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December 2017
Interview

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George ThomasEMAIL INTERVIEWGeorge Thomas and Ken Sinclair

George Thomas, President, Contemporary Controls

George Thomas, president of Contemporary Controls, spoke with Ken Sinclair about Contemporary Controls’ efforts to making a truly open controller using the Sedona Framework.



Making a Truly Open Controller

Although BACnet is open if you do not have the programming tool used on the job you still cannot gain access to the system.

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SinclairContemporary Controls is promoting the BAScontrol series as a Truly Open Controller.  Being open is interesting but what comprises a truly open controller?

Thomas:  We wrote a white paper on the concept two years ago titled Creating an Open Controller with Sedona Framework and in the paper, we listed four attributes:

We utilize BACnet which is clearly the most popular building automation protocol and open to all to use.  But BACnet is just a protocol and does not address control programming.  For control programming, we use Sedona Framework for its modern drag-and-drop visual programming features.  Although Tridium owns the Sedona Framework trademark, the technology is available to the public royalty-free under an Academic Free License.

Although you can program Sedona controllers using Niagara Workbench AX, that tool is restricted to those in the Tridium channel.  What we did was create a tool called the Sedona Applications Editor (SAE) which is simpler to use and free to download from our website to any systems integrator who is interested.  Although BACnet is open if you do not have the programming tool used on the job you still cannot gain access to the system.

The final attribute is creating a community where integrators provide control sequences and recommendations for custom components while Sedona developers provide the custom components. Sharing of custom components within the Sedona community is possible.  Would it not be interesting if we could share sequences and control strategies to better our industry?

SinclairWhy do you like Sedona?

Thomas:  The concept of dragging components onto a wire sheet, configuring their attributes and linking them with other components to create applications is intuitive and easy to explain.  Those with Niagara experience will have no problem learning Sedona.  Once you assemble your logic onto a wire sheet, it executes immediately simplifying program debugging.  Sedona is fast, has real-time attributes and works.

Sedona is also IP-based, so we made our BAScontrollers BACnet/IP compliant.  This allows for Ethernet connected controllers, head-ends, and programming tools simplifying connectivity.

Sedona is also portable to other platforms.  To prove this, we have ported it to Raspberry Pi 3 and will release a product next month with 12-points of I/O.  We also made a BAScontrol emulator that runs on a PC.  This way you can develop your control program without having the actual controller.

SinclairWe all know about the original Sedona development by Tridium but is there any new Sedona development occurring?

Thomas:  Yes there is.  A Sedona developer can find the Sedona source code, sample programs, kits containing components and a Sedona compiler at SedonaDev.Org.  The last version released by Tridium was Sedona 1.2.28.  Contemporary Controls’ position is to keep this version intact and not modify any of the components or kits. We call these components Tridium-release components.  These kits are hardware independent, so anyone with a Sedona 1.2 virtual machine can use them.
 
Each hardware developer must modify the Sedona 1.2 virtual machine to run on native hardware.  The resulting kits are hardware dependent and cannot be shared.   However, a Sedona developer can make custom components that provide greater functionality and release them as independent hardware kits which can be shared with the Sedona community.  We have done this at Contemporary Controls.

One other tool we have made available at no charge is our BASbackup – BAScontrol Project Utility.  Although you can backup Sedona applications with Workbench AX or SAE, you cannot save the other configuration files for BACnet and web pages.  With BASbackup you can.  BASbackup is available with our BAScontrol Toolset.

Reliable ControlsSinclairCan you give me an example of some of these custom components and how they would be used?

Thomas:  Based upon our experience and suggestions by a systems integrator, we developed custom components that better support air-handler sequences and included them in a series of pre-built constant volume RTU Sedona applications that can be downloaded from our website.  They include an enhanced PID component, enthalpy component, run-proving component, outside-air true blend component and others that reduce wire sheet complexity.  As part of the download, a systems integrator receives an AutoCad system schematic, points list, the sequence of operation and sample wiring diagram.  Since the BAScontrol is a freely-programmable controller, you can modify the pre-built apps.

The pre-built applications make use of two types of custom components.  Virtual components allow the exchange of setpoint data and calculated variables between the wire sheet and a BACnet client while Web components allow a web browser to make configuration changes via the wire sheet.

SinclairHow are you planning on getting the word out on your open controller?

Thomas:  First through you and the popular forum you have, and second through HVAC training schools around the nation.  We are training the trainers while providing them free BACnet and Sedona tools and real controllers where students can read a sequence of operation and implement a control program with little cost to the training centers.  We also started the Sedona Alliance to create awareness, and we just introduced our free BAScontrol Toolset where you can download SAE, BASbackup and the BASemulator and teach yourself Sedona without investing in a real controller.   

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