern homes use an average of six connected devices per household, as reported by the NPD Group. These include technologies that quickly tax a wireless network, such as 4K and Ultra HD TVs, VOIP, streaming media servers, and game consoles, as well as Internet-enabled printers, thermostats, appliances, and more.

No one using the latest consumer technologies should accept poor network quality and low data rates. High-speed, hard-wired structured cabling offers the ideal solution to support today’s demands including home automation and the internet of things. This does not minimise the benefits of a wireless system, but Wi-Fi should be designed in as an extension of a well-planned home networking array, not the sole connectivity option.

Creating a Truly Connected Home
Residential structured cabling takes concepts from demanding commercial cabling applications and combines it with multimedia to accommodate audio, video, voice, data, and security systems. The smartest home networks use wired connectivity for stationary devices like home automation hubs, Blu-ray players, desktop computers, set-top boxes, and game consoles, then add on a wireless router to provide the strongest Wi-Fi signal to portable devices, such as tablets, laptops, and phones.

If installed during new construction, a well-planned structured cabling system can be a huge benefit to the homeowner and increase the value of the home. But even if that opportunity has past, there is great value in organising the various systems into a unified design to reduce overall cost, provide maximum functionality, and maintain an aesthetically pleasing result. To prepare for home network growth, it is important to help homeowners organise their connections.

A structured wiring panel or enclosure serves as the central hub for a network, and is an excellent option for housing automation systems, distributed audio systems, routers, switches, modems, and more in one place. Mantles, entertainment centers, and desktops can quickly become overcrowded and cluttered, making it difficult to troubleshoot any problems. By consolidating the network in a structured wiring enclosure, homeowners will save valuable space, eliminate clutter, and have easy access to all of their connected devices while maintaining a clean aesthetic.

SMC_Oct2013-205x400How to Plan a Structured Cabling Project
The first step is to lay out all the systems you want integrated into the home. Work backwards: start with the applications you want in every room, then plan for the wiring to support them. Each system is going to have its own set of requirements for cabling, infrastructure, power, installation location, and devices used to manage and control these applications. Keep track of each system, the various locations, and the number of connections needed. We do recommend installing Category 6 cabling for its performance and bandwidth advantages. Cabling standards from TIA and BICSI also recommend Category 6, and require Category 5e at a minimum.

The next step is to plan out the components needed for the various systems.  Depending on the number of phone lines and Internet extension locations, there are options for modules that serve as a routing point for the voice and data network in the home. These modules are designed to give the homeowner flexibility and control over the systems just as in a commercial building infrastructure. For example, consider the case of a homeowner that wants Internet access throughout the home and has planned for multiple devices such as a smart TV, PC, and a game console. If the homeowner decides to convert a bedroom into a smart home theatre, everything would need to change to transition more data access into that room. This type of flexibility can be achieved via the infrastructure that is design and installed.

If the homeowner decides to convert a bedroom into a smart home theatre, everything would need to change to transition more data access into that room.[/caption] The final step is bringing the various cabling systems back to the structured wiring enclosure, similar to how the breaker box is the hub of the electrical system. Structured wiring enclosures are designed to fit between standard construction stud spaces and come in various heights and materials to accommodate everything from a small apartment-sized network with only a few features, up to large custom homes with many system applications including connected smart devices. This enclosure serves a similar function to the telecommunications room in a commercial building.

The structured wiring enclosure also serves as the hub for the various entertainment options in the home. A coaxial cable coming from the cable service provider or satellite television provider connects to a splitter located in the media enclosure and branches out to deliver video content to multiple rooms in the house. Whole-house audio systems can be routed through the enclosure and in-wall or in-ceiling speakers can be controlled by wall-mounted switches in various rooms. Some installations even include home theater applications.

Regardless of how complex or simple the project, organising the structured cabling into a logical format will provide scalability and add value to the resale of the home. Many options are available to meet the needs of the homeowner’s digital lifestyle. There is great demand for these applications, and that demand will continue to grow. Having a strong structured wiring backbone in an organised central hub is crucial to supporting high-bandwidth demands and optimal wireless performance.

Bill Slater helps drive Leviton’s international sales growth through focused marketing strategies and collaborating with sales teams around the globe. 

Brian Groenig manages residential products, including Structured Media Enclosures and voice, data, and audio solutions.

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