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Build a Power over Fiber Network System for IP Surveillance

The use of fiber optics has expanded greatly in the past decade. It’s simpler, more economical, and allows for greater distances when designing a network for IP cameras. Fiber optic cabling is a cost-effective solution normally used in surveillance systems, especially in IP camera systems, where a fast-speed network is highly needed to secure real-time, round-the-clock monitoring 365 days. Since the fiber optic cables carry a speed of at least 1Gbps, they can allow signals to be sent over distances measured in kilometers.

It can carry information at a higher throughput than copper wires in the same amount of time. And the transmission speed of fiber optics could reach 10 Gbps or more. It only suffers 3% signal loss over a distance beyond 100 meters compared to 94% in PoE cabling. By providing up to two miles of distance, you can easily overcome the geographical limit of PoE transmission with one single pull. And its huge bandwidth can easily support any IP camera’s video output. Moreover, because of its low attenuation and immunity to EMI or RFI, the maximum uptime and details can be preserved, which is extremely important for mission-critical applications. But a common problem when deploying a fiber optic network is that since the fiber optic cable doesn’t carry any electrical signal, an additional power source is often required to power the cameras.

But installing new electrical infrastructures can be a huge investment. You’ve to hire a skilled electrician to wire and install the outlet if your understanding and skills cannot suffice the job. The question is: “Is there any method to combine high-performance, low-latency fiber optic connectivity with a low-voltage DC power connection into one single system?” In this article, we’ll introduce several ways to build a Power over Fiber network system for your IP cameras and other applications where remote power and network connectivity are required.

What’s Power over Fiber System?

Power over Fiber (PoF) is a novel power delivery system that uses optic fibers to power electrical and electronic devices remotely. The employment of the PoF technology not only helps you overcome the distance limit of traditional copper cabling but also provides a complete power and data solution platform for IP devices. Fiber optic connections are an excellent substitute for CAT cable systems in long-distance deployments when the distance between two network devices exceeds the maximum transmission distance of Ethernet cables. What’s more, by delivering power and data simultaneously to the powered devices (PD), such as IP cameras, wireless access points and smart sensors, the installation and labor costs can be significantly reduced. And there are basically three ways to deliver power over fiber: 1) using a PoE media converter; 2) running power cables in parallel with fiber cables; 3) deploying a photovoltaic power converter.

PoE Media Converter: Inject PoE Power into Fiber Link

The Power over Fiber system greatly simplifies the installation, powering, and communication of network devices. And one of the most direct ways is to deploy a PoE media converter to inject the PoE power into the fiber optic link. It’s versatile and flexible and can maximize functionality at an affordable cost. It allows you to redesign your existing cable structures and expand your network over its current capabilities to support a fast and robust network speed. Fastcabling has launched a Waterproof Industrial Hardened Grade Fiber PoE Media Converter (IP67) to help you install the IP cameras over long distances with superb reliability. Compliant with PoE+ standards, it can provide a maximum power of 30W to a PD located 100 meters away.

PoE media converters can not only be used to create an Ethernet-to-Fiber link between two dissimilar media (i.e. fiber optic cables and twisted pairs) but also act as power sourcing equipment (PSE) to provide power to the connected PD. Like other fiber media converters, it’s designed to convert the electrical signals used in traditional unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) wires to the optical signals used in fiber optic cables. And its high-bandwidth features help sustain smooth video streaming (4K, 60fps with very little compression) and high-resolution recording over long distances. The PoE media converter provides an effective way to extend the transmission distance up to 10 kilometers with high-performance data networking and an uninterruptible power supply.

How to Use a PoE Media Converter?

The PoE media converter is a plug-and-play network device that can be easily removed and relocated without taking the entire system offline. Each PoE media converter has a DC or AC input, a fiber port and a PoE output. The fiber optic cable can be run long-distance from the central switch to the PoE media converter. And based on how it transmits data, the PoE media converters can be either single-mode or multi-mode. In the single-mode PoE media converter, light signals can only be transmitted in one direction, which highly reduces attenuation, while the multi-mode PoE media converter can transmit data in two or more directions but it will generate higher light dispersion and authentication rates.

Moreover, to realize fiber-to-copper conversion, the PoE media converter often works with an SFP module. The small form-factor pluggable (SFP) is a compact, hot-swappable transceiver used for data communication applications over either fiber optic or copper to facilitate seamless conversion of Ethernet signals into optical signals. SFP modules are made to support single-mode and multi-mode fibers at network range anywhere from 1 kilometer to 100 km. The SFP modules are mainly classified based on their speed capabilities. Most SFP modules can at least support a network speed of 1 Gigabit.

The devices required for the installation are a fiber switch, a PoE media converter, two BiDi SFP modules, an IP camera, a fiber optic cable and an Ethernet cable. First, you need to insert one BiDi SFP module into the SFP port of the PoE media converter and another SFP module into the fiber optic switch. Then, connect the PoE media converter and the fiber optic switch using the fiber optic cable. Next, plug an Ethernet cable into the RJ45 port of the PoE media converter and connect the other end of the cable to the IP camera. In addition, since the IP cameras are often scattered in different locations, to eliminate the number of cables used, you can also daisy-chain multiple PoE media converters together to create a hop-to-hop fiber link along parking lots, rail lines or highways. Also, you can create a redundant fiber link by wiring the last media converter back to the central switch in a Token Ring configuration to reduce packet collision and minimizes data loss over long distances. So even if a fiber link is shut down, the IP camera will continue to send the video to the failover fiber link.

How to Power PoE Media Converter if There’s No Local Power Source?

The solar power system allows you to install a camera in remote locations, extremely helpful for applications such as oil and gas, construction sites, parking lots, remote gates and ranches, where there’s no power present. These are the basic components you will need to solar power your security camera: a solar panel, a solar charge controller and a rechargeable battery. Place the solar panel in a location where it will not be in shade for shading of even a small part of the panel can result in low power generation. To figure out how much energy your solar panel can produce, you need to know the amount of peak sunlight hours your location gets. And you’ll need a solar charge controller to control the amount of charge coming in and out of the battery and regulate the optimum performance of the battery. Fastcabling has launched a 10A Solar Charge Controller to help you set up a solar-powered network in remote places. It can work with a 12-24V battery to supply power to the electrical loads long distances. It comes with a fanless design, covered in an IP68 waterproof rugged metal housing, featuring a wide operating temperature range of -30℃ to 70℃. Since the entire power required to run the IP cameras is drawn from the battery, make sure the battery you use has a large storage capacity and features fast charging for continuous monitoring and recording.

Sending Power in Parallel with Fiber

For mission-critical applications like IP security cameras, an uninterruptible power supply is essential to secure 24/7 surveillance for targeted places. But as we previously mentioned, in hard-to-reach places, chances are higher that power won’t necessarily be present every time. In this scenario, the power must be run from the control center to the desired location. To power the remote cameras, you can run a separate power cable in parallel with a fiber optic cable to transmit power and data simultaneously to the edge devices. The separation of data and power allows the copper cable to deliver power to the higher output with less power loss and voltage drop over greater distances. But given the technical difficulties in actual deployments, such a solution is more favorable for a distance of fewer than 2 kilometers.

Why Not Choose Powered Fiber Cable?

The powered fiber cable combines power and fiber into one single cable that fits in a standard electrical conduit. It can be installed in many applications such as wireless infrastructures, WiFi hotspots and surveillance systems. With the powered fiber cable solution, you can deliver reliable fiber optic signals to and from devices to the camera with low-voltage DC power from a centralized source or backup UPS. The powered fiber cable enables the connection of any number of remote PDs (IP cameras for example) without the need for new conduits and bulky extra cable runs. The copper conductors for power can typically range from 12 to 20 AWG. With larger conductors, the powered fiber cable is capable of carrying more power over greater distances to drive up to 20-30 devices simultaneously. But if you only need to power 1 or 2 cameras at the edge, you can feel free to choose one with a smaller conductor. And the transmission distance of a powered fiber cable can reach up to 30 times longer than that of a CAT cable. Even though hybrid cables cut down on double installation time, their biggest disadvantage is that if the fiber is broken, you have to take down the entire system to fix it, which highly increases network downtime. Moreover, you lose a lot of lightweight advantage, noise immunity and so forth. And the powered fiber cable is more expensive in the per-meter unit. Many people will buy a box of fiber and copper wires, take them out at the same time and pay less, and they are not that easy to install. They are harder to pull and subject to micro bends since copper and fiber support different tensile strengths while pulling a separate cable for power is way easier to pull it through a conduit.

Mixing Fiber and Power Lines in Aerial Deployments

For aerial building, you’ll need to wire the aerial fiber optic cables (specially designed for outside plant installation) between poles by being lashed to a wire rope messenger strand with a small gauge wire. But building new poles is costly and geographically challenging, which is only recommended for professional, large-scale network deployments. When installing fiber cables close to power lines and to cope with extreme weather conditions such as wind, ice and snow in outdoor deployments, you’re supposed to use All-Dielectric Self Supporting (ADSS) cables which have excellent resistance to electricity. ADSS cables are designed to withstand very high-tension loads, enabling them to be installed with long spans between supports, up to 1 km in some cases. Because they can be placed on power transmission lines, it allows the exiting poles to be reused, which helps bring down the costs and speed up the deployment as there’s no need to install new poles. However, wind can be a serious concern since vibration can lead to potential damage over the long term. But this can be easily solved by installing anti-vibration dampers.

Aerial fiber optic cable installation is complicated and very time-consuming, so you have to make sure you have a properly trained crew. Before the installation, you have to plan the cable route to ensure that the way is free of obstacles like guy wires and trees. Self-supporting cables like ADSS do not require a messenger strand during aerial installation. You can place ADSS cables using either the moving reel or stationary reel technique. The dead-end poles can not only serve as the anchor points for a messenger strand at the beginning and endpoints of a fiber optic cable but also can act as supports. You can fit the messenger strand to dead-end poles using dead-end fittings that maintain the span’s tensile loading. Also, Fastcabling has introduced an upgraded version of the Fiber Termination Box that supports both fiber and power management to deliver power and data to the IP cameras at the same time. Encapsulated in a rugged metal housing (IP68-rated and impact-resistant), it’s equipped with several LC fiber adapters to arrange the fiber cables in an orderly manner. A removable splice tray is also located to accommodate fused fibers. Additionally, the power output is totally manageable to accommodate different sizes of power cables.

Can I Run Fiber in the Same Conduit with Power?

It is known that the data cable is not advisable to share the same conduit with the power cable to avoid any unnecessary data transmission interference. However, there are no interference problems with fiber optic cables and power cables as long as the fiber is not metal covered. Because fiber uses light waves for data transmission, the electromagnetic fields from power cables will have no impact on signals within the fiber. But there is another concern you need to consider. Fiber optic cables are easily damaged and are not particularly heat-resistant, so when it’s exposed to extreme temperatures, their performance diminishes. It is normal that the power cables overheat because wires are not perfect conductors. When an electrical current passes through a power cable, it’ll encounter DC resistance, and this produces heat. It is possible that a fault on the power cables could damage your fiber. Other types of conductors (power cables) could damage some of the fiber conductors as well as the bend radius for fiber cables. Another concern is the dielectric strength of the fiber optic cable. More or less, high-voltage electrical cables might induce currents in the jackets of conventional fiber optic cables and cause them to break prematurely. Therefore, from an installation and maintenance standpoint, it’s probably preferable to distribute fiber and power in different conduits.

Convert Light Signals to Power with a Photovoltaic Converter

The photovoltaic converter is a high-end device used to convert light (laser) to electricity to deliver power from point A to point B without having conductors in between. This prevents installers from running separate data and power pathways to each necessary location. Non-conducting fiber cables (based on glass fibers or plastics) can be installed where high electric voltages occur. And during normal operation, the laser light is fully confined in the fiber, and there is no risk for nearby people. And you can eliminate lots of issues in the traditional electrical system like grounding in a marine environment. This solution eliminates the possibility of explosion and leak, and since it’s immune to lightning, moisture and extreme temperatures, outdoor camera deployments will become safer even in adverse conditions. There is no risk that lightning strokes can be transmitted via the cable to the connected cameras. Furthermore, Interference like crosstalk, EMI, and electric & magnetic fields can also be significantly reduced.

How Does the Photovoltaic Power Converter Work?

The basic configuration of PoF system comprises three key components: light source, fiber optic cables and photovoltaic power converters. It is able to provide true isolated power to a remote location utilizing laser light at the power transmitter and the transmitter unit contains two high-power laser diodes and one fiber receiver for signal feedback. On the receiving end, the PoF receiver card has at least one fiber ST photovoltaic power converter and one fiber ST transmitter. When the light is sent through a fiber optic cable and travels to the remote devices, the photovoltaic power converter/receiver will convert the laser back into electricity of the same style that needs it to be at the remote location. The remote location device will deploy super capacitors to guarantee that a smooth and constant voltage is supplied to the remotely powered devices like the IP cameras. The PoF receiver card will also transmit an optical signal to the power transmitter unit for voltage monitoring in case of outrage in fiber continuity. And nowadays, it’s capable of sending up to 30 to 60 watts of power to the remote cameras with low power consumption.

How to Install the Photovoltaic Converter?

For the installation, you’ll need a fiber cable path between the transmitter and receiver and an instant power source for powering the transmitter. The transmitter will indicate an alarm condition when the DC output from the receiver card is off. If any trouble arises, it’ll verify all copper and fiber connections, and signal and voltage levels. You need to connect a fiber optic cable to the transmitter and connect the unit to power. And connect the transmitter to an alarm, so if the power is off, you can still get an immediate notification. Then, insert the receiver card into the card housing via the card guide rails and retainer clip. For higher power or voltage applications like the PTZ cameras, the receiver cards can be connected in series or parallel to boost up the energy. Next, connect the transmitter and the receiver with the fiber optic link. Beware the fiber cable must be connected directly from the transmitter unit to the receiver card with no patches or splices in between. And ensure that the transmitter is not turned off until the whole system is set up. Then, connect the power to the PoF receiver card. After charging, the receiver card will provide a voltage to the connected load, and even if the connection to the transmitter is cut off, it can still remain powered for 3 minutes.

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