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Article - April 2003
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"Identifying the Complex Components of Convergence"  

Ken Sinclair Editor/Owner, AutomatedBuildings.com

"Convergence: What Is It, What Will It Mean, And When Will It Happen?"

Thomas Hartman, P E
The Hartman Company

summing up with Navigating the Road Ahead and
  The Bottom Line: Convergence = Opportunity 

As published in the 
April issue Supplement/Outsert
Controlling Convergence


"Identifying the Complex Components of Convergence" 
Ken Sinclair, Editor/Owner, AutomatedBuildings.com

"Convergence: What Is It, What Will It Mean, And When Will It Happen?"  
Tom Hartman, Principle, The Hartman Company

Never in my 30 years in the large building automation industry have I felt such excitement as I did at the January 2003 AHR Expo in Chicago. It was not just about new products and new capabilities it was about new directions and new relationships with building owners.

Our online magazine, AutomatedBuildings.com has been following the evolution of web-based solutions for our industry for four years. It has been exciting, but overall industry movement has been scattered and fragmented. 


At the AHR Expo show in Chicago there was unified acceptance of web-based solutions in addition to a strong acceptance and connection to the evolving digital office standards, by all automation hardware and software vendors.

The intent of this supplement/outsert is to identify the trends/components of our rapid convergence into our clients' Data Enterprise. It is hoped that this discussion will help our readers best decide how to create their own understanding and interpolation of convergence. This supplement is a sequel to Engineered Systems' August 2002 issue supplement/outsert titled Facility Operation Evolution or Revolution Guide to Web-Based Facilities Operations - Doing more with less by using Web-based anywhere information to amplify your existing building operational resources.

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The above guide set the scene for the web-based evolution/revolution and now we must get on with the task of understanding the convergence model and deciding what this rapid shift in focus might mean to each of us. The guide coupled with rapid web-based development on several fronts has well positioned us as an industry to better meet our client's convergence needs.

Knowledge gained from the digital office explosion has helped building owners understand the potential savings of cost effective web-based upgrades to insure and communicate client comfort at the lowest energy and manpower costs. These solutions are being applied to new buildings but attractive paybacks are also available with the upgrading of existing DDC automation to web-based solutions. Moving to the next level of advanced digital buildings for owners is achievable now because of our automation industry's present position, which includes a myriad of web-based solutions. This position allows us as an industry to lead the world's dynamic/interactive data integration revolution. Working examples now available are Dynamic Energy Control/Accounting, Indoor Air Quality Reporting, Client Comfort Communication & Control interfaces. The transforming of our conservative large building automation industry is necessary to increase our visibility to building owners, designers and decision makers. This new visibility is forcing us to reinvent, restructure and repackage ourselves to create an exciting identity that will make web-based information and real time interactions come alive with seamless connections to the clients' enterprise. To tackle the complex task of identifying significant convergence trends and components I have requested one of AutomatedBuildings.com's contributing editors Tom Hartman of The Hartman Company to share his views. Tom has been a friend and mentor for over 20 years, teaching me the value of dynamic control principles and the power of fully exploiting new technologies to achieve our goals. Tom responded with a powerful article, which we have included in this supplement called "Convergence: What Is It, What Will It Mean, And When Will It Happen?"

Tom and I have also presented our conclusions summing up with Navigating the Road Ahead and THE BOTTOM LINE: CONVERGENCE = OPPORTUNITY with what we feel the results of convergence might mean to our industry.

I was also extremely pleased to have another of AutomatedBuildings.com's contributing editors Jack Mc Gowan set the scene for this supplement in the February issue of Engineered Systems with an excellent article on Operating Online "A Real-Time System Integration Update". I have known Jack over 14 years and have enjoyed his support from the inception of our online magazine. Jack has been a valuable mentor, helping me get my thoughts to print. 

In my February Building Automation column "Repackaging the large-building automation industry requires a smart roadmap and a unified effort." I state: 

In the last few decades, our industry has evolved from low visibility subcontractors supplying thermostats, dampers, and valves, to our present position of partnering directly with owners to simplify, enhance, and automate building operations. 

It is no secret that most control/automation/integration companies now negotiate directly over 50% of their work, and bid and spec is becoming less of a way of life. Our industry has grown in many directions simultaneously extending our visibility and reach. Do we grasp the significance of this rapid shift in our existing business model?

 If we do grasp the significance of this shift in visibility, how are we changing our focus and how are we repackaging ourselves for the best position of the market share? 

I have, in fact, made the comment that:


"The industry's thermostats are literally coming off the wall and into a web browser near you. The large building automation industry's visibility is greatly increased which has changed the building owners perceptions. Dynamic data has become easier to generate than comparable static data".

Control Solutions, Inc In my November column "The industry's focus is shifting from device integration to Web convergence." I stated:

The large building automation industry understood early the concept of web convergence but I do not believe that we envisioned ourselves as having such an active part in it. Originally we perceived that we would take our products and services to a web level and magically our services would become part of the clients web based enterprise. It is now becoming clear that the companies that are most likely to succeed are developing the "magic" to take our automation interfaces to the next level in an elegant convergence model that adds tremendous value to our clients' enterprises. 

New groups are being created, as part of the repackaging and restructuring that is necessary for successful convergence. One of these Groups is The Building Connection Forum or BuilConn for short. BuilConn's focus is on integrated and networked building systems for contractors, dealers, and systems integrators. 

I was pleased to be asked to provide my comments to the BuilConn advisory board, which has created the concept of a Council of Advanced Building Systems. Although this concept grew out of the BuilConn advisory board, my input to the group was to make the scope larger than their highly focused integration group by involving building owners, designers, industry marketers, and the end users in their council. 


In short make it an "industry melting pot". The Council of Advanced Building Systems will bring together all players involved in buildings systems with members from all disciplines including HVAC/R, Access Control, IT, Lighting, CCTV, Security and Integration technologies.

There is a concern in the industry that because the council concept was created by the BuilConn group it is simply an extension of their excellent efforts towards providing critical cross industry information. I believe the council's effect will be the summation of its members' efforts. If the members are concerned about the direction and scope, then the members will make the necessary changes. The council or an offshoot of it must provide critical industry marketing and positioning. Although there may be some over all questions the fact that the BuilConn group is prepared to assemble the council as part of their efforts deserves industry support. 

The council spokesperson, Anto Budiardjo, the conceptor of the Building Connection Forum BuilConn, is presently assembling a group of industry leaders for a steering committee to guide the council's development. A group of founding members will also be assembled as a demonstration of total industry commitment. Please join me in providing your support to this Council.


Building owners and the real estate industry in general are well versed in the use of web-based solutions to provide critical information anywhere to help market their products. They are on the leading edge with 360-degree viewer controllable presentations of their properties being the norm.
 

Attractive interfaces are well executed to educate and inform potential clients. Our industry's present browser based products with real interfaces to the digital office are much more acceptable to owners than our fragmented proprietary approaches of the past. The global acceptance of Bill Gates' digital office standards allows the majority to view the world through a common Internet browser with extensions in close fitting Word, Spreadsheet, and Adobes pdf documents. 

Reliable Controls The real estate industry's interest in our industry is demonstrated in an effort made by Realcomm 2003. Their mission is to provide a single place where industry leaders can come together to discuss, analyze and debate the latest innovations that are impacting the Commercial Real Estate industry. The Realcomm conference and tradeshow will expand this year with the introduction of the Intelligent Building Pavilion. The objective is to introduce attendees to the best of the Building Automation industry. Many of their attendees are now in the process of aggressively seeking these technological building systems in order to improve their bottom lines.

Convergence is happening daily at different levels including the fact that our existing business models are starting to converge.

Strong "IT" driven solutions for our industry

Some of the strong "IT" driven solutions for our industry have come from the companies listed below.

Tridium which provides a web-based platform that unifies all of your systems - from the major open technologies in the building automation industry to most major proprietary systems.

Envenergy whose technology makes it easier for you to interface your products and systems with just about anything you want them to talk to, with less cost and effort.

Netbrowser which allows you to monitor your critical facilities with an integrated view of all assets through a standard Web browser.

Their presence in today's rapidly moving market has created unique partnering opportunities with traditional control companies as well as putting pressure on the traditional control companies to keep focused on their own web based solutions.


In addition to the direct IT solution for our industry, new concepts such as networked DIGITAL SIGNAGE SYSTEMS are opening up new communication conduits with the exciting medium of inter-building communications.

A DIGITAL SIGN is a display device, which is used as an electronic sign to present constantly changing, computer generated, full motion video, photo-realistic graphics, text, and animation. It is a dynamic venue as opposed to static billboards and posters.

Display devices that can be used in digital signage networks include; Plasma Monitors, LCD Monitors, CRT Monitors, Projection Displays, interactive Kiosks. DIGITAL SIGNAGE SYSTEMS are a network of digital signs, which can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world using a central workstation. With a little imagination the accepted concept of central controllable sound in our buildings can rapidly evolve to central video controllable from anywhere.

Learning about Significant Convergence Components 

To learn about building automation web based convergence we must attempt to understand some of the preliminary evolution components. I have listed a few of these: 

  1. Development of browser based web-based solutions for our products and service; 

  2. Extending this functionality to included Digital Office interfaces, i.e. Word Excel; 

  3. Create products and services connections that utilize the inherited web based features i.e. email, cell phone/pager call out, anywhere access pdf file download, etc; 

  4. Investigate likely methodology to implement web services "Web services are self-contained, modular applications that can be described, published, located, and invoked over a network, generally, the World Wide Web." 

  5. Preliminary marketing of new web services with Alpha and Beta testing; 

  6. Maturing products with feedback; 

  7. Restructuring and repackaging our companies and ourselves to market our new identities; 

  8. Rapid self-education on how to walk and talk IT "Information Technology"; 

  9. Preparation of financial cases for energy/manpower savings of Web Based Facilities Operation while providing owner improved functionality with better occupant communication, control, and comfort; 

  10. Talking to owners in terms of Return on Investment "ROI". Understanding and marketing financial benefits in their terms; 

  11. Working with owners' information enterprise providers while keeping focused on the fact that we are bringing new functionality to the enterprise and conforming may not be the solution. Creating our own sub-net or extranet if necessary will move us towards our goal. Once concepts are demonstrated the correct connections to enterprise will be clear; 

  12. Helping owners create the web-based support teams of super optimizers/operators and remote information providers and mentors; 

  13. Documenting all changes from the original building operation that have been made in the medium you provided. Exposing this information to all. The medium is the message; 

  14. Working with owners to create occupant information scenarios, Frequently Asked Questions "FAQ". Making the information readily available to occupants. Helping owners use this information to help sell space in buildings, possibility linking the information to the marketing web site. 

Discussions About Convergence Are Not New


Discussions about convergence are not new. Following are some answers from AutomatedBuildings.com web site interview questions of 2001. 

Tom Hartman June 2001 

CatNet SystemsSinclair - Is our industry positioned to accept daily convergence opportunities? 

Hartman: Yes, very much so. As pointed out in survey after survey, building owners and occupants are not very pleased with the mix of products and services this industry is providing to do our primary function which is to make building environments comfortable and productive. Most of us know technologies are now available that could do an enormously better job. Our industry's "one-at-a-time" approach to designing, manufacturing, and constructing HVAC solutions results in high costs and low function. Our industry will be enormously benefited by the "mass customization" approach developed for and employed in other technology-focused industries that are beginning to merge with ours. Designers may resist the results of such convergence, but their clients will embrace it. 

Kevin Lynch August 2001 

Sinclair - Browser based presentation of all industry information appears to be the now trend. Do you have any concerns? 

Lynch: We see this, as a trend across all industries that use information and it's almost inevitable that web-based interfaces will be the norm. So, from our perspective, it's really an opportunity, not a concern.

October 2001 Jack McGowan 

Sinclair - Will the convergence of Building Automation with other industries change how systems are sold and justified? 

McGowan: Without question. Perhaps one of the most significant changes already has been the evolution of system integration. This industry has come to the realization that convergence and the "information sharing" that it brings offers a tremendous opportunity in the present and will be a requirement in the future. The move toward data communication is a critical step in that process, but without qualified experts to put the information from all those systems to work its promise can not be achieve. Control integration is the crucial requirement, whether it is a coordinated sequence between a smart actuator and a VAV box controller or between an online electricity procurement portal and a purchasing agent. Convergence brings a host of business opportunities as well, because the control contractor can fill a critical role as an integrator in this new market, and this can be a negotiated sale. At the same time there are many risks such as: new competitors who want to include automation with telecommunications or local area network installations and confusion on the owners part regarding the technical requirements to meet their needs. Again the key is to identify target customers and then work to develop a relationship that allows the DDC contractor to help the customer understand what is required for this technology to truly meet their needs. 

 

CONVERGENCE: WHAT IS IT, WHAT WILL IT MEAN, AND WHEN WILL IT HAPPEN? 

Thomas Hartman, P.E.  The Hartman Company

 


SUMMING IT UP

The current trend toward Web based building controls signals the start of an inevitable convergence with the IT industry, and along with it dramatic transitions for all of us who are active in the industry. This process should be encouraged because it means system function, which is currently very much undervalued will become an important focus as a part of this important convergence.

Navigating The Road Ahead  

Ken Sinclair

If you are not fond of change then the next decade will be painful but if you are excited by new directions, new capabilities, and new relationships you are posed for a fantastic time. It will be a time of self-discovery for us as an industry as we go where no one has gone before, meshing dynamic data and real time interactions with the building occupants' standardized network interfaces. This new direction will not only change us it will have significant impact on how our building owning clients approach building management and optimization. The guidance of successful convergence will become a valuable art. The practitioners that can create this dynamic interface art while making the myriad of complex technologies used to create this reality all but invisible will be the clear winners. To the companies and their artisans who move us ahead with successful demonstrations will go increased market share. New relationships and partnering will abound. Smaller and smaller companies will provide greater impact on the industry through online interactions that become available with web-based presentation. The large financial identities will attempt to maintain, restore, and recreate their monopolies by buying the fluid web-based upstarts, but the sheer numbers and flexibilities of these new companies will overwhelm them. The concept of partnering to provide our clients' complex requested software functionality will become common These partnerships will lead to significant cross-pollination with complete new technologies and concepts all which will feed the convergence fire. New mediums for our industry such as cell phones, PDA, Digital Signage Systems, etc will also appear.

The reality is the convergence of facilities management and Information Technology (IT) is well underway. It is a convergence that heralds the inevitable move of environmental monitoring and control onto the buildings information infrastructure. Though it is often the technological issues that are stressed, it is a convergence of both technology and working relationships.

THE BOTTOM LINE: CONVERGENCE = OPPORTUNITY

Thomas Hartman, P.E.

While the convergence of the IT and building controls will certainly result in many challenges for our industry, these are small when compared with the enormous new opportunities that convergence is creating for us. To start, convergence affords this industry the opportunity to do our job much better. Comfort and environmental quality continue to be major issues occupants have regarding the buildings they inhabit. And rightly so, because the level of comfort and air quality instrumentation and control implemented in buildings today continues to be minimal. Many, if not most, spaces in modern buildings are not even monitored for their temperature. Convergence offers the opportunity to simplify and reduce the cost of such instrumentation and improved zone control by offering simple and inexpensive methods of connectivity and processing capacity needed to operate building comfort systems more effectively. But more than this, convergence is beginning to allow building occupants to have a direct dialog with their comfort system using their PCs to ask for warmer, cooler, brighter or darker spaces. And convergence offers an improved path for automatically acting on those occupant requests to be certain each building occupant is served more effectively and efficiently. These are enormous opportunities because the need has gone unsatisfied for many years. It is a market that is continually growing while it waits to be served.

Convergence also offers radical improvement potentials for system maintenance. Local and wide area network connections allow maintenance specialists to maintain more equipment more effectively than ever before. Maintenance costs can be dramatically reduced while at the same time system reliability will be substantially improved. Convergence promises to dramatically change the way equipment is operated and maintained, yielding far greater economy without sacrificing oversight and response time.

Finally, convergence promises to bring building operations into the business network so that the many tasks associated with owning or managing commercial properties can become fully automated network applications rather then tedious manual undertakings. Convergence makes all of this possible by bringing in new low cost technologies and products to integrate with the special features and functions required for building operations. The potential is nearly overwhelming, and we have the opportunity to make it happen!


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