Key Learnings From the BICSI Winter Conference
I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2024 BICSI Winter Conference. While my attendance at the conference was mandatory to maintain credentials, it does not mean that I wasn’t looking forward to it. In the ICT (Information Communication Technology) industry, nobody puts on a better conference than BICSI. They’re the leading global resource for education, training and publications for all things related to low-voltage systems and telecommunications. People from around the world attend these conferences to best posture themselves and the organizations they represent for success in the constant technological revolution we seem to find ourselves in year after year.
As a preconstruction manager at Faith Technologies, I’m tasked with staying current with the trends and changes within the trade, and attending this conference helps me do exactly that. It was full of new products, best practices, continuing education and professional networking. Below are some of the most impactful takeaways.
The entire exhibition hall was full of vendors sharing their latest offerings. Every booth had something new and exciting to share. Here are my three favorite product trends from the show.
- Class 4 Power – Also known as fault-managed power systems (FMPS), Class 4 Power is a new circuit term defined in the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) that is published by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). This new form of power distribution can deliver up to 450V DC through digital sine wave “pulses” where it monitors for faults in between each pulse, which significantly mitigates shock and fire hazards. All of this is performed over a low voltage cable! New technologies utilizing this circuit type were showcased on the exhibition floor by various manufacturers, and all were able to show how hundreds, or maybe thousands, of watts of power are capable of being transmitted over a system that wouldn’t necessarily require a licensed electrician. Various edge device use cases come to mind, especially when considering the incredibly long distances Class 4 Power can reach. I’ll be keeping a close eye on these systems as I’m confident we’ll see great things come to market because of them.
- Ultra-High-Density Fiber Distribution – A very clear and present trend in the ICT industry is the continuation of finding new ways to pack more fiber strands into cables, more connectors into racks and more racks into data centers! Most of the booths within the exhibition hall were showcasing new “high capacity” fiber distribution hardware, cabling or tools to support it. What’s using all this fiber? Data centers! The industry is under incredible stress to manage the ever-increasing needs that the data center market is creating due to autonomous vehicle infrastructures, artificial intelligence (AI) services, smart cities and more.
- Smart Patch Panels and Software – Speaking of high-density challenges, imagine being an IT professional and being able to see port status and capacity on your copper or fiber termination panels anytime you need. These systems are easy to deploy since the sensors are built right into the termination hardware, and any control equipment is simple to set up and rack mountable. This level of monitoring and surveillance was initially designed for critical systems within data center environments, but now with its ease of deployment and a much healthier price point, these systems are an attractive option for almost any network environment.
It wouldn’t be a BICSI conference without a wide variety of valuable formal training opportunities. Whether you’re preparing and studying for your next credential exam or earning continuing education credits to maintain existing ones, these conferences have what you’re looking for. More than that, though, is the informal training that can be found; there is education in meeting new industry professionals, comparing experiences and walking the exhibition hall searching for something you’ve never seen before. Not everything needs to be learned in a webinar or classroom, you just need to get out there and be curious.
The conference was framed around three strong keynote presentations that occurred at the opening, mid-week and closing. The topics tackled three very relevant challenges this industry is currently facing:
- What does the future of data centers look like? Chris Stott from Lonestar spoke about the wild project he’s facing: to build the first data center network on the moon!
- Matt Havens’ presentation titled Stop Acting Your Age – Avoid Generational Warfare I found to be of vital importance to this industry as it’s undergoing a massive loss in experience and wisdom through the wave of retiring professionals.
- Chad Pregracke shared his story on the value of simply volunteering your time. This message hits home for BICSI as they are a not-for-profit supported by memberships and an incredible amount of volunteer hours.
This year marked the 16th anniversary of the BICSI Cabling Skills Challenge. Installers and technicians faced off in a series of installation tasks that test not only their speed but also their accuracy and craftsmanship, with the winner receiving a cash prize and the Installer of the Year trophy. Congratulations go out to Thomas Pate for being the 2024 Installer of the Year!
Did you attend the BICSI Winter conference? I’d love to hear from you – what was your favorite part of the event?
If you are interested in a career as a BICSI certified technician and want to find out more about Faith Technologies, please check out our apprenticeship program and also our job board that we continuously update.