The Changing Landscape of Secure KVM Switching Certifications

Until recently, the National Information Assurance Partnership (NAIP) used Common Criteria Evaluation & Validation Scheme (CCEVS) to evaluate and approve KVM switches for security. EAL2 and EAL4+ are tests regarding the process of the design, testing, verification, and shipping of security products. This protection profile is an international standardized process for information technology security evaluation, validation, and certification.

NAIP has determined that EAL and CCEVS are no longer adequate security standards for KVM switches that connect to systems with differing security classifications. As a result, they  upgraded the Protection Profile (PP) for peripheral sharing switches to PPS 3.0. Still, the next generation of secure switches are going to need to be TEMPEST-approved for the tightest security measures available.

TEMPEST testing, while classified, is regarded as a process that assesses the port-to-port isolation required for certain KVM switches. A TEMPEST approval means the necessary isolation is achieved and qualified. Additionally, the threat of data leaking by various covert electromagnetic eavesdropping mechanisms has been evaluated and found to be secure.

The TEMPEST designation is often required by military organizations. TEMPEST, as a security standard, pertains to technical security countermeasures, standards, and instrumentation that prevent or minimize the exploitation of vulnerable data communications equipment by technical surveillance or eavesdropping.

A desktop KVM switch at its most basic, is simply a hardware device that enables one workstation consisting of a keyboard, video monitor, and mouse to control more than one CPU. Desktop KVM switches are usually 2- or 4-port switches, and by pushing button or using keystrokes, users can easily access information and applications on completely separate systems.

Secure KVM switches fill a special need in switching for users, such as those in the military, government agencies, or law enforcement, who need to access information stored at different classification levels on physically separate systems. A secure desktop KVM switch is usual a two or four-port switch that provides control and separation of PCs connected to networks of differing security classifications. TEMPEST-approved switches offer the following features:

  •  High port-to-port electrical isolation, which facilitates data separation (RED/BLACK). Channel-to-channel –80-dB to 60-dB crosstalk isolation protects against signal snooping, so software tools and applications cannot be used to access any connected computer from another connected computer.
  • Switches are permanently hard wired, preventing access from one CPU to the others or access from one network to others.
  • External tamper-evident seals make it easy to spot attempted tampering.
  • Users can safely switch among as many as four computers operating at different classification levels.
  • Unidirectional flow of keyboard and mouse data means the computer cannot leak data along K/M signaling channels.
  • USB host controller erases entire RAM at each channel switchover. This prevents residual data from remaining in the channel after a channel change and being transferred to another computer.
  • Only keyboard and mouse devices can be enumerated at the keyboard and mouse ports. Any other USB peripheral connected will be inhibited from operating, preventing the upload or download of unauthorized data.

The Secure Desktop KVM Switches with USB from Black Box surpass the security profiles of most other KVM switches because they have received approvals and certifications in the TEMPEST testing standard.

Additional Resources
White Paper: HD Video and Peripheral Matrix Switching

InfoComm 2015 Preview: Top 10 Black Box Solutions

We’re just mere weeks away from the largest event for professional AV in the world – InfoComm 2015. So, it’s about time we share what’s going on at Black Box. With a sea of exhibitors (over 980, wow), this pre-event list will keep you on track to find the right AV solution for your next project.

Here’s a quick look at what you’ll see at the Black Box booth.

1. *New* 16 x 16 and 8 x 8 Modular AV Matrix Switcher
This new, flexible AV matrix allows seamless switching of audio and video with up to 4K resolution as well as extension up to 230 feet (70 m). The modular matrix switcher with built-in conversion and scaling allow users to mix legacy equipment with new digital systems. Although the world is moving to digital, there are still a multitude of interfaces around. This solution meets those needs with I/O cards for HDMI, DVI, VGA, analog video, and HDBaseT for extension. Ideal for corporate, government and military, and education markets. Available Fall 2015.

2. *New* Digital KVM Matrix Switch
This 30-port, less than 1U, digital KVM matrix switch is for multiple users in smaller broadcast studios and server rooms. This cost-effective matrix KVM switch supports up to 30 endpoints. The graphical user interface is intuitive and simple to use. The on-screen display of the GUI makes setup and configuration simple.The space-saving switch uses Server Access Modules (SAMs) powered by the interface to extend DVI or DisplayPort signals over CATx. The DCX3000 extends signals over CATx cable, 30 feet (10 m) from the KVM switch to the workstation, and 164 feet (50 m) from switch to CPU.

3. AV-Over-IP Extension, Switching, and Video Walls – MediaCento IPX
The popular MediaCento IPX video extenders enable HDMI video distribution over an IP network to a virtually unlimited number of screens. Users can choose to seamlessly distribute signals for point-to-point multicast or video wall applications up to 8 x 8. The MediaCento IPX controller can be added to the system to enable easy setup and user friendly matrix switching and video wall control from any source to any display. Learn more.

4. 4K Solutionsinfocomm-2015-mediacento-video-wall
Black Box’s 4K video solutions allow users to create impactful, state-of-the-art video systems. The 4K video product line includes:

    • A video wall controller, VideoPlex4 Video Wall Controller, which enables the user to create stunning video walls with 4K output across four or more screens.
    • A scalable digital signage solution, iCOMPEL P Series, with high-quality video display and 4K resolution support.
    • For easy video switching, a new series of 4K HDMI switches is available with up to 2 inputs (2×1 switch or 2×2 switch) and up to 4 outputs (4×1 switch or 4×2 switch). Auto switching automatically switches to an active source and makes it a great fit for the conference room. A series of splitters for 4K HDMI distribution is also available with either 2 ports or 4 ports.
    • A high-resolution DisplayPort video extender with USB 2.0, DisplayPort 4K KVM Extender over CATx, which enables the user to create an unchanged user experience at remote consoles with 4K monitors.
    • A variety of high-speed HDMI cables: Slim-Line, Active, and Hybrid Copper/Fiber.

5. DKM FX Video and Peripheral Matrix Switching System
A highly reliable video and peripheral matrix switching and routing system supporting high-resolution HD-SDI, HDMI, and KVM in one flexible, scalable product. Learn more.

6. Multiviewer KVM – 4Site Flex4Site-Flex
4Site Flex provides fluid video performance in a multiscreen viewer with KVM and video processors for monitoring and control. Includes HDCP support and seamless switching. Learn more.

7. 4-Port KVM Switch – Freedom II
Get fast, reliable switching between computer systems simply by moving a mouse from screen to screen. The Black Box Freedom II creates a unified desktop across multiple PCs and operating systems. Learn more.

KVM-FREEDOM

8. Agility IP-Based KVM Switching and Extension
Improve workflow and efficiency, and send HD video, KVM, USB, and audio signals over an IP network. The transmitters and receivers extend signals over CATx cable up to 330 feet (100 m), and even farther with the addition of network switches. Learn more.

9. HDBaseT Recommend Cables and Certified Extenders
Black Box HDBaseT Recommended cables and HDBaseT-certified extenders (transmitter and receiver) guarantee the highest level of reliability and compatibility in today’s demanding-bandwidth intensive AV applications.

10. Zero-Client Virtual Desktop Computing – InvisaPCInvisaPC
IP-based LAN/WAN solution enables point-to-point KVM extension and transition to small unmanaged matrices in a small form factor over a LAN or the Internet. Unique features include: connectivity to virtual machines, traditional point-to-point extension over IP, flexible extension and remote access, and soft migration from real to virtual machines. Learn more.

Find something that sparked your interest? Stop by InfoComm booth #5143 for a demo. Or, call a Black Box technical specialist today at 877-877-2269.

BONUS: Get a free exhibitor pass to InfoComm 2015 with VIP Code BLA176. Register here.

3 Ways to Extend Your Ethernet LAN

Copper CATx cable supports Ethernet distances up to 100 meters. That’s not a problem when you’re connecting workstations in a building. But what happens when you need to extend the reach of your LAN beyond 100 meters to connect a distant department, a building across campus or across town, Wi-Fi access points, IP security cameras, or even remote monitoring stations in industrial environments.

That’s where Ethernet extension comes in. Depending on your environment and application, there are three ways to extend your Ethernet LAN beyond the nearest closet.

1. LAN extension over fiber optic cable with media convertersExtend-Your-LAN-Criteria
Media converters are a popular and economical solution for converting Ethernet cable runs from copper to fiber. They can be used in pairs (near-end/far-end) or with Ethernet switches.

Fiber optic cable offers the best performance for long-range network extension. That’s why the telephone and cable companies made such a big deal about using it. Multimode fiber has a range of 550 meters for 10/100/1000 Ethernet links. Single-mode fiber offers distances of more than 30 km for 10/100/1000 Ethernet extension.

Fiber also offers the advantage of being immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI), surges, spikes, and ground loops. That makes it well suited for connecting buildings across campus, across town, and in industrial environments.

There are a number of different types of media converter options ranging from simple, unmanaged, compact converters that mount on panels or DIN rails to managed converters that mount in equipment racks. There are also converters available for commercial and industrial applications. A common industrial application is to use a media converter with PoE capabilities to power and backhaul an IP camera signal over fiber.

2. LAN extension over existing copper cabling with Ethernet extenders.
In some cases, it’s possible to use existing facilities to extend your LAN. If there is an existing twisted-pair copper or coax cable run, then you can extend your network with a pair of Ethernet extenders. Use one at each end to convert Ethernet to DSL (digital subscriber line) and back again to Ethernet. Extenders can deliver 50-Mbps speeds over 300 meters or about 10-Mbps at 1400 meters.

Using existing twisted-pair cablingtwisted-pair-extend-LAN
A common application is a security checkpoint services upgrade. The checkpoint may have originally been connected only with twisted-pair cable to support an analog phone. By using a pair of Ethernet extenders (near-end/far-end), the checkpoint can be upgraded to support an Ethernet LAN connection, a VoIP phone, and an IP camera.

Using existing coax cabling
Another common application is a security camera network upgrade. When you replace older, analog security camera systems with newer, digital IP cameras, you can save a lot of installation time (and labor costs) by using the existing coax cabling with Ethernet extender on each end.

3. Wireless Ethernet extensionWireless-Extension
2.4-/5-GHz radio extension
Wireless Ethernet extenders provide a very cost-effective method for extending a LAN/WAN beyond 100 meters. They eliminate the need to buy new cable, dig expensive trenches for fiber cable, and also the time-consuming waits for rights of way.

Wireless Ethernet extenders are the most seamless way to extend LAN connections up to several miles across office parks; on business, educational, and medical campuses; in enterprise business complexes; and in industrial settings, such as factories or oil/gas field drilling operations, and even in traffic control.

Wireless Ethernet is frequently used to connect line-of-sight networks that are miles apart. While wireless extension is often used in enterprise business applications, where it really shines is in industrial applications, such as data acquisition, control, and monitoring; HVAC controls; and security and surveillance, to name a few. The extender radios can also be PoE powered to simplify installation.

Cellular extension
Cellular wireless routers provide an alternative to wireless Ethernet extension. Anywhere you can get cellular phone reception, you can set up a network. Cellular routers can be used to provide the primary network connection for industrial environments where it’s too expensive or impractical to run a wired access network, such as cable or DSL. Cellular routers are also used in factories, oil/gas field drilling operations, and in traffic control.

Cellular routers are available for all the major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon) and all networks (3G, 4G, and LTE). Cellular routers eliminate any line-of-sight and distance limitations that may exist with radio wireless extension.

Additional resources:
White Paper: Media Converters: The Time for Fiber is Now
White Paper: Power over Ethernet in Industrial Applications
White Paper: 5 Questions to Ask about Wireless Ethernet Extension
Webinar: Wireless Solutions for M2M, Security, and Mobile Data Networks
Video: Wireless Ethernet Extenders

The secret to creating good digital signage content

Educate. Entertain. Engage. Whatever your overall digital signage goal may be, a key part of that success is the quality of the content. Without useful and easy-to-understand content, you will lose your viewer’s interest.

So, where do you get fresh, relevant digital signage content? And, when and how should you present it?

Reduce, reuse, and repurpose.
You can use brand assets such as logos, images, original photos, stock photos/footage, and existing marketing materials for signage presentation, along with all the included visual icons, colors, and text fonts. This all enables you to maintain a look and feel that matches previously created marketing materials.

You can reuse more than just images. Repurpose approved tag lines, corporate boilerplate, and marketing copy from sales materials. This transmedia approach of repurposing and adapting existing media elements can significantly reduce digital signage design and production time. Plus, the re-use of such media assets can improve the consistency of brand presentation while reinforcing the brand identity.

PowerPoint or keynote slides offer ease of composition of text and graphic elements. Individual slides can be saved as .jpeg or .pdf files for playout, but because they lack the motion that compels notice, viewing, and action, they should be used sparingly, and as part of a playloop that includes animated messages.

Website content is typically too busy and information intensive for digital signage. However, you can easily repurpose text and graphics from websites to suit digital signage viewing and messaging. The key to using Web content is to distill the messages down to key elements including features, benefits, and a call to action.

Quick tip: Sans-serif fonts and large font sizes work best for at-a-glance reading. Avoid using too many fonts in a single piece of content, and keep colored text at a minimum. Avoid writing in all caps.

Design relevant content for a specific audience, context, and timedigital-signage-content-hallway of the day.
Information is powerful. People make or change their opinions based on it. It offers viewers a reason to shift their opinion or to act. So, providing information that increases the pertinence or the value of a product or service to the viewer is important. Information can include features, benefits, differentiators, value propositions, ways of using a product, pricing, or special offers.

Content must present the benefits inherent in the message to answer this question in the viewer’s mind: “What is in it for me?” By answering this question, a communicator increases the probability of the intended action being taken.

Keep in mind, just because content works well for one audience doesn’t mean it will work well for another.

Take advantage of the fact that dynamic signage enables real-time messaging. Deliver content that most speaks to the target audience at the location and time of day. When developing your content, take into account the age, gender, jobs, level of education, and personal income and wealth of your target audience. For example, a store’s antacid advertisement could carry a different message to an older, health-conscientious consumer than to a young consumer shopping for junk food.

Again, it comes back to delivering the right message at the right place and at the right time.

Quick tip: Consider where your audience will be viewing the signage – how close will they be to the sign? How long do you expect your audience to view the sign? A hallway, for example, may call for a short delay, but a waiting room may call for a longer delay.

Keep it simple.
Regardless of where the digital signage is viewed, it should not include paragraphs of text. It should be seen as a communication-at-a-glance display where viewers grab pieces of content at a time.

Quick tip: Keep words few and short; rewrite a few times to make it more concise. Write in phrases rather than full sentences. Use active voice and action verbs.

Consider the message length.
Dynamic content is most effective when clear, short textual messages are presented with graphics and motion. The best spots present basic information and ask for action in a succinct and direct manner. A story is best told in 10–15 seconds with three-second messages being combined to form a complete spot. For example, a 10-second game promotion spot would include text of “our team vs. their team,” “the game date,” and “buy tickets” messaging transitioning with the graphics of a team logo, player, or uniform.

The duration (i.e., length) of a spot should be in context of the viewing time and the overall playloop time. As guidelines, a complete spot should be viewed easily during a single viewing episode, with multiple spots typically being presented in the same viewing episode. As with other media, digital signage spots become stale after having been viewed seven times. Fortunately, a digital signage spot can be recomposed in variations of the same message with minimal effort, offering a refreshed delivery of the same message.

Quick tip: To create a fresh, non-pattern feel, mix the duration times from screen to screen in a set. Change up your layouts so viewers notice a change.

digital-signage-content-buildingKeep the content fresh.
Messages can typically be viewed between two and seven times; after that, they’re commonly disregarded by viewers. By including multiple playout zones on a display, each with different playloops or data feed messages, the network operator is able to allow content spots to run for a longer “flight” period.

Playloops: A playloop comprises a number of individual content spots that play out one after the other. The length of the playloop coincides with the viewer’s ability to see the messages. If, for example, the average waiting time in a medical office is 20 minutes, the playloop would include 20 minutes of messages. If someone takes an elevator many times in a day or week, the playloop would coincide with his or her total visit time.

Dayparts: These use playloops of content spots that are most relevant to the time of day. For instance, the playloop shown at concession stands during the final period of a game may show taxi or public transit promotions and food that would need to be discarded if not sold. Playloops in the workplace should get employees working on the business of the company on Monday and urge completing work as the week ends.

Quick tip: Consider where your audience will be viewing the signage – how close will they be to the sign? How long do you expect your audience to view the sign? A hallway, for example, may call for a short delay, but a waiting room may call for a longer delay.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?
Black Box offers digital signage products that range from plug-and-play to highly scalable, sophisticated solutions. If you’re considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer at 877-877-2269, or comment below.

For more tips on successful digital signage, get the free white paper: Roadmap to Digital Signage Success.

6 Steps to Planning Your School’s Digital Signage Solution

Schools worldwide use digital signage to alert, inform, and educate students and faculty. Applications vary. For example, schools use digital signage to: promote events in schools; aid in instructional efforts or wayfinding; communicate important, up-to-date information; broadcast emergency alerts and instructions; and centralize the distribution and production of content.

With the many available digital signage solutions, finding the right one for your school might seem like an overwhelming task. But taking some time to research and understand your options will be well worth the investment. Follow these key steps.

1. Define your goals and objectives.
What do you want to achieve? Also, think about scalability. For instance, how do you want the system to serve you long term? Putting up a screen in your school’s lobby certainly constitutes a big step in improving communications in your institution. But how will that hardware expenditure work when you want to expand? Approaching digital signage deployment in piecemeal fashion can be fiscally problematic.

2. Clearly define the content.
The success of any digital signage system starts, of course, with the content. It must look fresh, exciting, and professional. Who will create it and how will it be presented? Do you have internal resources and expertise, or will you need to outsource content creation?

A good source of creative and editorial help can be found in aspiring graphic designers chosen from the student ranks, in addition to your school’s art department, yearbook and newspaper staffs, and TV studio (if you have one).

3. Invest the time to understand your options.
Once you’ve decided on content, you need to consider the infrastructure that will deliver it and study your display options. For example:

  • LCD vs. plasma
  • Zones
  • RSS feeds
  • Live video
  • Dynamic content
  • Remote management
  • Playback verification

The options will seem limitless, so taking time to sort through them is important.

4. Involve all the appropriate stakeholders.
The communications/information department should be involved at the start, considering that your digital signage will likely be used for external community relations. In addition to your district’s administration (superintendent, principals, and purchasing personnel), don’t forget to include instructional technology staff. This includes the AV department; maintenance and security staff; your curriculum, athletic, and cafeteria directors; and key school board members. Digital signage implementation also involves all the usual IT suspects: network and database managers, webmasters, and infrastructure engineers.

5. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it.
When it’s used to simply advertise or promote school events, digital signage can be seen by some as a luxury item—particularly with shrinking school budgets and rising instructional expenses. However, since it can also be used as a tool for emergency communications and notification, administrators can easily make the case to their school boards that digital signage is a must-have component of any crisis plan—especially in this era when school violence incidents capture news headlines. Consider government and private sources of funding for your digital notification system.

And whether it’s kept entirely as an IT expenditure or distributed across multiple departments in your budget, you need a spending roadmap in addition to a developmental one. The hardest part with this may be determining the total cost of ownership over the life of the system, including any nickel-and-diming with ongoing licenses and upgrades.

6. Decide how to implement the solution.
Based on your deployment size and scope, decide if you can implement it in-house or if you need the help of a professional integrator.

A number of “out-of-the box” systems can be set up with relative ease. But the more dynamic and complex the system, the more complicated the implementation and ongoing management—and the more likely you’ll need outside help.

Need help planning your next digital signage solution?
Black Box offers digital signage products that range from plug-and-play to highly scalable, sophisticated solutions. If you’re considering a larger deployment with a fully integrated network solution, enlist the help of a seasoned digital signage professional. Contact a Black Box technical engineer at 877-877-2269, or comment below.

DisplayPort Interface for 4K, Explained

DisplayPort is the most recent digital video interface to be developed for commercial use. It is a standard for PCs.

The DisplayPort standard was designed as a replacement for DVI connectors on computer hardware. The connector is smaller and screwless for easier installation. The connector still has a locking mechanism to hold it in place, addressing a weakness of the HDMI connector. It is similar in specifications to HDMI, but it is more common for computers than for televisions.

DisplayPort uses a packet type of interface, just like an IP network does. The network-like design means a single connection can send multiple streams, so a single DisplayPort port can connect to more than one display.

DisplayPort uses very high speeds, enabled by the packet-type delivery that is implemented through chipsets. One can think of it as a high-speed network for digital video. DisplayPort uses a serial interface with up to four main data lanes that can carry multiplexed video and audio data. Each data lane supports a raw data rate of 1.62 Gbps, 2.7 Gbps, or 5.4 Gbps (DisplayPort 1.2 or later). Additionally, unlike with DVI, an audio channel is supported — up to eight channels of 16- or 24-bit at 48 KHz, 96 KHz, or 192 KHz.

DisplayPort and DVI
DisplayPort and DVI use different signal processing methods, but converting between the two can be done with adapters. Some DisplayPort ports have internal components to make them passively compatible with DVI signals, but this is not a DisplayPort requirement. This is known as Dual Mode, or DP++. It appears that DisplayPort is converted to DVI, but the hardware outputs a DVI signal through a DisplayPort port. If the hardware in use can’t output the DVI signal, then a DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter won’t operate. Users should look for the DP++ symbol.

DVI offers no audio support, which gives another advantage to DisplayPort. An additional advantage for DisplayPort is that packetizing data lowers demand on bandwidth. DVI uses separate data channels for each color, requiring high bandwidth all the time.

DisplayPort and HDMI
Since HDMI technology and DVI use the same signal technology, HDMI and DisplayPort have similar compatibility issues noted already.

HDMI is the digital standard targeted to home theater, and DisplayPort was developed for use with computer electronics. However, feature-wise, DisplayPort is very similar to HDMI, including the inclusion of the HDCP content-protection standard.

Some differences include:

  • DisplayPort has a maximum bandwidth that is larger than the maximum bandwidth of HDMI (10.8 Gbit/sec, compared to HDMI at 10.2).
  • DisplayPort supports DPCP (DisplayPort Content Protection) standard in addition to HDCP.
  • DisplayPort is an open standard, available to all manufacturers at no cost; HDMI is licensed, which raises costs.
  • DisplayPort supports resolutions up to 4K.

For additional information on 4K-ready DisplayPort solutions, visit www.blackbox.com/4K.

One Cable – That’s the HDBaseT Technology Way

Ultra-high definition multimedia content over a single cable. That’s the beauty of HDBaseT technology.

Around for just about five years now, HDBaseT technology gained popularity when LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Valens formed the HDBaseT Alliance. Today, it’s the standard for distribution of uncompressed HD multimedia content. As an installer, integrator, or even consumer of electronics you should be aware of the technology’s benefits, best practices, and challenges.

For starters, HDBaseT makes your life much easier. No more multiple cables and connectors in your home and business. Thanks to the 5Play™ feature set, which converges uncompressed full HD digital video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power over cable, and other control signals through a single LAN cable for up to 328 ft. (100 m).

While the technology was developed to work with CAT5e cables, installers and integrators recommend CAT6 cables for better performance and error-free transmission. And, for even longer distances, the latest HDBaseT 2.0 specification enables the transmission of audio and video, Ethernet, USB, and controls over fiber optic cable.

So, why should you take advantage of HDBaseT technology? Our friends at HDBaseT Alliance put together a quick list of HDBaseT benefits on their website, which I’ve shared below.

HDBaseT technology benefits:
1. Distance
Cable length has always been a challenge, until now. HDBaseT technology can be used over 100 m [328 ft.] with a single hop or up to 800 m [almost a half a mile] with 8 hops.

2. 5Play
HDBaseT delivers video, audio, Ethernet, controls, and power over a single cable, enabling you to reduce your cable assortment down to a single super cable.

3. Elegance
HDBaseT requires only a single cable. Elegance. Aesthetics. Grace.

4. Quality
HDBaseT delivers smooth, uncompressed, ultra-high definition video in up to 4K effective resolution. HDBaseT technology fully supports all 3D video standards.

5. Simplicity
HDBaseT technology uses a standard CAT5e/6 twisted-pair LAN cable with standard RJ-45 connectors, enabling easy termination, deployment, and testing.

6. Affordability
HDBaseT relies on low cost CAT5e/6 infrastructure and hence greatly reduces installation costs. In addition, due to HDBaseT’s inherent power transmission capability, electricity infrastructure costs are also reduced.

7. Standard
HDBaseT technology is a true industry standard. HDBaseT Certification Program provides Alliance members with a formal framework that ensures cross-vendor product interoperability and standard compliance.

To add to their list, HDBaseT also is the only standard that delivers uncompressed Ultra-HD 4K video for up to 328 ft. (100m).

Given all these capabilities and backing by the HDBaseT Alliance, it’s hard to imagine there could be any HDBaseT challenges. As with any newer technology, they exist.

How to avoid HDBaseT system deployment issues
Not all electronic products on the market are HDBaseT-certified. For example, not all manufacturers follow the HDBaseT Alliance recommendations for power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities. Technologists must be able to determine interoperability of different HDBaseT products.

The Alliance presents recommendations and workable solutions to reduce connectivity challenges. To find out more, download the Alliance’s white paper, HDBaseT™ Do’s & Don’ts and Best Practices. The resource covers the good and acceptable HDBaseT practices, the bad practices that should be avoided, and the recommended and preferred practices. It even includes a checklist for your next HDBaseT system implementation.

Ready to set up your next HDBaseT system? Black Box is an HDBaseT Alliance adopter member and has the largest selection of HDBaseT cables in the industry. Get free, application engineering from a Black Box technical specialist today at 877-877-2269.

Cable basics: Shielded vs. unshielded cable

One of the most obvious advantages copper offers is that it is less expensive than fiber cable and much easier to terminate in the field. The type of cable you choose depends on the environment and application.

Twisted pair cable used in networking applications typically consists of four pairs of 22–28 AWG copper wires, each covered by insulators and twisted together. There are two types of twisted pair cable, unshielded and shielded.

Shielded vs. unshielded cable
Unshielded twisted pair
This is the most widely used cable. Known as balanced twisted pair, UTP consists of twisted pairs (usually four) in a PVC or plenum jacket. When installing UTP cable, make sure you use trained technicians. Field terminations, bend radius, pulling tension, and cinching can all loosen pair twists and degrade performance. Also take note of any sources of EMI. Choose UTP for electrically quiet environments.

Shielded twisted pair
Over the past twenty years, the need for speed in networking has driven new cabling specifications and technologies at an ever-accelerating rate. Alongside the development of each generation of Ethernet are corresponding developments in cabling technologies. Part of that development is the increased use of shielded cable. It’s becoming more common in high-speed networks, especially when it comes to minimizing ANEXT in 10-GbE runs.

Shielded cable was traditionally used to extend distances and to minimize EMI over the length of the cable run. It still is. Sources of EMI, commonly referred to as noise, include elevator motors, fluorescent lights, generators, air conditioners, and printers.

Shielded cable can be less balanced than UTP cable because of the shield. The metal sheaths in the cable need to be grounded to cancel the effect of EMI on the conductors. Shielded cable is also more expensive, less flexible, and can be more difficult to install than UTP cable because of the grounding and bonding that’s required for a good installation.

Most shielded cable is heavier and thicker than UTP, so it fills conduits quicker. Keep that in mind as you plan your cable pathways.

Types of shields.
There are a number of different types of shielded twisted pair cable and the terminology has evolved over the years.

There are two common shields: foil sheaths and metal braids. Foil gives a 100% shield while a braid provides 40% to 95% coverage because of the holes in the braid. But, a braided shield offers better overall protection because it’s denser than foil and absorbs more EMI. A braided shield also performs better at lower frequencies. Foil, being thinner, rejects less interference, but provides better protection over a wider range of frequencies. For these reasons, combination foil and braid shields are sometimes used for the best protection. Shields can surround all the twisted pairs and/or the individual twisted pairs.

Shielding acronymsUnshielded-vs.-Shielded-Cable
Shielding acronyms have evolved over the years after confusion as to what FTP is versus STP and S/FTP. Now, the letter for the outer shield (under the cable jacket) is noted first. The letter after the slash denotes any shield on the individual twisted pairs.

U/FTP (Unshielded/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable does not have an overall outer shield. It does have foil shields on each of the four pairs. Formerly called FTP.

F/UTP (Foiled/Unshielded Twisted Pair). This cable has an overall foil shield surrounding all the pairs. Formerly called FTP. Here are examples of CAT6 and CAT5e F/UTP cable.

Sc/FTP (Screened/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall braided or screened shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP. Here’s an example of Sc/FTP cable.

F/FTP (Foiled/Foiled Twisted Pair). This cable features an overall foil shield underneath the cable jacket. It has individual foil shields on each twisted pair. Formerly called S/FTP.

Sc/FTP and F/FTP cables offer the best protection from external noise and ANEXT.

Additional resources
8 Advantages to choosing fiber over copper cable
White Paper CAT6A F/UTP vs. UTP: What You Need to Know