Easy VRF & DSS Integration Solutions for BACnet, Modbus, Wifi
EMAIL INTERVIEW – Bob Wallace and Ken Sinclair
In 2010 Bob and his business partner, Rick Costanza founded Building Clouds and launched their software platform which they call Opendiem. It is a web accessed full featured HMI, SCADA, GUI that offers robust building management functions and a vast set of connectivity and integration options. Simple and easy, Opendiem provides “WYSIWYG” real-time web page development for monitoring and control of building equipment.
Bob, it has been awhile since our last interview. Obviously Building
Clouds has been busy as indicated by your Tweet “Adoption of strati-fi
Wi-Fi Controllers is Skyrocketing”. What is a strati-fi and
how does it apply to the IoT?
Wallace: Thanks Ken. Yes, we have been busy. As you can image software enhancements and connectivity never stop and over the last two years we have been in “stealth” mode with our strati-fi hardware.
Strat-fi means “strati” or
cloud(s) and “fi” or Wi-Fi…. Cloud Wi-Fi. Strati-fi is a much cooler
Now with 100’s of strati-fi
devices online connecting RTU’s, AHU’s, Fan Coils, VAV’s, VRF’s, VFD’s,
Heaters, Boilers, Chillers, Cooling Towers, Power Meters, Sub-Meters
and Lighting Systems in commercial buildings and schools to Cloud
accounts we knew it was time to share.
controllers and bundled “in-a-box” solutions (kits) are designed to
quickly and easily connect building systems to the cloud over existing
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi or cellular Wi-Fi networks.
Most of our readers are aware of wireless type devices. How is
strati-fi technology different?
question. We’re different because
we leverage the customer’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, we have
extremely robust technology, and our pricing is very aggressive. This
technology also allows the underserved, 80% of the building market to
have a BMS. Our technology typically lowers the labor cost of a BMS
solution by at least 40% over a wired system making it readily
WOW. That sounds great! How does it work?
Wallace: It is
important to start by reviewing
the strati-fi technology.
So the strati-fi
can be connected and brought online without the need for IT
support? That can make deployments pretty simple. Where
does the data come from?
Wallace: Yes, you are correct. The solution is simple, easy to install and cost effective!
strati-fi (SF-22) has two inputs which can accept 0-5 vdc; 10k-2
Thermistor; 0-20ma w/250Ω resistor or dry contact inputs. It also has
two 0-10vdc analog outputs which can be used for modulation or external
load relay control. It requires 12-24 vac/dc power. Point definitions
and configuration are entered into the Opendiem account simplifying the
also have a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) version which has the onboard
I/O and will accept up to four battery powered BLE servers for a
variety of sensors. These data points are transmitted between the
strati-fi and the Opendiem account as fast as every two seconds.
You can install strati-fi’s all over a site(s) in parallel to an existing
BMS to monitor and control stranded assets that were previously too
costly to connect to the existing BMS. The need for traditional
“Pipe and Wire” installation methods are minimized, if not completely
eliminated, resulting in much lower installation costs and wider
The IoT data
comes from the onboard I/O and BLE options on the strati-fi.
Correct? What communication protocols do you support.
The customer receives a great deal of data and control at an affordable
cost. Now here is the real horsepower of the strati-fi. We have an
onboard RS-485 communication port that supports MODBUS RTU protocol.
multiple devices that support MODBUS RTU can be connected to a
strati-fi and the data registers (points) of each device can be mapped
at the Opendiem account for use in all the rich features of
about all the devices that support MODBUS RTU for control and
monitoring. Roof Top Units, boilers, VFD’s, power meters, lighting
systems, sensors, actuators, PLC’s, DDC controllers and thermostats to
name a few. Now we have some IoT disruption!
solution connects and optimizes small systems previously too costly to
connect. It improves the performance of tenant environments AND saves
energy costs. The underserved, 80% of the building market can now
Sinclair: Whew! Bob, that is pretty exciting. What about connectivity to other protocols. How can the strati-fi be used to integrate to BACnet, LON and other protocols?
Wallace: We are proud to say that we make a big difference in solving problems with existing systems for our customers. With so many good protocols translators on the market we decided to focus our expertise on promoting and packaging those gateways where appropriate.
example, we connect a strati-fi to a MODBUS RTU slave port of the
gateway and the other gateway port is connected to the protocol of
choice. We create a data map in the gateway and deliver a complete
A great example of how we provided value for a customer is how we recently solved a problem for a school district. They had a new sophisticated lighting and VRF system installed as part of a renovation. Once programed, these systems ran stand-alone and required service calls to make changes. The school district had determined that traditional front end solutions were too costly.
We engaged our Authorized Digital Partner in the
area who proposed two SF-22’s with MODBUS to BACnet to gateways from CSIMN.
Our Partner established an Opendiem account and made all the VRF and
lighting control available to the school district from the Web using
the existing campus Wi-Fi. We are proud to say that the solution was
simple, easy to install and within budget.
Well it looks like you have protocol integration covered. You mentioned
your controllers and “in-a-box” kit solutions. What are “in-a-box”
the years Building Clouds has reached out to hundreds of traditional
mechanical /control contractors about becoming Building Control
Partners. Some have come on board yet many shared that they were over
committed with the two, three or four systems that they currently
We realized that the traditional channels were maxed out and we needed to create simple and easy solutions that could be installed by up and coming companies, maintenance companies or in-house facility personnel.
So we created solutions, “kits” that can be ordered
and installed that include:
Bob that’s a pretty complete technology offering. Also Building Clouds
can be the back office for new control companies as well end-user
As part of the IoT, the ability to share data to other system is
important. How does Building Clouds share data to other cloud systems
or on premise building management systems?
Wallace: For other
cloud solutions we typically have written to their APIs to read and
write data. Some of our API and connectivity solutions are:
Well Bob it looks like Building Clouds has a pretty full complement of
solutions for the IoT.
Wallace: Thank you
We appreciate the opportunity to share our technology with others. I
thought about an editorial you wrote back in February 2010 right after
coming back from AHR. You talked about “BAD-ASS”.
I think we have achieved it!
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