Hardware vendors are planning notebook and handheld computers to be launched in the next two years to exploit the new Power over Ethernet standard.
Following ratification of the IEEE 802.3af Power over Ethernet standard last month there has been rapid adoption of Power over Ethernet, primarily for IP phones, network-based video security cameras and wireless local area networks.
The standard allows power to be delivered through a standard Ethernet cable, reducing the number of cables needed.
Notebook computers are likely to use the technology within 18 months, according to Amir Lehr, vice president of business development and strategic planning at Power over Ethernet company PowerDsine.
"The challenge for notebooks which have an RJ45 Ethernet connection as well as power support is to reduce their power needs," said Lehr.
"Currently, 16W to 20W is needed; the vast majority used for screen displays. But a small screen power reduction means a big power saving."
Lehr said Intel, AMD and Motorola are among companies working on lower power notebooks that could use Power over Ethernet. He added that the standard was probably only 18 months away from reaching the mass market.
PowerDsine's MidSpan units support up to 15W per port.
Hewlett Packard (HP) also expects to have products such as switches, hubs and routers ready to use the standard by the end of this year.
"We'll have network products ready in October or even before," said Jon Weatherall, ProCurve networking country manager for HP in the UK and Ireland.
"The focus is to provide power to edge switches and IP phones. This will support 7.5W per port or more with an additional power supply. Longer term, we'll be building power over Ethernet into most products - up to two thirds of the whole range."
The benefits of Power over Ethernet vary according to application. For IP phones, providing a single power and data connection removes a major disadvantage against traditional analogue and digital phone systems.
According to Lehr, some 85 per cent of IP phones are already adapted to use internet power.
For security cameras, there is no need to provide an electrical outlet in awkward places. The Power over Ethernet units also monitor power consumption,so they can send an SNMP alert if power is suddenly lost (through tampering, for instance).
In the longer term, said Lehr, there is a big opportunity for in-home networking to simplify the connection of appliances.
Additional reporting by Iain Thomson.
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