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Future-Patch Technology Tracks Cable and Port Connections

The system allows IT networks, such as one installed at the City of Reutlingen, to manage the connection of every cable to the appropriate port, and can issue an alert if the wrong cable and port connection is made, thus reducing network errors that could lead to down time.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 23, 2012The German city of Reutlingen is employing an RFID-based solution known as Future-Patch, provided by TKM, to detect an incorrect or missing patch cable connection, and to then inform users of the correct connection, thereby preventing problems within its IT network. Networks are composed of fiber-optic or copper cables connected to servers, with patch connectors between cables and receiving ports that carry data to a back-end system. If a cable becomes unplugged, or is connected to the wrong port, network performance can be affected, and finding the source of the problem—when there may be tens of thousands of servers and cables involved—can be very time-consuming.

Disconnected cables and ports can occur when computers or other hardware are added to a system, or are moved or switched out. In the event that a connection fails, the consequences can be expensive, since necessary data can no longer be transmitted.

On a Future-Patch Panel Control Unit (PCU), installed beneath a row of ports, an illuminated LED indicates where a cable should be plugged.

With the Future-Patch solution, a 13.56 MHz passive RFID transponder, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, is integrated into the plastic casing around each RJ45 copper- cable connector or each LC or ST fiber-optic connector. A Panel Control Unit (PCU) is installed on the panel beneath a row of ports. A single PCU includes a built-in RFID reader and a strip of antennas, with each antenna located beneath a particular port. When a patch cable is brought near a port, its transponder's unique ID number is interrogated by the adjacent antenna built into the PCU strip. A rack can contain multiple PCUs connected by a bus cable that then carries the read data to a single Rack Control Unit (RCU), installed in that rack. The RCU is connected via an Ethernet cable to a management console linked to the Future-Patch management software on the back-end system.

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