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Build and Expand Your Smart Home Network with a Managed PoE Switch

Smart homes are getting more and more popular these days, not only among homeowners but also among property developers, with a year-on-year growth rate of 30%. With the introduction of smart sensors, voice-control platforms and IP-based technologies, life has become easier than ever. These devices operate in a variety of ways: apps, automation, or voice commands, etc.

Why Do You Need a Smart Home?

With a smart home, you can adjust the lighting in your house through your phone, set your coffee maker to work at a certain time, have your doors automatically locked, etc. Moreover, it also makes our lives more secure. With the invention of smart home devices like door locks, siren alarms, security cameras, etc., you can effectively deter burglars, making it harder for them to break in. And if a burglar does manage to break into your house, you can also help the police to catch the culprit with the recorded videos. Smart home technology not only makes your life easier but also boosts the sense of self-sufficiency in senior users. Via voice commands, they can control everything that is connected to the IP network. 

As you can see, there’s a multitude of benefits a smart home system can bring to your life. If you’re considering making your home a smart one, then the use of a managed can be of great help to retrofit your older network system while using existing cabling infrastructure. WiFi is used exclusively for communication with smart devices, even though this sometimes can be unreliable. For example, if you have thick concrete walls that might block the signals, the connection might be dodgy. However, with PoE, you can establish a reliable network system that carries power and data over the same network cable.

What is a Managed PoE switch? 

Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology is a cost-effective solution, widely used in commercial and residential applications, to satisfy the need for connectivity to network devices like IP cameras, wireless APs, VoIP phones, etc. The delivery of power and data simultaneously to the powered devices via a single Ethernet cable ends the need for AC or DC power supplies and power outlets. And the PoE switches can be divided into two types at the management level, namely the managed and unmanaged PoE switches. The unmanaged PoE switch is a relatively simple plug-and-play device that can’t be modified or managed since they are manufactured with a fixed configuration. They will automatically forward traffic once the device is plugged in. These are fine to use in small networks with only basic needs. 

However, for optimized network design and construction, the managed PoE switches are your best shot. They are fully manageable and customizable, giving you more control over how data travels with a multitude of benefits, which makes them suitable for medium-to-large-sized networks supporting critical activities. They allow you to adjust each PoE port on the switch to any setting, enabling them to manage, configure and monitor the network in many ways. In addition, the managed PoE switches also support a higher level of security and stability. They are equipped with various advanced security features to avoid any physical tampering on the switch. They support various protocols and advanced features like SNMP, STP and port mirroring, allowing you to check the real-time status of each RJ45 PoE port. 

The Important Features of Managed PoE Switches in Smart Home

To help you gain an in-depth understanding of what a managed PoE switch is, here, we’ve summarized a list of features in the managed PoE switch: 

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)

SNMP provides a way for different devices to communicate with each other even if they have different hardware. Most professional-grade network switches are equipped with such protocols, which can be enabled and configured to communicate with network monitoring tools or network management systems so as to identify the connected PDs, monitor network performance and keep the track of network changes. Every device can be queried with SNMP to determine the status of the device in real-time. Fire sensors, televisions, lighting, security and camera systems can communicate with each other. Moreover, these devices can be monitored and controlled remotely from any room of a smart home using a smartphone or computer from anywhere in the world via the Internet. 

VLAN (Virtual Local Area Networks)

The VLAN feature on the managed PoE switches helps you to segment the network without installing separate equipment. Generally, the switch will broadcast traffic to all connected ports, and allow all connected devices to communicate with each other, while VLANs can be created in order to reduce the amount of broadcast traffic on a network. Even if all devices are active at the same time, traffic congestion is not a problem. These managed PoE switches allow you to create VLANs on the switch You just need to create a VLAN ID on the switching tab, assign it to the ports you select, and then create a PVID to isolate it from other VLANs. And you can also configure the features of QoS by setting the desired CoS, Queue scheduling, bandwidth control, etc., to prioritize the traffic for your smart home applications.

RSTP (Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol)

RSTP is the advancement of Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) to facilitate high loop-free topologies within Ethernet. It prevents network loops by blocking redundant pathways in the network where multiple switches are deployed. Essentially, the protocol determines the most efficient way for switches to broadcast traffic across the network by establishing a root bridge. A major advantage of RSTP networks is that they provide high availability compared to traditional daisy-chain topologies. In the event of a network failure, data can be rerouted so that devices can continue to communicate over the network. RSTP is an improvement over STP mainly due to its reduction in convergence time. In STP, there is substantial convergence time whenever there is a network change or failure, which typically lasts for 40-50 seconds, while RSTP reduces the convergence time significantly down to around 5-10 seconds, which is essential for mission-critical applications like home security systems. 

LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol)

LACP is a subcomponent of the IEEE802.3 specification that provides guidance on link aggregation for data connections to aggregate one or more Ethernet interfaces to form logical point-to-point links called LAGs. It’s typically used to bundle individual links of Ethernet connections on a network to promote better performance outcomes. The main advantage when activating LACP functions on a smart home network is that it provides redundant network activity. With link aggregation, you get multiple delivery paths, and if one link suddenly fails, you’ll be able to load balance across all available links. In addition, when a massive amount of traffic flows into your network, the LACP allows for the aggregation of additional bandwidth on physical links to distribute the data load efficiently. Besides, the aggregated physical links can deliver higher bandwidth than each individual link. LACP offers a cost-effective way for network updates. Physical network upgrades can be expensive, especially if new cabling is required. Link aggregation increases bandwidth without the need for new equipment. 

ACL (Access Control List) 

The inter-connected features of smart home devices also bring lots of privacy and security issues, which can invoke trust problems among family members. But by using the access control list, the access to a resource is restricted unless you get permission Access control is a set of permissions that specifies who is allowed to access and what actions are allowed to be performed. Each access control list (ACL) entry specifies a device, a user, and an associated access level (three levels in total, namely owner level, administration level and viewer level). ACL only allows access to appropriate users over public networks, which greatly simplifies access control management. ACL enables reliable access control while maintaining security and compliance with data protection and privacy regulations. 

Why Do You Need a Managed PoE Switch for Smart Home? 

If you need multiple VLANs on your network, typically for wired clients, the managed PoE switches are definitely the way to go. And they offer more benefits than just creating VLANs.

1. Improved Network Performance

A managed network switch easily integrates your smart home network into your existing network structure without compromising the network performance of other IoT devices. Moreover, the managed PoE switch also helps you to prioritize the traffic flow of each wired connection. Since different network devices have different bandwidth requirements, when these devices are connected on the same switch, the managed switch can help you control the amount of traffic each port is forwarding to each PD. Furthermore, you can easily configure the low-bandwidth devices to low priority to optimize the distribution of network traffic. 

2. Less Network Downtime

Managed switches provide services like network monitoring and problem diagnosis to allow you to have better control over your network. It provides full reports of status on each port and speeds up troubleshooting if necessary to shorten the time wasted on data recovery. Clogged traffic or other types of technical issues can cause an Ethernet network to fail. But in the event of network crashes, the RSTP function on the managed PoE switch can significantly reduce system downtime by providing a failover pathway for data traffic. Moreover, when it will automatically detect and reboot the non-responding PD until the connection is resumed. 

3. Increased Network Security

Another major advantage of using managed PoE switches in smart home networks mainly lies in their high security. Unmanaged PoE switches only provide basic security features but managed PoE switches can only provide access to trusted devices to prevent unauthorized access and block unknown devices. With the 802.1X Port-Based Network Access Control (PNAC), the user can set up the level to access the switch. Therefore, any attempt to disrupt your devices will be immediately noticed and reported.  

How to Build a Smart Home Network With PoE Managed Switches?

Many smart home sensors are battery-powered, which is a good choice if you don’t have a nearby power source. But the biggest downside is that you have to replace the batteries on a regular basis, which will inevitably increase network downtime. However, having the sensors, cameras, etc., powered by a central PoE switch, you’ll have an uninterruptible power source transmitted from a remote point. For example, compared with the traditional LED system, PoE lighting can be scheduled and dimmed for mood. You can easily retrofit your existing security camera system by adding PoE-compatible cameras to your surveillance system. You can only use one app plus one switch can control one or multiple devices. 

To take advantage of PoE technology, you have to make sure your devices are PoE-supported and your home already has Ethernet cables running in the walls, ceilings, etc., or you’ll have to buy an extra networking kit for PoE. If you’re not confident running the cables yourself, you can hire an electrician specializing in Ethernet cabling. And you will need to choose a suitable managed PoE switch for your project. Fastcabling has launched various types of managed PoE switches to meet different project requirements. 

24 Port Managed PoE Switch with 2 Gigabit SFP

This managed PoE switch gives you full control over the port settings, particularly beneficial for network segmentation. Compliant with IEEE 802.3at/af PoE+/PoE, it can supply up to 30 watts of power per port and automatically verify if the connected device is PoE compatible and detect their power class to optimize power management. This PoE switch supports various features like RSTP and LACP to ensure network connection reliability. IPV4/IPV6 DHCP snooping to protect the integrity of the DHCP server and its operations. The intelligent PD live check is also available in these models to monitor the real-time status of connected PDs and enable to reboot fail PDs.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Here is a step-by-step installation guide to help set up the smart home network.

1. Switch Configuration

For first-time usage, you must activate the device and reset the password on the web. After the switch is activated, you can configure the switch for further network management. You can change the IP address and gateway address as needed. When you log in, go to the configuration or switching tab for port configuration, VLAN setting, Trunk management, SNMP setting, IGMP snooping, etc., to configure your managed PoE switch through the web-based interface or the command-line interface via the console port with minimum fuss.  

Bandwidth Control: Since different devices have different bandwidth requirements, with bandwidth control, you’ll be able to manage traffic rates for each device and limit either incoming traffic, outgoing traffic, or both. All you need to do is to go to the bandwidth control setting and configure the corresponding port. Decide whether you want to control the rate of traffic coming into the port (Ingress Rate) or the rate of traffic going out of the port (Egress Rate), select the desired rate and save the settings. 

Guest Network: If you have a managed PoE switch and a capable router, you can create VLANs to isolate guest users on a separate network. If you just want a separate VLAN for guests, you actually need to create two VLANs, one for the main network and one for the guest network. The setup for your network will vary based on the hardware you’re using. If you need to create a VLAN for Guest WiFi, you’ll need two wireless access points or you need to purchase a single access point that has two separate SSIDs, and tag and manage all traffic from each SSID individually. Then, you need to create a new VLAN on the switch, enter the desired VLAN ID and name it ‘Guest’. To add a port to your Guest Network, select a port and click Untag. All untagged ports will be added to the VLAN. People will be able to connect to these ports and access the internet without seeing traffic on the main network.

RSTP Configuration: One more function that requires a managed PoE switch is redundancy. To implement network redundancy, you need to set up RSTP to prevent frame looping. Most switches can deploy RSTP by default, so no additional configuration is necessary. But if RSTP is not being used, the following procedure will enable it: Go to the spanning tree configuration and activate the RSTP. Set the Bridge Priority to the desired figure and apply it to the selected ports (port 1 and port 2). And configure the other two switches accordingly. Make sure that the link between switch 2 and switch 3 is not connected to prevent unintended loops before finishing the RSTP setup. Then use the Ethernet cables to connect port 1 on switch 1 to port 1 on switch 2, port 2 on the switch to port 2 on switch 2, and port 2 on switch 1 to port 1 on switch 3. 

2. Hardware Setup

To set up the managed PoE switch, you’ll need a router, a short patch cord, Ethernet cables, and PoE splitters if your smart home devices are not PoE compatible. First, plug the managed PoE switch into a wall outlet (100-240V AC). Second, take a short patch cord to connect the switch to the router. Then, connect the PoE switch with the PD with a long Ethernet cable, and check if the LED indicator is on. If so, the connection is successfully made. If you want to connect a non-PoE device like a computer, then you will need to add a PoE splitter between them. The splitter will isolate the power from data and feed it into a separate output that the non-PoE device can use. You can also use fiber optic connections for uplink, which allows the switch to be located at greater distances from the control room.

3. Mounting Options

There are mainly three ways to mount your managed switches: rack-mounted, wall-mounted and desk-mounted. For rack-mounting, you only need to attach two L-shaped brackets to both sides of the switch and fix them on the rack. For wall mounting, you need to attach the screw template to the wall and tighten the screws to secure the mount. Place the managed PoE switch onto the mounting screws, and slide it down until it locks in place. For desk mounting, you only need to place it on a table and remember to attach four rubber pads on the bottom to avoid any scratches on the table. Use a chassis if available. 

How to Connect Wireless Smart Devices to the PoE Switch? 

Considering that some smart devices are made wireless, you’ll need to use a Zigbee hub to broadcast the traffic wirelessly. Zigbee is a global wireless communication standard designed to enable the control and monitoring of connected devices. It connects all compatible devices, allowing them to communicate with each other and be controlled through a single interface. The Zigbee hub is an excellent alternative to a WiFi router for some applications, including low-power devices that do not require much bandwidth, such as smart home sensors.

R7 Zigbee Wired Hub

Thanks to its multiple radios, it can connect to a huge number of low-power smart home devices. Different automation can be saved on the Zigbee hub so you can control your lights, lights and door locks at specific times or at specific events without your smartphone. It can communicate with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control smart devices with voice commands when you’re away. And it can work with dual-band routers (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) with no problem. But since it’s a non-PoE device, to connect the Zigbee hub on the managed PoE switch, you’ll need the help of a PoE splitter. 

Gigabit PoE Splitter with a 5V Output

This Gigabit PoE splitter is a cost-effective solution to power a non-PoE device by splitting PoE from a unified network cable and delivering power and data through separate connections. It often works with a PoE switch or a PoE injector to power non-PoE devices in hard-to-reach areas where is hard to find a power outlet, eliminating the need for additional AC wiring. This PoE splitter can supply a maximum power of 20W to the non-PoE device on a regulated power output of 5V DC, which makes it ideal for use with our R7 Zigbee wired hub. Moreover, it also supports 1500V high voltage isolation to prevent the transfer of high or hazardous voltages between circuits and secure a safe connection between devices. 

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