Article: Networking within a heritage or listed building
Old buildings, new technology - How to build a discreet, effective data network within a heritage or listed building
Heritage is at the heart of the UK tourism industry today, as it has been for decades. However, the heritage tourism sector faces major challenges if it is to continue to thrive in the future as visitors increasingly demand “interactive experiences”, moving from passive spectators to active participants.
In order to attract visitors and provide a more appealing service, especially for young people, historic and listed buildings must have the ability to deliver new digital services such as interactive touch-screen installations and electronic point-of-sale systems and be able to provide access to web-based information via internet terminals.
The challenge is to install these data networks without the disruption, cost and required planning consent required for alterations to listed buildings. So what are the choices when it comes to choosing a data network in your listed building?
There are 4 main ways to provide a data network in a listed building:
- Wired Networking: Dedicated cabling will always provide the fastest and most secure network links, however running new data cables in historic and listed buildings is often restricted due to building regulations or too expensive due to the infrastructure of the site. It is not simply a question of redecoration cost as it would be with a newer building; historical wall surfaces must not be damaged in any way, and walls, built before the advent of electrical cable, are solid. Typically Ethernet works at distances up to 100 metres although this can be extended, at a cost, with repeaters. Installation needs to be made by data cabling experts and will require space for the switch cupboard.
- Wireless networks: WiFi have become popular choice in many industries because they provide the freedom and convenience to access the network wherever there is coverage. However WiFi is not robust enough to provide a realistic solution in heritage environments and suffers from coverage black spots due to thick, signal-degrading walls and choice of building materials in many heritage properties. WiFi networks require a high level of technical knowledge to be installed correctly and often require on-going management - which all comes at a cost.
- Powerline Adapters: PLC is a very attractive alternative to cables and WiFi as it uses a building’s existing electrical mains wiring to create a secure, high-speed network, negating the need to run new data cable. The plug-in devices fit into any standard wall socket, connecting together automatically as if linked via a single Ethernet switch. This means that a single internet connection at one point in the network will be shared to all other PLC devices.
- Power Ethernet Sockets: A recent development which combines the best of PLC technology but embeds all of the electronics into a standard double-gang power socket. As the Power Ethernet Socket uses the building’s existing wiring for network connectivity, no further cabling work is required at all. The solution offers an incredibly simple and cost-effective networking platform with the minimum of disruption and no planning concerns. The device is built on business-grade technology with a managed switch in each socket to provide a robust, secure network which runs faster than WiFi. As the solution is built into the wall, the installation is far more discreet and tamper/theft-proof than PLC devices, and looks aesthetically pleasing.
As all the above use the same networking standard, it is possible to combine the different technologies. For example, Power Ethernet Sockets can be used to extend the reach of a wireless network so that wireless access points can be located to give optimum coverage. Similarly, PLC devices can be used to extend a pre-existing but limited wired network - for example to areas of a building that were originally not specified to be networked but which now need connectivity.
[This article first appeared on the ProjectBook web site]
About Power Ethernet:
Founded in 2011, Power Ethernet is a UK technology start-up with an innovative, new approach to PowerLine-based networking for both home and commercial applications. Powerline is a proven, well-established and recognised standard that uses power cables to create an instant Ethernet network. Power Ethernet’s patent pending integration of Powerline networking technology into electrical sockets provides an effective solution for businesses and home users who seek a simple but elegant solution for creating a high-speed, highly reliable network.
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