February 2012
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Why You Should Embrace Flash
Flash is here to stay and will drive building performance visualization.
Sarah Erdman,
Marketing Director,
QA Graphics


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After winding down from the AHR Expo in Chicago, I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up a few misconceptions about the use of Adobe® Flash® that QA Graphics had heard during an educational session as well in discussions in the exhibit hall.

As the building automation industry continues to move into a more visual direction, everyone is becoming familiar with user interfaces, energy dashboards, mobile apps and other rich internet applications.  As a company that provides user interfaces and energy dashboards, it’s important that QA Graphics stay on top of the latest technology, including Adobe Flash, which we use in many of our projects, so that we can add animations, video, and interactivity to the rich internet applications that you use on a daily basis. 

Recently, Adobe had announced it will discontinue Flash Player for mobile, which has led to a number of misconceptions.   During the show, we had a number of questions about the use of Flash in dashboards and in mobile devices, so we’d like to help clear up some of these misconceptions.  The confusion regarding Flash stems from the Flash Player in mobile browsers being dropped. The change is that Adobe will not do future development of its mobile Flash plug in.  Flash is NOT being discontinued in any way.  The change is that Adobe will focus on distributing mobile apps instead of loading Flash Player in a web page. Flash can continue to be used like it always has; the difference is just how the application is delivered.

I think what many may not understand about Flash, is that you can use the same application multiple ways – in a web browser, on a kiosk, as a mobile application. It’s an established platform that works in 99 percent of all browsers, so the application works across any browser, computer or device, and will consistently look and function the same, with fewer technical restrictions.   It provides businesses the ability to deliver complex data or visually compelling content, graphics, animations or video to the widest possible audience with the same application.  For mobile, Flash developers can package native apps with Adobe® AIR® for all the major app stores.  It allows standalone applications to be built in Adobe Flash or other platforms and then deliver the application across multiple platforms including Android™, BlackBerry®, iOS devices, and personal computers.

We can tell you it’s an exciting time to see where the industry is headed thanks to Flash.  Some of the world’s leading software companies use the Flash platform in their business applications, including Google, Cisco Systems, Verizon, and HP1.  As a fellow technology company, it’s important that we stay current with the latest and leading software options and that’s why we use Flash.  It not only allows us to provide visually stunning experiences, but the platform offers such versatility with the ability to deploy the same application anywhere, consistently. This allows applications to be reused, offering cost-effective and rapid delivery times.

Flash is excellent for data driven applications like energy dashboards. For example, our Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard® is not only a visually compelling application; it also can store a large amount of data to make the technical details behind building performance much easier to understand.   The solution is accessible across multiple platforms and devices.  For mobile, we take our energy dashboard application and package it with Adobe® AIR®.  We’ve also created an app capable of accessing real-time building data from multiple locations and different building automation systems simultaneously.   It’s almost limitless as to how many data points can be accessed. So, as far as mobile goes, using Flash for creating energy dashboard solutions just offers more opportunity for the end-user.  As energy dashboards continue to become common place, these applications will be able to provide viewers with real-time building data anywhere, anytime.

The benefits of Flash extend far beyond energy dashboards.  It offers financial benefits, data visualization, aids in decision making processes and serves as an excellent marketing tool. Here are some quick facts about Flash and its enterprise benefits2:

Reliable Controls Another topic I’d like to address is the use of Google Maps.  At an AHR educational session, it was recommended to use Google Maps to obtain static images of buildings or aerial maps as opposed to having a custom map created. An example of a 3D campus map created by QA Graphics was shown as part of this.  QA Graphics creates 3D maps for many projects and has researched the copyright guidelines associated with obtaining images from Google Maps rather than creating them.  In some instances this may offer you a more affordable solution, but we advise that it should not be the standard, at least when creating dashboards for occupants. 

If you do wish to use Google Maps, you should be aware of the strict copyright statements regarding the use of these resources.  Guidelines for Google Earth and Google Map images may be reviewed at http://www.google.com/permissions/geoguidelines.html.  Google states that an organization can “use Google Earth Pro images and data for marketing purposes as long as this data is not sold to any third parties. Additionally, the images must retain their copyright and source information. Images and videos used in on-air media require special approval.”3    If the images will be used by a business other than your own, or if the images are altered in any way, like adding content on top of the map images, additional permission may need to be granted.   Having a custom map developed eliminates any copyright worries and allows for more visually appealing graphics for the end user.

I hope this helps provide a better understanding of how Flash can benefit the building automation industry.  With our experience in providing energy dashboards across North America and internationally, QA Graphics will continue to embrace Flash and recommends that you do the same.  

For more information on how Flash is used to develop solutions specifically for the building automation industry, contact serdman@qagraphics.com

About QA Graphics
QA Graphics is a leading provider of design services for the building automation industry, specializing in control system graphics, energy dashboards, mobile applications, and other user interfaces. Learn more at http://www.qagraphics.com/.  

References
1. Adobe Systems Incorporated. Presentation: The Adobe Flash Platform in the Enterprise. One web, any device. 2010.
2. Adobe Systems Incorporated. Flash Platform benefits.  http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/benefits/. 2012.
3. Google. Google Permissions.   http://www.google.com/permissions/geoguidelines.html.  2012.


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