Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a technology for wired Ethernet LANs (local area networks) that allows the electrical current necessary for the operation of each device to be carried by the data cables rather than by power cords. Doing so minimizes the number of wires that must be strung in order to install the network. The result is lower cost, less downtime, easier maintenance, and greater installation flexibility than with traditional wiring.
For PoE to work, the electrical current must go into the data cable at the power-supply end, and come out at the device end, in such a way that the current is kept separate from the data signal so that neither interferes with the other. The current enters the cable by means of a component called an injector. If the device at the other end of the cable is PoE compatible, then that device will function properly without modification. If the device is not PoE compatible, then a component called a picker or tap must be installed to remove the current from the cable. This "picked-off" current is routed to the power jack.
To minimize the possibility of damage to equipment in the event of a malfunction, the more sophisticated PoE systems employ fault protection. This feature shuts off the power supply if excessive current or a short circuit is detected.
Related glossary terms: MDI/MDIX (medium dependent interface/MDI crossover), 802.3, Ethernet Glossary, Quad FastEthernet (QFE), 10BASE-2, coaxial cable (illustrated), Ethernet point-of-presence (EPOP), DVMRP (Distance Vector Multicast Routing Protocol), 1000BASE-T, Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detect (CSMA/CD)