April 2006
Interview
AutomatedBuildings.com

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Anto BudiardjoEMAIL INTERVIEW  Anto Budiardjo & Ken Sinclair

Anto Budiardjo is President & CEO of Clasma Events Inc., the organizer of BuilConn Americas 2006, Palm Springs, CA May 16-18, 2006 (www.builconn.com) and the co-located M2M Expo & Conference (www.m2mexpo.com) and the 2006 GridWise Expo (www.gridwiseexpo.com)

Please send comments and questions to antob@clasma.com.


Understanding the Connectivity Law

Anto’s Connectivity Law:The value of a piece of information is proportional to the number of uses that piece of information is connected to.

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Sinclair:  Tell me what drove you to come up with the Connectivity Law?

Budiardjo:  For some time now, we’ve been struggling to explain the real value of connectivity. Most of the discussions on integration, open systems and convergence have been focused on the “how”, the technical things about how devices are connected, but to date there is not enough compelling reasons as to why.

Sinclair:  But integration has been with us for years, and now Open Systems too!

Budiardjo:  Yes the technology is all around us. The old story was that you integrate the security system’s occupancy sensor to the HVAC and lighting system and everything turns on automatically and all is well. In reality it is hard to put into hard currency the value of such scenario. Open Systems provided some value of not being locked into one vendor but here again that was not totally compelling.

Sinclair:  How does Connectivity Law help?

Budiardjo:  Let’s take an analogy, in the beginning of PC networking, we connected office computers together to share files and printers; it was liberating to get away from sneaker-net. Then, islands of computers were connected with each other using the Internet, with Email, FTP, the Web, IM, etc. Now all PC’s in the world are connected together. I can from my PC, chat using IM with anyone in the world, literally!

Sinclair:  OK, so how does that analogy work?

Budiardjo:  When we were justifying the installation of office networks in the 80’s, many found it hard to justify the value, compared with sneaker-net. But as the number of available connections increased, the value increased significantly, in fact, Metcalf’s law says to the square of the number of nodes.

Sinclair:  But isn’t that the Value of Connectivity?

Budiardjo:  Metcalf’s law explains the potential useful connections, which is huge and is quite unfathomable. There are a few hundred million people that I could chat with, but my IM Buddy list is only 50 people.

Sinclair:  So, translate this to buildings?

Budiardjo:  Soon, all points in a building will be connectible via IP (through routers or gateways) to all other points, systems, controllers, computers, servers and databases (with security protocols of course). This now becomes part of the compelling reason for integration, open systems and convergence.

Sinclair:  Why only part of the reason?

Budiardjo:  Same as my buddy list analogy. Having billions of devices potentially being connected to a particular sensor doesn’t help me understand the value that the network is providing to that sensor. What helps is if we can consider the number of connections that sensor has to other things (just like buddy lists).

Reliable Controls Sinclair:  So the more connections a sensor has the more valuable it is?

Budiardjo:  Exactly.

Sinclair:  Is it important to know who is at the other end of the connection?

Budiardjo:  Functionally of course it is, just like I would only have relevant people on my buddy list. But from the point of view value not as much, if your buddy list is twice as large as mine, it’s twice as valuable.

Sinclair:  But sensors don’t have buddy lists.

Budiardjo:  In a way they do, though not as visible of course.

Sinclair:  You say “a piece of information”, are we only talking sensors?

Budiardjo:  That’s an interesting question; you see this should apply to all manner of information (or data in its raw sense). Sensors, calculated point, a status of something, a digital switch, a video camera, historical information, an alarm state or even information such as event logs, the IP address of a node, design strategy, the make of a device, user data and many other things. It’s pretty much everything.

Sinclair:  How does Web Services come into play here?

Budiardjo:  Web Services as well as all of the connectivity technologies are the things that enable the Connectivity Law to be realized. The flexibility of connectivity, as seen in technologies such as IP and Web Services are the very attributes that allow this anything to anything connectivity paradigm we have today.

Sinclair:  How is this useful?

Budiardjo:  The point here is that if you are installing a sensor (or any other “point” in a building), in the past you would typically think about it’s usefulness to your immediate purpose, to control a fan, open a door, a PID loop or some other need of the system you are installing.

Sinclair:   What else is there?

Budiardjo:  With ubiquitous connectivity, the sensor can actually be used by many other purposes that you could have absolutely no knowledge of, but purposes that are likely to bring significant value to some other system, person or business process within the building, the building owner’s organization or even further a field.

Sinclair:  So, how do we actually quantify this, we are engineers after all, we need numbers!

Budiardjo:  At one level you can’t and it’s not necessary. The important thing here is that engineers broaden their minds and realize that with connectivity in place they no longer work in an isolated island.

On the other hand, it would be possible for designers to estimate the value of a certain point by thinking of all the potential uses of the point, and maybe even creating a new column on points list called “worth”. Maybe a value between 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, etc. to 1,000,000.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:  How could this be useful?

Budiardjo:  Well if I know sensor A is worth 5 and sensor B is worth 1,000,000 then I could make sure that I use the best sensor for the latter, use gold plated connectors, have triple fault detection scheme in place or even a redundant sensor in stand-by. I could also charge more for that sensor!

Sinclair:  I can see a whole discussion on this “worth”

Budiardjo:  Yes, but not for this interview I think.

Sinclair:  Sounds like something for my track at BuilConn Palm Springs.

Budiardjo:  That would be great.

Sinclair:  How does this relate to M2M?

Budiardjo:  Very relevant, the same principles apply in the broader Machine-to-Machine world with all manner of devices in the home, car, industrial applications, supply-chain and so on. It could provide a way to simplify the M2M picture.

Sinclair:  And what of GridWise?

Budiardjo:  The Connectivity Law applies there also. Think about it, some information in a home or commercial building could contribute to a decision for a generating plan to start or stop or could contribute to switching some transmission line routing of electricity.

Sinclair:  So this goes well beyond buildings!

Budiardjo:  Yes it does, as we’ve seen with the Internet it is, to use that word, ubiquitous. The bigger the network, the more connectivity can add value to information.

Sinclair:  How do you suggest we use this?

Budiardjo:  I suggest that we openly discuss this and see if it works to help us all appreciate how connectivity is bringing new perspectives and opportunities to building automation and many other device connectivity areas.

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