One piece of good news for our industry is that our manufacturers are responding to the real needs of installation companies and their technicians. For example, many IP camera vendors have greatly simplified the programming necessary to get the camera or encoder up on the client’s LAN and achieving Internet connectivity with smartphone viewing. The latest Axis Communications IP cameras can use their free Axis Camera Companion software to quickly make IP cameras functional by defaulting many of the common selections such as full-time and motion recording times; if selected, these cameras can also be rapidly connected to the Internet using Axis’ free Remote Access cloud-based technology. Other vendors are starting to get it, with regard to making IP device programming easier to the benefit of our industry, as quicker programming reduces installation time and potential programming errors — the fewer selections, the less that can go wrong.
In my 40 years in this industry, I have come to the conclusion that many system problems and technician frustrations come from the installation and testing of network cabling jacks and plugs. Whereas in the old days we just had to get the right wire under the correct screw and torque it down, now technicians working on IP devices must properly terminate all eight conductors in a Cat5e or 6 cable, while making sure that only a minimum distance of the paired conductors are untwisted so as to minimize the potential for EMI/RFI and crosstalk between the pairs.
When installing new Cat5e/6 cable and connectors it is very important that the male RJ-45 plugs are properly terminated and tested. While today our devices (IP cameras, access panels, card readers, etc.) most often use the 100 Mbps Ethernet communications protocol on the LAN, it is probable that future electronic security devices will use the 1000 Mbps/Gigabit Ethernet protocol. If we are installing new structured cabling we should be thinking about the future; that same cable may need to support higher bandwidth Ethernet connectivity sooner than you think.
Some RJ-45 plug manufacturers require that once the conductors are placed in their proper order, typically 568B, a pair of scissors or other cutting tool is used to clip the conductors off at a specific length so that they will reach the connection pins on the inside of the RJ-45. Cut too short and the connections aren’t made and the plug fails; cut too long and excess untwisted conductors will be sticking out of the back of the plug, and the outer jacket will not be clamped into the RJ-45 plug strain relief tab.
Recently IDEAL Industries (www.idealind.com) has released new RJ-45 plugs and crimping tools that allow the individual conductors to be pulled or pushed completely through the plug. This can be quite beneficial because it is easier to check that the proper color code is lined up in the plug, and there is no possibility that a conductor is too short to make the proper connection to the IDC connection pins in the plug. Once the color code is verified, a simple crimping tool completes the connector and cuts off the excess conductor, producing a high-quality RJ-45 plug that will consistently test “good.”
IDEAL has put some thought into making these Feed Thru Modular Plugs of the highest quality. The IDC pins within the plugs are constructed of gold-plated nickel to reduce oxidation and corrosion, and the cutting blade arrangement on the crimping/cutting tool is such that there is no possibility of excess conductors sticking out of the RJ-45 jack, which has caused some major headaches when other vendors’ pull-through jacks have been used. In some cases excess conductors have been smeared over the face of the jack, creating a short while there have been some problems connecting non-IDEAL RJ-45s to specific network switches and devices. This can cause havoc with PoE powered devices.
The crimping tool (part number 30-495) can be used on standard Cat5e, Cat6 and shielded RJ-45 plugs without modifications. The tool is small and crimping can easily be performed one-handed as my semi-arthritic hand has demonstrated. The cutting blade is good for more than 2,000 plugs and is easily replaceable with a screwdriver.
So where do the “better, faster, less expensive” concepts apply to these IDEAL feed-through plugs and tools? The IDEAL plugs are better because excess conductors are always removed and cannot cause issues with connections to devices. They are better because installers no longer have to exactly measure the length of untwisted conductors; once fed into the back of the plug the conductors can be snugly seated by gently pulling them until the outer cable jacket is under the strain relief tab. A quick check of the color code then a crimp/cut, and the plug is done. And as far as “less expensive” — I compared the single-lot prices of the IDEAL crimp/cut tool against the competition; the IDEAL tool is about $50, which is roughly 15 percent less expensive than the competition. If you are using primarily Cat5e plugs, your savings by using the IDEAL feed-through products is substantial with 100 packs selling for roughly $43 per hundred, a 25 percent savings over other vendors’ pull-through RJ-45s.
Installation companies need to make sure that all of their network and other device connections are good the first time, and will continue to provide maximum bandwidth and PoE functionality. Check out the IDEAL Industries’ Feed-Thru plugs and crimping tools to make the best connections for your installations.