Down to the Wire

Driving a Ferrari is exhilarating – unless you happen to be on a dirt road. Whether it’s a sophisticated automobile or wired security device, both will fail miserably if not provided a suitable pathway. For the latter, it’s key to know the technologies and standards.

Structured cabling is the backbone of any modern-day automation, security or life-safety system. As we see the worlds of analog and digital technology merge into more comprehensive IP-based systems, there is an ever-increasing demand to correctly and uniformly specify, design, install and test these sometimes massive cabling systems.

For one to properly navigate the labyrinth of structured cabling projects, one must tap into the resources of many organizations and standards that have evolved from several parallel industries through the years. It is also important to understand the relationships and influences between your vertical projects and the cabling industry’s standards and organizations.

Key professional associations are the cornerstone of the cabling industry. Listed below are some of the organizations that presently have a major influence on how structured cabling is utilized.

Organizations You Should Know

Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) Based in Tampa, Fla., BICSI is a professional association supporting the information transport systems (ITS) industry. ITS professionals cover the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety/security and audio/video technologies. Members can also increase their professional stature by becoming a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD).

The organization encompasses the design, integration and installation of pathways, spaces, fiber- and copper-based distribution systems, wireless systems, and infrastructure that supports the transportation of information and associated signaling between and among communications- and information-gathering devices. With more than 23,000 ITS professionals, including designers, installers and  technicians, BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the cabling industry. It offers courses, conferences, publications and professional registration programs. For more information:

Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) — TIA of Arlington, Va., is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop voluntary industry standards for a wide variety of telecommunications products. TIA’s Standards and Technology Department is comprised of 10 technology areas that sponsor more than 70 standards-formulating groups. Each area is represented by engineering committees and subcommittees that create the standards.

Within TIA, more than 1,000 individuals — with representatives from manufacturers, service providers and end users, including the government — serve on the standards-setting groups. To ensure representation for the positions of U.S. telecommunications equipment producers in the international arena, TIA also participates in many international standards-setting activities. For more information:

Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) — UL, based in Camas, Wash., evaluates wire and cable products under more than 70 different product categories, using more than 30 standards for safety. UL’s complete verification programs cover safety, performance, quality assurance, unannounced factory follow-up inspection and follow-up testing at UL.

UL verification helps consumers, specifiers, distributors and manufacturers identify cabling products that meet nationally recognized safety requirements as well as industry specifications for performance and quality. Users rely on the safety of products that carry the UL Mark. For more information:

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) — Quincy, Mass.-based NFPA’s 300 codes and standards influence every building, process, service, design and installation in the United States, as well as many of those used in other countries. Its code-development process is driven by more than 6,000 volunteers from diverse professional backgrounds who serve on 230 technical codes and standards development committees. Throughout the process, interested parties are encouraged to provide NFPA technical committees with input, and NFPA members vote on proposed and revised codes and standards. For more information:

TIA is a very influential standards organization in the cabling and systems industry. One of the challenges with equipment that is getting faster and faster is being able to specify a system that will not only perform well in the present but will also have a decent life expectancy for the near future.

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