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What’s a PoE logo for, anyway?

By Dave Dwelley

I just read Jonathan Seckler’s post on Power over Ethernet (PoE) Logo Certification, and it got me thinking – what is a logo for, anyway? The most successful industry logos become almost mandatory for products in the marketplace (think WiFi or even UL); others are just decoration on an already-overcrowded box…anyone remember PC Card?

What a logo is trying to do is tell you that the product in the box conforms to an interoperability standard. No one likes buying a piece of technology, plugging it in at home and discovering it doesn’t work with the devices they already have. A logo can substantially reduce the chance of that happening, and well-known logos become a brand of their own that adds to the appeal of the product.

PoE is just the sort of technology that needs a logo (#LogoPoE). In the early days of PoE, there was no standardization and several non-interoperable varieties were available. The first IEEE PoE standard was published in 2003, and the majority of PoE devices since then have conformed to it. However, non-standard implementations still pop up now and again, especially as low-end consumer devices, and there’s no easy way for the consumer to know what to expect. The term “802.3at” may show up in small print on the outside of the box, but that means about as much to the average consumer as “IEC 60950” or “RFC2131”, both of which probably also appear on the box.

Bottom line: I don’t want to bring a specialized electrical tester with me when I’m shopping for a PoE device, and I don’t want to pay Amazon a restocking fee when the “PoE”-powered camera I ordered won’t work with my 802.3at-compliant PoE network switch. What I want is a recognizable logo on the outside of the box or the top of the webpage that tells me a third party has tested this thing by plugging it in to a variety of similar devices, and it worked! This is especially helpful when I’m looking at a powered device (PD), like a camera or an IP phone; power sourcing equipment (PSE), (typically network switches) are more likely to be standards-compliant, and are more often designed with broad interoperability in mind.

It’s time to start a PoE logo program. Power over Data Lines (PoDL), a newer PoE variant that I am helping to develop, will need a similar logo in due time – and since PoE and PoDL aren’t compatible, we’ll need a different logo for PoDL, hopefully incorporating the lessons learned along the way from PoE. Read Jonathan’s blog, click here to join the call, and help start a logo program that works!

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance.

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Join the Conversation: Innovation of Ethernet – PoE Logo Certification

By Jonathan Seckler

It’s a mistake to think of innovation as the crazy Dr. Frankenstein-like character in his lab, creating life from random components.  Today, technology is just too complex; if an innovator has to spend time developing not only her own ideas but also the tools and infrastructure to develop her ideas, she’d never get anything done.  It’s almost ironic that the real basis of innovation is on industry standards and interoperability.   The single largest most pervasive innovation of the 20th century is arguably the Internet; itself, really nothing more than an aggregation of industry standard and interoperable protocols working together.  The Internet’s success as a global medium (and foundation for additional innovations) stands on the fact that it provides a standard, easily adopted, interoperable set of technologies that can be used across any border, by anyone.  The most common transport many of us use to connect to the Internet (whether we realize it or not) is Ethernet. 

One could say that Ethernet is the foundation of innovation; connecting devices together and creating value from that connectedness has led to many of the more pervasive innovations people take for granted today:

  • The Apple iPad wouldn’t be useful if there wasn’t a pervasive Internet connection (wireless and even cellular networks eventually connect to an Ethernet network)
  • Public and private clouds all run on Ethernet networks
  • Social Media like Twitter and Facebook wouldn’t be interesting if there was not a network to connect with

The success of Ethernet is a story of the success of standardization and interoperability.  Companies, institutions and individuals all can safely build a network using components and products of their choice and connect them together using the industry standard protocols of Ethernet.  Interoperability is provided by adherence to standard protocols and interfaces. 

The Network is capable of handling more than computer connections and data; the Internet of Things has broadened the network to include machine to machine connections.  And as the network spreads beyond the walls of the enterprise, it can carry power to those connected devices as well.   Power over Ethernet has been codified into a standard already for many years as 802.3af (commonly called PoE) and 802.3at (or PoE+).  Distance, power limits, wiring specifications, voltage, etc. have all been standardized beginning in 2003 and this standardization process continues today as the demand for powered devices on the network increases.  (see our blog here for examples and trends in upcoming standards for Power over Ethernet). 

Unfortunately just providing a standard is insufficient to ensure innovators have a basis to work with.  When power is added to the networking equation, safety, functionality, and reliability become additional considerations that we have to take into account.  Hence we believe there is a need for a Power over Ethernet certification for both powered devices and power sources.  Customers and users of PoE networks and powered devices need to be sure that the network they are using is ‘up to snuff’ and can support the applications they are using or developing.  At the same time, knowing a device that is using PoE is based on the industry standard gives potential user the assurance they need to put more devices on the network and increase the networks’ overall utility. 

The Ethernet Alliance is hosting an open call to the industry to explore the demand and feasibility for a Power over Ethernet logo certification program.   We invite individuals and businesses, solution developers and users alike to join the call to give us your feedback on the benefits and or need for certified PoE devices (#LogoPoE).  Details about this call are below:

When:  August 27, 2014 at 8:00am PDT

Where:  Registration available at http://conta.cc/1qI7tl2.

Who can attend:  interested individuals and organizations; advance registration is requested.

For more information about the Ethernet Alliance, please visit http://ethernetalliance.org, follow @EthernetAllianc on Twitter, visit its Facebook page, or join the EA LinkedIn group. Individuals who would like to receive updates on Ethernet Alliance news, activities and events may sign up for the organization’s newsletter at www.ethernetalliance.org/newsletter.

We cannot all be Dr. Frankenstein – creating life in our castle laboratory.  But we can all benefit from the innovation of Ethernet and the Internet.   Standardization and Interoperability are important qualities necessary however to take advantage of these innovations – and avoid creating a monster of our own.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the individual(s) and should not be considered the views or positions of the Ethernet Alliance.

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