Category Archives: IT Services

How Artificial Intelligence is Used Across Industries

In our last post, we took a look at how artificial intelligence is the digital edge. In this post, we’ll take a look at some examples of how AI is being used in different industries.

First, let’s define artificial intelligence (AI). It is automating processes that previously required human interaction. A high-end example is a driverless car. A simpler example is a chess-playing computer. AI is changing how we work and play and it is touching every aspect of our lives. AI is the intelligent digital edge. It’s where people and devices meet. It’s processing data on the spot rather than sending it to the cloud.

AI is becoming a game changer in the financial industry. Because AI learns through progressive, deep learning algorithms, it can be predictive. In the financial industry, that means AI can be used to prevent fraud rather than just detect it. AI can also be used to change the customer experience too. For example, Capital One became the first financial services company to enable customer account access through Alexa. Today, 20% of people do their banking digitally and most financial executives believe that AI will become the primary customer touchpoint by 2020.

In a survey of 2500 senior IT decision makers conducted by Opinion Research for Mitel, 95% say digital transformation is a key component in improving the customer experience. 56% say a better customer experience results in higher customer satisfaction.

Today, customers, especially millennials, already embrace digital technology. They expect a highly personalised experience that ties together voice, video, movie and online channels. AI has already changed shopping by providing personalised recommendations based on previous customer preferences. AI can also help with store management in terms of stock, layout analysis, sales predictions, and more.

Machine learning, as a subset of AI, is already a fixture in factories and monitoring stations. But, AI has more critical uses in manufacturing and industry. By analysing IoT data, AI can forecast loads and demand, predict hardware failures and initiate recovery procedures so crews can be sent out for preventative maintenance. It’s estimated that by 2020, more than 50% of internet traffic could come from IoT sensors as the number of connected devices grows to 34 billion.

Security and Public Safety
AI is becoming a critical component in public safety. For security and surveillance cameras, AI can become the digital eyes, instead of human eyes, and analyse movement. This can help police spot crimes and monitor public spaces for accidents and disturbances.

In addition, facial recognition is a big part of security systems at borders, airports, etc. Computers can scan through thousands of images faster and more accurately than a human can. Facial recognition security is now also being used almost everywhere from smartphones and building access systems to credit cards and driver’s licenses.

Artificial intelligence is transforming every aspect of healthcare and 2018 is expected to be an explosive year for AI in healthcare. The possibilities are limitless. AI can act as a virtual assistant and help doctors diagnose patients, provide treatment plans, analyse lab tests, etc. It can also act as a life coach reminding people to take their pills, track medication consumption and provide pain management procedures. AI is becoming a critical component in healthcare from the OR and ER to remote patient visit systems.

Personalised AI
Artificial intelligence is personal too. You interact with it every time you ask Siri a question or tell Alexa to turn on the lights. Music recommendation systems, such as Spotify or Pandora, are based on artificial intelligence as well.

Smart buildings
Artificial intelligence is the basis for smart buildings. A great example of this is The Edge, possibly the smartest building in the world. It’s also officially the greenest office building in the world. The Edge is Deloitte’s headquarters in the Netherlands and a building that knows where you live, what car you drive, who you’re meeting with today, where to find a desk, your preferences for temperature and light, and more. The Edge is the most fully realised example of using intelligent edge technology and the IoT to change the way, how and where we work. For example, every light is powered by an Ethernet cable. The building is packed with 28,000 sensors. It’s a cool place where people want to work. Take a look at The Edge and see for yourself.

Learn more about The Edge in this Bloomberg article.

Begin your digital transformation
These are just a few examples of the rise of artificial intelligence. As the world of internet of things expands, many devices are being created to process data on their own. These intelligent IoT devices do more than simply collect and deliver data. Many process data on the spot rather than send it to the cloud for analysis. Intelligent IoT devices are beginning to effectively analyse diverse sets of data to produce value in real-time – and at the edge.

Learn how you can begin your digital transformation to the intelligent digital edge at


Industry Trends in Enterprise Mobility

Today, industries that embrace the digital transformation realise that a mobile-first strategy is not a luxury, but a necessity.

How IT administrators take advantage of mobility varies from industry to industry. Mobility in retail is quite different than mobility in heavily regulated environments such as healthcare or finance. But the end goal is the same: improve workflows and productivity as well increase customer engagement and enhance the user experience. Companies embarking on their digital transformation journeys now are setting the pace for how technology is redefining workflows.

“Basically the future of enterprise mobility is to deliver workflows that can run anywhere on any device without compromising the UX or security,” said Maribel Lopez, Owner of Lopez Research. “In an ideal world, we’d create apps that are better than their predecessors and applications that can leverage context such as location, motion and image capture.”

A report by the Enterprise Mobility Exchange: The Edge of Enterprise Mobility: Which Industries Lead the Way, which incorporates data from VDC research, provides data on how enterprise mobility is being embraced in different industries. There are two categories of mobility. The first is in company facing and focused on optimising systems and cost savings. The second is outward facing and focused on improving customer engagement and experience.

Take a look and see how your industry compares in terms of mobility.






Field service leads the way, but that is not unexpected. Field service is, by definition, having technicians working at the customer’s site or at the company’s remote sites, such as cable technicians, home nurses or mining engineers. Field service is literally working at the digital edge and enterprise mobility is enhancing the way users work, collect data and communicate.

. Retail has been a leader in digital transformation, including mobility, innovating new and dynamic ways to interact with customers from coupon sites such as eBates or Retail Me Not to predictive artificial intelligence algorithms that make shopping recommendations. And consumers are embracing it and expecting it. For example, 90% of traffic on coupon sites is from mobile devices and 80% of mobile device usage is through apps rather than web browsing (ComScore). Retail will continue to embrace mobility and introduce new ways to interact with customers.

Healthcare is aggressive in its digital transformation journey. More than any other industry, mobility is changing the face of healthcare from clinical care to compliance with regulations. Mobility in healthcare is mission-critical and touches patients, physicians and administrators everywhere from treatment programs to IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) devices. Fail-proof mobility is expected in healthcare and is integrated into how healthcare is administrated. For example, 80% of physicians use handheld devices and medical apps for patient care. It’s estimated that in 2018, 65% of interactions with healthcare facilities will occur on mobile devices.

Manufacturing. To improve processes and reduce costs, manufacturers have been embracing their digital transformation with the IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Mobility plays an increasingly important role in terms of safety, monitoring equipment and preventative maintenance. It can also provide a redundant, fail-safe backdoor to remote sites if the primary cable connections fail.

Public Sector. The most surprising figure is the public sector rate. Government agencies and public safety providers, transportation, utilities and other public services have typically been slow to adopt new technologies due to budgetary constraints, security concerns and regulations. While lagging behind the private sector, the public sector is making headway in enabling mobile applications.

Moving mobility strategies forward

Digital transformation is being fuelled by enterprise mobility. It’s integrated into the daily lives of millions of workers and is fundamentally changing how we interact and our workflows.

“The number of organisations that are mobilising applications is accelerating,” said Eric Klein, Analyst with VDC, “specifically in industries where mobile solutions have been business-critical. We expect adoption in these industries to continue to gain steam, as organisations come to recognise that investments in new tools can help to save time in their coding and prototyping processes as well as minimise costs while improving communication and collaboration across their organisations.”

With enterprise mobility comes change and disruption. But that’s a good thing for IT administrators. It gives them the ability to drive innovation as they look for new ways to streamline processes. Change gives them the ability to become an influencer rather than an implementer.

Learn how to Make Mobility Happen in your Enterprise at


Artificial Intelligence IS the Digital Edge

In this post, we’ll take a look at how artificial intelligence is the epitome of the digital edge and some predictions on where it’s going in 2018. In a future post, we’ll look at how artificial intelligence is being utilised in different industries.

Artificial Intelligence Today and Everyday
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now, not in some distant future. In 2018, we are going to see an explosion of AI in all industries and all verticals.

AI has changed how we work, play and live and its impact is growing—rapidly. AI improves the customer experience, increases productivity, protects the public, accelerates research, diagnoses patients, prevents machine failures, analyses data, recommends music, and the list goes on and on.

As consumers and professionals, we are the drivers of artificial intelligence. We expect personalisation and unprecedented levels of quality, agility and speed – and AI provides it.

We interact with artificial intelligence every day, although we may not realise it. Every time you talk to Siri or Alexa, you’re interacting with artificial intelligence. At the high-end, there are self-driving Uber cars. In between, there are IoT devices everywhere from factories and smart buildings to your home and car.

Every artificial intelligence touch is computing at the digital edge. It’s literally the place where people and devices meet. It is machines working and thinking for us. Analysing data. Giving us information. Making decisions for us and ultimately, making our lives easier on the spot—at the edge.

What is artificial intelligence? 

Artificial intelligence is automating processes that previously required human interaction. A high-end example is the aforementioned driverless Uber car (which our US colleagues can get in downtown Pittsburgh, PA). A simpler example is a chess-playing computer.

AI is often thought of as machine learning when it is actually a subset of it. AI is the ability of a machine or computer to think and learn from experience. Instead of robotic automation, AI learns from deep data and adapts through progressive, deep learning algorithms to let the data do the programming. For example, Alexa and Siri are all based on deep learning.

AI takes data analysis from hindsight to foresight with a greater ability to predict events, such as monitoring HVAC systems and sending out maintenance crews to prevent system failures. Another example might be a financial system that prevents fraud instead of just detecting it. But AI is very task specific. The system designed to detect financial fraud can’t monitor HVAC systems.

The future of artificial intelligence

AI is big and getting bigger. The artificial intelligence market is predicted to be a US$100 billion industry by 2025.

In a recent survey, 75% of executives say AI will be actively implemented in the next two years. It’s estimated that in 2018 alone, 1.3 million industrial robots will enter service and that data created by IoT devices will be 277 times higher than the amount of data being transmitted to data centres from end-user devices.

Consider this. Tech giants like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Baidu have already spent over US$8 billion on dedicated AI investments. Recently, Sundar Pichair, Google CEO said “Particularly over the last three years, we have felt that with machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can do these things better than ever before. They are progressing at an incredible rate.”

Artificial intelligence is the intelligent digital edge. Intelligent devices do more than simply collect and mindlessly deliver data. They are able to process data on the spot instead of sending it to the cloud for analysis. Whether in industry, public spaces or even in your home or car, IoT devices are beginning to effectively analyse data in real-time—and at the edge. AI is at the heart of the digital transformation.

Whether it’s as simple as the wireless in your home to power Alexa and machine learning sensors on the factory floor to complex medical diagnosis and even self-driving cars, AI is driving new business outcomes and has forever changed our expectations of what’s possible. The intelligent digital edge is the foundational technology that enables AI and all the promises it holds in every facet of life. For instance, Uber has hired hundreds of self-driving car experts from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. Currently, AI experts are the most on-demand hires on Wall Street. In the not so distant past, these types of jobs didn’t exist.

The question now is how can businesses use AI to give them a competitive edge. AI is no longer an option. It’s critical for organisations to realise AI’s full potential and to take advantage of the specific strengths of humans and machines. Executives need to consider where AI can create the most long-lasting and profound advantage. To do that, they need the right partner to help them embrace digital transformation and leverage the right technologies at the intelligent digital edge.

To learn more about how we can help you with your transformation at the Intelligent Digital Edge, go to or contact us.

Why a mobile-first strategy is a necessity at the Intelligent Digital Edge

We live in a world where mobile connectivity is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity. According to recent reports, 70% of businesses will be completely mobile by 2020. The need for reliable, quality connections anywhere spans from the consumer’s daily life to the business world and everywhere in-between. The companies that will succeed in the long run are the ones that create a mobile-first strategy that focuses on the underlying technologies that will enable the experiences expected by today’s mobile users.

Unfortunately for most organisations, the wireless infrastructure needed to meet user and business demands is lacking. It’s time to rethink mobility initiatives in the larger context of digital transformation. When it comes to digital transformation, mobility is top of mind for CIOs and their IT teams. There is a sole focus from these stakeholders to adapt to the proliferation of mobile devices and applications.

Whether you need to ensure more speed, capacity and reliability for your mobile business-critical applications, or accelerate your next-gen Wi-Fi deployment — or in most cases both — the intelligent digital edge is your answer.

The intelligent digital edge is that space in and around virtually any facility where people and devices meet. It’s where users are located, where data is created and consumed and where applications are shared. This is where the real opportunity is for digital transformation, and wireless is a fundamental capability in enabling the digital edge.

However, with great opportunity comes great challenges. Capacity has reached critical mass at the edge and it is no longer acceptable to provide simple connectivity.  Connectivity must be mobile with mission-critical performance that can be dialled up on demand driving efficient and uninterrupted operations.

Comprehensive wireless networking expertise is required to optimise Wi-Fi networks and integrate 4G LTE (5G) service accessibility and reliability. It is important to note that wireless requirements can vary across enterprises. For those markets that are truly mission-critical, such as first responders and military, there are also public safety communication solutions to consider. The key is a purpose-built, mobile-first solution for your organisation’s specific needs. Mobility is not a one size fits all solution. With the right mix of intelligent edge solutions and by leveraging different types of wireless technology, you can mobilise more people and devices, dial-up capacity as you need to and keep the information flowing in and out of your enterprise.

Find the right mobility solution at Black Box. We can optimise the design, streamline the deployment and deliver ongoing management to establish a wireless network that you can rely on now and well into the future. When you unlock the digital edge, you set the groundwork for secure, uniform, robust mobile experiences that are expected anywhere and everywhere people and devices meet in your facilities.

Learn how Black Box makes Mobility happen.

Gaining Intelligent Digital Edge Benefits Without the IT and Operation Headaches

The rise of mobility and IoT can be daunting as you take the next steps to drive your digital transformation forward. The good news is that through the Intelligent Digital Edge, companies can secure a path to a scalable and streamlined digital transformation that taps into all that these technologies can offer; however, long-term success is contingent upon looking beyond the must-needed technologies and system implementation. It’s simply not enough to design and deploy an intelligent solution at the digital edge.

Once a system has been deployed, this is just the beginning in what is possible. To fully take advantage of what the Intelligent Digital Edge can deliver, companies must adhere to ongoing and proactive management with the tailored expertise that takes the burden of IT and operational challenges off the table. By alleviating these burdens, businesses can focus on what’s most important and what they do best – their business.

Consider the architecture necessary to succeed at the digital edge. There is foundational technology like mission-critical mobility with Wi-Fi, 4G/5G, and public safety. There is also the implementation of intelligent networking, featuring structured cabling and carrier/internet connectivity. Plus, a robust network and physical security are essential.

But even after that’s in place, an additional layer of enabling technology aimed at fulfilling specific business outcomes must be ingrained into the design. This layer can include location solutions to permit in-store wayfinding and inventory optimisation, unified communication and smart board solutions that enhance team collaboration, or specialised IoT devices that drive new outcomes.

The upshot is that even once installed, the job is nowhere near over when it comes to ensuring that an Intelligent Digital Edge performs smoothly and consistently over time. To do that, proactive managed services are vital, and to get this right means tailoring support to unique needs – needs that can include handling day-to-day operations like service desk, monitoring, maintenance, and trouble shooting. This also requires the transparency of best-in-class service level agreements.

Reaching these management goals necessitates a large staff of technicians with a depth of knowledge and experience. For most businesses, this means going outside the organisation to align itself with a partner who can deliver support regardless of the region. Whether in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, or Asia, the right management will make sure performance is consistent across all networks and devices.

Embracing the Intelligent Digital Edge isn’t just about a tailored design or installing the best solutions (albeit these two components are integral to the process); it’s about staying in front of changes and having the perfect team in place to anticipate evolving needs. For more information on how great management can support superior design and deployment, speak with a Black Box representative about making your Intelligent Digital Edge pain-free long after it’s deployed.

Devising a Deployment Strategy that Smoothly Integrates Digital Transformation

Every forward-looking business knows that to effectively compete they must shift their thinking to the Digital Edge. In fact, 60 percent of executives believe that failure to adapt to hyper-connectivity is their company’s biggest risk.

As discussed in our previous blog, the first step in creating an Intelligent Digital Edge is developing a design roadmap that not only accounts for an organisation’s specific goals and requirements but is also nimble enough to adapt to wider, ever-changing shifts in both technology and business needs.

That said, putting a rock-solid design plan in place is merely a first step; equally important is identifying the deployment solution that is uniform, consistent, and scalable. This is a stage in the process that should never be taken lightly. The larger and more broadly deployed your enterprise, the greater the complexity – and the greater the risk of dissatisfying customers and employees due to inconsistent and unpredictable user experiences.

More than 70 percent of most IT organisations’ time is spent simply ‘keeping the lights on’, according to 2016 Global Operating Model Research from Accenture Strategy. As a result, one of the biggest impediments to deployment for many organisations is the commitment it takes to focus on the physical roll-out.

There are best practices which utilise agile processes that consistently save clients time, headaches, and money. In most cases, a true partner that can establish a centralised command and control location to optimise deployments by geography during the planning and execution phases, and can provide uniform on-site standards and localised deliverables tailored to regions, will be the difference in ensuring that every solution is deployed the same every time.

Whether a deployment is scaling from the 100s to the 1000s or from the 10,000s to the 100,000s, a key to assuring a business is getting it right is aligning itself with a partner that boasts a depth and breadth of experience at the digital edge – this means a partner that has extensive experience updating hundreds of locations worldwide every night. It also means a company with a large army of highly-trained technicians – on a global scale – who can guarantee that any wrinkles in deployment can be smoothed quickly and competently.

The sooner you deploy your Intelligent Digital Edge, the faster you can unlock the value that digital transformation can deliver for your enterprise. To get started, you can speak with a Black Box representative about how we can devise and execute a deployment strategy that will seamlessly deliver your digital transformation

Designing an Intelligent Digital Edge that Transforms Business

We understand. You’re doing your best to deliver the technologies users demand across the enterprise. However, as we covered in our previous blog post, with the influx of IoT and mobility, challenges at the digital edge may be standing between you and your digital transformation goals. The simple fact is, before you can create more interactive, immersive and scalable user experience, you need to embrace the Intelligent Digital Edge.

However, not every digital edge approach is created equal.  How can you ensure the design of the digital edge will meet your organisation’s needs now and in the future?

A digital roadmap that is powerfully aligned to your organisation’s unique goals and needs will help you to quickly adapt to changing technology and business requirements – and supercharge innovation, scale and velocity.

The roadmap begins with a fine-tuned discovery process that can expose critical business drivers and align them with sound technical solutions, including mission-critical mobility, intelligent networking and built-in security.  It should also identify the right mix of enabling technologies to create the high-performance experiences that transform businesses. Finally, even the most innovative roadmaps need to be deployed with precision to enable consistent and repeatable experiences.

The larger and more distributed your enterprise, the greater the complexity. To transform at scale, you need a partner who can deploy both nationally and globally with speed and agility—regardless of the amount of technology or the number of locations.

As deployments move from 1000s of locations to 10,000s of IoT devices in a single location, Black Box is there.  And once deployed, we offer extensive managed services solutions that are proactive and tailored to meet your unique needs.

Ready to get started? To speak with a Black Box representative about how we can design your Intelligent Digital Edge for your digital transformation visit

Social Engineering and the Weakest Link – Your Employees

Today, social engineering is recognised as one of the greatest security threats facing organisations of all sizes.

Social engineering involves psychological manipulation and human interaction. It is an attack that centres on fooling unsuspecting employees into revealing confidential information or performing some action, like clicking on a link or transferring money. The request usually includes some violating of the organisation’s security policies and procedures.

Social engineering takes many forms. It often begins with a phone call or an email, but can also include text messages and even in-person dialogue. The attacker will attempt to establish legitimacy and gain the confidence of the employee by pretending to be a superior, like your company’s CEO, a co-worker at a remote office or a vendor or contractor.

Once the attacker has established credibility, which may take multiple contacts, they will ask for something, usually with a sense of urgency leading the victim (your employee) to promptly reveal sensitive information. Requests can be as simple as “I just need” something—someone’s schedule, a password, a username, PIN or even access to a building. Clicking a malicious link or opening a malicious file in an email can grant the attacker remote access to your network where they can access bank accounts, customer information, employee records and other corporate data. Requests can also be more blatant in terms of asking for payment for services or credit card information.

While it may be time-consuming and expensive, your staff needs to be trained and regularly retrained on what red flags to look for and how to report suspicious activity. More and more organisations are finding that educating employees about threats is more effective and important than hardware and software defences.

Training can include teaching employees to be wary of unsolicited communications. They need to know how to verify that a caller asking for information is really a co-worker by getting their number from the company directory and calling them back. The same tactic can be used when requests come from so-called vendors. If it’s a legit communication, the caller won’t mind.

Teach employees simple methods to recognise threats such as mouse-overs and how to reach an email address or domain name. Look for links in emails with misspelled URLs, such as Other tip offs are poor spelling and grammar, an offer that seems to be too good to be true or even a threat if the request isn’t met. Employees shouldn’t click on any suspicious email or link and may want to forward it to an information security mailbox.

Don’t forget social media either. Employees access Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter from their mobile devices and work computers. Social media is so easy to use, people lower their guard. It’s really a no-trust environment. It’s too easy for employees to share too much information on public websites. Establish social media ‘Do and Don’t’ training to teach users how to protect themselves—and your company.

People are the weakest link in your company’s security program because they’re generally trusting and helpful. This basic human nature is the vulnerability that is exploited in a social engineering attack. Based on findings from security engineers and penetration testers, social engineering is often the easiest way into an organisation. It’s up to you to make sure employees are aware of the dangers.


A Quick Start Guide to Your Intelligent Digital Edge Journey

Fuelled by mobility and IoT, digital transformation is under way in every industry and in companies of all sizes. In fact, 20-billion devices are expected to be added over the next five years – that is nearly half a million devices per hour. In addition to the explosion of devices and connections, user expectations are evolving. Users demand easy, real-time connections to digital services and experiences wherever they are and on any device. In fact, more than half of all digital strategists cite “evolving customer behaviours and preferences” as the primary catalyst for change.

Companies that will come out ahead in digital transformation are replacing legacy solutions and embracing the Intelligent Digital Edge.  The digital edge is where people, data, and devices meet – in an office, a retail store, a hospital, or a manufacturing site.   Adding intelligence to the digital edge is proven to accelerate digital transformations and deliver the foundation needed to keep pace with evolving technology demands.

To successfully digitally transform at the edge, companies need to adopt and deploy two types of technologies: foundational and enabling. Foundational technology lays the ground work for organisations to be future-ready and rapidly adopt new, enabling technology to drive specific business outcomes.

Foundational technology includes:
• Enterprise Wireless Technologies: mission-critical mobility with Wi-Fi, 4G/5G, and public safety
• Intelligent Networking and Cabling & Connectivity: comprehensive intelligent networking that includes the basics of structured cabling and carrier/internet connectivity
• Built-in Security – both network and physical
• Edge Analytics

Examples of enabling technology are:
• Location solutions to permit in-store wayfinding and inventory optimization
• Unified communication and smart board solutions that enhance team collaboration
• Specialised IoT devices that drive new outcomes

Companies must be able to design and deploy both the foundational and enabling technologies with uniformity and consistency to deliver the results end-users demand and once deployed, they must be able to manage the technology.

Black Box can help.  With more than 40 years of experience connecting people, devices, and data, we are the trusted digital partner to bring intelligence to the edge.  By understanding the intricacies and nuances of each customer’s business, we deliver industry-specific designs, global deployment capabilities and managed services that help companies tap into an Intelligent Digital Edge to accelerate digital transformations.

We engineer Intelligent Digital Edge solutions that enable our customers to mobilise more people and devices, leverage more data, dial-up capacity as needed, and defend the information flowing in and out of your enterprise.

To speak with a Black Box representative to start the Intelligent Digital Edge journey, visit:

The Intelligent Digital Edge: The Key to Accelerating Digital Transformation

Today’s business landscape is quickly evolving with IoT on the rise and anytime, anywhere, any device mobile user experiences in high demand. The companies that digitally transform to embrace the evolving digital world will succeed, and those that don’t will be left behind with catastrophic results. To meet this challenge head on, companies must adjust strategies and embrace the Intelligent Digital Edge.

The digital edge is that space in and around office buildings, hotels, factories, hospitals – virtually any facility where people and devices meet. It’s where users are located, where data is created and consumed, and where applications are shared. This is where the real opportunity is to make digital transformation happen; however, to be effective, the digital edge needs to be transformed through more intelligent solutions.

The exponential explosion in the number and diversity of devices and applications has made one thing abundantly clear – legacy IT architectures and deployment models are simply not adequate. Complexity challenges are overwhelming network, computing, and staff IT resources while the technical demands just keep escalating.

To drive superior experiences, ensure capacity flexibility, and secure uninterrupted service, a new digital edge is needed – one that is driven by intelligence. When designed, deployed, and managed correctly, the Intelligent Digital Edge enables:

  • High-performance User Experience: Bridging the physical and digital worlds, experiences at the edge are localised and uniform across all locations. Digital and real-time in nature, it scales to leverage IoT and analytics to drive business outcomes. By being analytics-enabled it drives better user experiences and real-time business decisions.
  • Mobile-first Capacity: Capacity has reached critical mass and it is no longer acceptable to provide simple connectivity. Anytime mobility at the edge is required for uninterrupted operations – all with mission-critical performance and on-demand capacity to drive efficient and unhindered operations. The intelligent edge is software-driven to enable mobile workflows while dynamically optimising capacity and traffic.
  • Built-in Security: Theft of data or loss of connectivity can be devastating. The Intelligent Digital Edge has security built in, so you can see and prevent threats and interruptions before they happen. Providing and protecting the edge eliminates downtime and ensures timely decision-making in highly-regulated and latency-sensitive settings.

We understand that many companies lack the existing skillsets, resources, and expertise to design, deploy, and manage at the edge to deliver a scalable digital transformation quickly and consistently. This is why Black Box is the trusted digital partner. Our proven success in connecting people, devices, and data – right where they need to be for maximum impact – is possible by bringing together our global team of skilled technicians, unique partnerships, processes, and network operating centres. Our industry-specific consulting, mission-critical designs, global deployment capabilities, and customer dedication is a combination that sets Black Box apart.

When you unlock the power of the Intelligent Digital Edge, you enable secure, uniform, mobile, future-ready experiences that are available anywhere people and devices meet in your facilities.

To speak with a Black Box representative about embracing the intelligent edge for your digital transformation visit


‘How to’ Guide for Specifying an IT Cabling System [Part 4] – ‘Testing of Copper and Fibre Links’

The final instalment in our four part series where we offer guidelines on how to produce a specification for an IT cabling system.  In Part 4 we review the different methods of testing data cabling (Certification, Qualification and Verification), and evaluate the importance of a warranty.


A structured cabling specification should state how the cabling system is to be tested and to what standard.  There are three forms of testing:

  • Certification – Tests all parameters required by ratified standards and provides a certificate for each channel or permanent link
  • Qualification – Only tests the cabling to work for particular applications or network standards
  • Verification – Tests only the most essential parameters.

Black Box Network Services recommends certification testing for every channel or permanent link. This should prove cost effective in the long term. It is a condition of most manufacturers’ warranties that the cabling system is 100% certified. The permanent link is the link from the distribution panels and the outlets whilst the channel also includes the patch core and equipment cables.

For every installation, where either certification or qualification testing is undertaken, complete individual test reports (or certificates where appropriate) configured in accordance with the agreed standard, should be included with the installation documentation. The format and material on which these reports are to be presented should form part of the contract.


Certification is carried out with a standards-compliant tester with the required accuracy for the Class or Category of cabling installed. You should state that the cabling system be certified to the BS EN 50173 series of standards, or your own country’s standards. By definition, certification testing includes qualification testing.


Where a manufacturer warranty is not offered, qualification is a less stringent alternative to certification.

  • Uses less accurate test equipment to compare installed cabling performance with the requirements of specific applications
  • Can only provide results for existing application standards
  • Cannot provide any form of ‘future proofing’ as it deals only with existing applications
  • Is limited to the ‘Channel’ test model, i.e. includes the equipment, patch and work area type cords.


This will eliminate common installation errors but will not guarantee that the cabling system will support the network or bandwidth requirements. It provides:

  • Minimum test and inspection for copper cabling
  • A visual inspection of the terminations
  • Wire-mapping test to confirm there are no open circuits, short circuits or crossed wires, including the cable screen if present. It will also confirm that telecommunication outlets and patch panels are identified and labelled correctly.

Plus, as an optional requirement, it can provide:

  • Cable length
  • Test to ensure there are no split pairs.


For optical fibre cabling, certification and qualification are essentially the same thing. There is not an acceptable less accurate alternative to the Loss/Length test set.

Certification / Qualification of Optical Fibre Cabling


  • Polarity proofing by use of a visible light source
  • Link length
  • End-to-end power loss at the transmission wavelengths identified in the selected standard
  • Calculation of power loss budget in accordance with the selected standard, allowing for the total number of connections and splices within the link
  • Stringent adherence to the test method defined in the selected standard
  • A final check for end-face cleanliness after certification, and cleaned as required with the correct materials.

Verification of Optical Fibre Cabling


  • A visual inspection of terminations and splices
  • Inspection for dirt and scratches using appropriate inspection microscopes, and where necessary cleaned with correct materials
  • Optical fibre loss measurements using a light source and power meter to calculate loss budgets.

Plus, as an optional requirement, it can provide:

  • OTDR measurements to determine length, and locate damage and poor connections.


 BS EN 50174-1 states that “Repair and maintenance are generally captured by the contract between the cabling owner and the cabling maintainer”. Additional consideration should be made to ensure:

  • A suitable maintainer (i.e. installations company/service provider) is identified where desired
  • Records are updated to reflect moves and changes
  • Alterations upgrades and enhancements are carried out in accordance with existing warranties, topology and standards
  • Emergency support is considered.


Most cabling systems come with a warranty that covers the materials and installation for fifteen years or more (Black Box Network Services can offer a lifetime warranty). Some warrant that the cabling system will support specific applications whilst others guarantee to conform to a particular standard. These warranties are valuable and reassure you that the manufacturer has confidence in the cabling system. However, the warranties do not usually specify a response time or a fix time.

A few installers offer an enhanced warranty providing, for example, a timed response to a fault call. Cabling is often a critical part of your network so this type of warranty is beneficial for business continuity. There may be an extra charge and conditions attached to these enhanced warranties, which would be fully covered with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for a cabling infrastructure.  At Black Box we have a dedicated help desk facility, enabling us to provide tailored support contracts to suit customer requirements. We work to defined SLAs, covering response times, performance and fault resolution.


Depending on your experience and the complexity of the installation, expert assistance may be needed to complete the specification.

Find out more about Black Box’s design and installation services here, or register for a free consultation.

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‘How to’ Guide for specifying an IT Cabling System [Part 3] – ‘Cable Pathways, Installation Techniques and Documentation’

This is the third in a series of posts where we offer guidelines on how to produce a specification for an IT cabling system.

Today we look at what you should consider when installing containment and cable, and we list the components which make up a well-documented cabling system.


Cable pathways can be located above ceilings, under floors, in risers between floors, underground or overhead between buildings. In most instances, the cabling will require dedicated containment such as trunking, conduit, cable tray, matting, cable basket or ducts.

The following should be considered:

  • Designing pathways that keep cable lengths within limits
  • Specifying the most suitable containment for the pathway
  • Consider who has responsibility for the pathways and designing the containment system, e.g. architect, mechanical and electrical contractor or the cabling installer
  • Capacity, allowing for future growth and to keep fill ratios within the requirements of the BS and EN standards
  • Segregation from other services, particularly electricity supply cabling in accordance with your country’s standards, in the case of the UK it is BS 6701 and BS EN 50174-2 series
  • Suitability for standards conformity e.g. to allow correct bend radii for cables
  • You have permission from the landowner for the installation of ducts
  • Protection of the cable from water, heat, sunlight, physical damage and rodents.


Suitably qualified installers, complying with relevant standards should be selected to undertake the cabling work. Qualifications would include evidence of the cable manufacturer’s training or training undertaken at a specialised training establishment and supported by a recognized certification.

The installation should adhere to standards, including, where applicable:

  • BS 6701
  • BS EN 7671 (IEE) Wiring Regulations – 17th Edition
  • BS EN 50174 series of standards
  • BS EN 50310
  • BS EN 50346

A good installer will not:

  • Exceed the minimum bend radii for cables
  • Exceed the maximum pulling force for cables
  • Crush cable (e.g. by over tightening cable ties)
  • Strip too much cable sheath at termination points
  • Install cables where they could be damaged
  • Untwist too much of each cable pair
  • Use incorrect tools or fixing techniques.

A good installer will:

  • Work safely
  • Adhere to the necessary standards
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.


If your cabling system is well documented, any implementation, moves, additions or changes will be made simpler and problems more quickly diagnosed. You should develop a full administration scheme, complying with BS 6701 or your own country’s standards.

The level of detail will depend on the size and nature of your network and will include the following:

Labelling and records:

  • Identifiers
  • Labels
  • Records
  • Reports
  • Drawings
  • Work Orders (documenting all moves, additions and changes).

Documentation should contain some or all of the following:

  • Topology diagram (schematic layout)
  • Floor plans routes
  • Equipment room layout
  • Outlet locations
  • Patching closet location
  • Equipment termination location
  • Telecommunications or equipment room layout
  • Cabinet layout
  • Patching / cross connect records
  • Test schedules / results
  • Identification of test equipment used
  • Certificate of conformity.

Depending on your experience and the complexity of the installation, expert assistance may be needed to complete the specification.

Find out more about Black Box’s design and installation services here, or register for a free consultation.

Watch out for the final post on how to specify an IT cabling system:-

  • Testing of Copper and Fibre Links [Part 4]

‘How to’ Guide for specifying an IT Cabling System [Part 2] – Selecting an ICT Cabling System

This is the second in a series of posts where we offer guidelines on how to produce a specification for an IT cabling system.  Today we review industry standards, the types of cable available, and the capabilities of copper and fibre.


Cabling systems are often specified using USA standards, e.g. Cat 5e or Cat 6. However, you should get assurance from your installer that your new cabling system will comply with your country’s structured cabling standards. For the purpose of this document we are using BS EN (British Standard, European Norm) standards, namely:

  • BS EN 50173 series for performance and components
  • BS EN 50174 series for design, installation, operation and maintenance
  • BS 6701 for installation, operation and maintenance
  • BS EN 50310 for grounding and bonding
  • BS EN 50346 for testing.

The standards specify a range of Classes or Categories of copper cabling systems, correctly referred to as balanced cabling systems. Amongst these are:

  • Class D – Comparable with TIA Cat 5e, supporting Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T)
  • Class E – Comparable with TIA Cat 6, supporting Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T) and 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T) to a distance of 35m
  • Class EA – Comparable with TIA Cat 6A, supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T)
  • Class F – Comparable with TIA Cat 7, supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T)
  • Class FA – Supporting 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GBASE-T).

Choose a class that will meet your bandwidth requirements for the foreseeable future and that will fit within your budget. Bear in mind that higher class cabling is more expensive, and requires larger containment and pathways as the cables have a bigger diameter.

Choice of Cabling Medium

Bandwidth, lengths of cable runs, and environmental influences will determine your choice of cabling medium. In a typical enterprise installation, it is customary to use balanced twisted pair copper cables to service work areas although optical fibre cabling may be a better choice if security or electromagnetic interference are significant considerations.

Class D (Cat 5e), Class E (Cat 6) and Class EA (Cat 6A) cables are available as unshielded (UTP) and shielded (e.g. STP, FTP). Class F and Class FA have an overall shield only and each pair is individually foil-shielded. Unshielded cable is suitable for some installations but shielded cable may be required if high levels of electromagnetic interference are present or if a high “tempest” rating is required for security purposes. Also, in the case of Class EA, the unshielded variant has a larger diameter so requires larger containment.

The following circumstances, commonly found in backbones, may make it necessary to select optical fibre cabling:

  • If the length of a cable run is over 90m
  • If each end of the cable terminates in different electrical earth zones. This is often the case if nodes are in different buildings – a non-metallic optical fibre cable is far less likely to conduct damaging electricity in the event of a lightning strike
  • If the cable is routed externally. In this case sheaths need to be more rugged and weatherproof. This is more often available for optical fibre cables
  • If the space in the cable containment is limited; a multi-core fibre can carry many times the volume of data cable
  • If a high level of security is required; optical fibre is secure against unauthorized access.

Selecting the Right Optical Fibre Cable

The selection of OM1, OM2, OM3, OM4 or OS1/OS2 optical fibre cabling depends on the network application and the distance. OM1-OM4 cables are multimode whilst OS1 and OS2 cables are singlemode.

*Distances listed are industry minimums.

Mechanical Protection and Physical Properties

The selection of cable sheath material such as PVC, Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) or plenum rated, depends on the attitude to risk, local regulations and the requirements of other interested parties e.g. premises owners and insurance companies.

Optical fibre cables may need to be armoured and rodent-resistant to give protection in ducts or for direct burial.

Lifetime Cost Effectiveness

A cabling system represents the element of a network that has the longest life span so should be designed and installed with at the very least 10 years of useable life. To ensure consistent performance throughout the life of the system, the following should be considered:

  • Warranty and performance guarantees from the component manufacturer
  • Quality components proven to meet appropriate standards
  • Manufacturer and supplier support
  • The installers have relevant qualifications and training and their installation methods fully comply with country standards.

Depending on your knowledge and the complexity of your requirement, expert assistance may be needed to complete the specification.

Find out more about Black Box’s design and installation services here, or register for a free consultation.

Watch out for future posts on how to specify an IT cabling system, including:-

  • Cable Pathways, Installation Techniques and Documentation [Part 3]
  • Testing of Copper and Fibre Links [Part 4]

MPO vs. MTP: What’s the difference?

MPO stands for multi-fibre push-on connector. It is a connector for multi-fibre ribbon cable that generally contains 6, 8, 12 or 24 fibres. It is defined by IEC-61754-7 and TIA-604-5-D, also known as FOCIS 5. The MPO connector, combined with lightweight ribbon cable, represents a huge technological advancement over traditional multi-fibre cables. It’s lighter, more compact, easier to install and less expensive.

A single MPO connector replaces up to 12 or 24 fibre strands in a single connector. This very high density means lower space requirements and reduced costs for your installation. Traditional, tight-buffered multi-fibre cable needs to have each fibre individually terminated by a skilled technician. But MPO fibre optic cable, which carries multiple fibres, comes pre-terminated. Just plug it in and you’re ready to go.

MPO connectors feature an intuitive push-pull latching sleeve mechanism with an audible click upon connection and are easy to use. The MPO connector is similar to the MT-RJ connector. The MPO’s ferrule surface of 2.45 x 6.40 mm is slightly bigger than the MT-RJ’s, and the latching mechanism works with a sliding sleeve latch rather than a push-in latch.

The MPO connector can be either male or female. You can tell the male connector by the two alignment pins protruding from the end of the ferrule. MPO female connectors will have holes in the ferrule to accept the alignment pins from the male connector. The MPO ferrule is generally flat for multimode applications and angled for single-mode applications.

MPO connectors are also commonly called MTP® connectors, which is a registered trademark of US Conec. The MTP connector is an MPO connector engineered with particular enhancements to improve optical and mechanical performance. Significant MTP enhancements include an elliptical pin shape, a floating ferrule design, a removable housing and more. Details can be found at MPO and MTP connectors are compatible.

A 12-strand MPO connector features 12 fibres in a straight line, 1–12, left to right.

A 24-strand connector features two rows of fibre 1–12 and 13–24 with the white dot also indicating pin 1.

Each connector has a key on one side of the connector body. When the key sits on top, it is referred to as key up. When the key sits on the bottom, it’s called key down.

When planning your system, keep in mind that you can’t mix and match 12-strand and 24-strand cable versions.

Find out more about our MPO/MTP cables and fibre services, or contact us today for a free consultation.

‘How to’ Guide for Specifying an IT Cabling System [Part 1] – Requirements and Preparation

Over a series of posts we offer guidelines on how to produce a specification for an IT cabling system that meets your organisation’s needs and gives you value for money.

Today we provide a checklist of the elements you should include and the information you should gather before starting work on the specification.


Assuming you need a conventional structured cabling system using RJ45 connectors, the completed specification should include details on all or some of the following:

  • The Class or Category of cabling system e.g. Class D/Cat 5e, Class E/Cat 6 etc.
  • The number and locations of outlets
  • The location and type of telecommunications rooms and spaces
  • Backbone cabling between telecommunications rooms and spaces
  • Cabling pathways and containment
  • Labelling systems and methods
  • Patching facilities and patch cords
  • Testing
  • Administration system
  • Minimum warranty period.


Before starting work on the specification, gather and document all the following information if relevant to your installation:

  • A plan (preferably) or dimensions of the areas to be cabled
  • The number of staff requiring IT and/or voice services
  • The services required per workstation, e.g. voice, data
  • Business expansion plans
  • Applications to be supported
  • The highest network speed anticipated during the expected life of the cabling system
  • Ethernet switches and other IT infrastructure hardware to be supported
  • Printers and other peripherals to be supported
  • Voice backbone / distribution requirements
  • The maximum backbone bandwidth expected during the life of the cabling system
  • Building management systems integration
  • Telephone system details
  • Location of Telecommunications Rooms (for edge networking hardware)
  • Location of Equipment Rooms (for core networking hardware)
  • Location of Entrance Facilities for incoming telecommunications lines
  • Locations for cabinets or racks, or space in existing cabinets and racks
  • Cable routes between floors, across floors and between buildings
  • Existing earthing facilities
  • The fire rating requirement of the cable
  • Any known or potential hazards e.g. asbestos, exposed high voltages, etc.

Depending on your knowledge and the complexity of your requirement, expert assistance may be needed to complete the specification.
Find out more about Black Box’s design and installation services here, or register for a free consultation.

Watch out for future posts on how to specify an IT cabling system, including:-

Selecting an ICT Cabling System [Part 2]
Cable Pathways, Installation Techniques and Documentation [Part 3]
Testing of Copper and Fibre Links [Part 4]