February 2012

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Open Connection Communities
My overall takeaway from AHR Expo 2012, Chicago. 

Ken Sinclair, Publisher

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Folks often say they appreciate my view of the industry from 10,000 feet which is interesting since I live at sea level. The privilege of being the publisher/editor of AutomatedBuildings.com is that it requires that I read and assemble many articles, interviews, news releases, and new products for the large building automation industry every month. This task allows me insight to make comments on trends and shifts in direction in the industry based on the rapidly evolving information published on our magazine/online resource monthly.

My overall takeaway from AHR Expo 2012 Chicago was the growing importance of being part of several strong Open Connection Communities. Who we are connected to and the value they bring to our products and services defines who we are and likely who we are to become. Open Connection Communities will shape building automation’s future. The communities that we connect to must be open so every member can build on the resource of that community. To put this into perspective the Apple app connection community comes to mind; over half a million apps with millions of people working on them. You can argue that Apple is an open dictatorship but Apple has done more than any to define smart phone and tablet
expectations and standards . In addition to defining standards they have clearly shown us what these devices are capable of.  Now Android must create even better apps with their community, further raising the bar for those to follow.  The example of Blackberry and its failure to create an open community platform has shown the significant of engaging your users.

Why am I talking about smart phones, we are in the building automation industry correct?  Yes, but our industry is now becoming very visible and is converging rapidly on evolving connection communities that are re-shaping our lives and our businesses..

It has become crystal clear that as an industry we cannot afford to develop custom solutions as we have in the past. We must be part of viable connection communities and dovetail their amazing services and connections into our products and services. We cannot compete with the millions of man-hours being spent developing amazing services that are everywhere and anywhere on all platforms. Anything that is less or different than these interfaces is very susceptible to rejection by our clients.

We need to let go of the ownership of our data and mesh with an open information world. We need to interact with connection communities like Google and Bing.  We need not to own this data just to find the most effective way to utilize it to grow our respective communities.

We have our standards plus the knowledge of our industry but we no longer can grow rapidly enough without being an integral part of several connection communities.

I was extremely pleased to see our connection communities on the AHR Expo exhibit floor.  The newest community who became very visible this year was EnOcean providing a strong connection to the wireless products communities. All their members have the ability to bring solutions to market that interact with the community providing more value than just the original product.  The EnOcean Alliance, a leading consortium of 250 companies working to standardize and internationalize energy harvesting wireless technology for green intelligent buildings, had the participation of almost 30 Alliance member companies on the exhibition floor.


This is a great example of a community working out their problems and just getting on with it. Some of the other protocols have not been so successful at creating a working community or working products.

Of course strong traditional communities like BACnet, Niagara, and LonMark were showing the power of their connection communities and the host of new products and applications they have built to share with our industry.. The power and reach of these communities has grown greatly over the last few years.

In our quest as an industry to be anywhere, any platform, anytime while entering the new world of  analytics has created middleware connection communties that allow the power of what is already available to be added to our real time dynamic data.  Since our data in real time arrives through a myriad of networks with different time constraints, the concept of a stored data base has evolved as a solution for all.
As the Apple example has shown us sometimes the best way to grow rapidly is in a quasi-dictatorship. Once the direction change is shown the true open communities can follow and build on the original community's success similar to what is now happening with the Android community.

Niagara frame work has created an amazing community over the last several years with many products that all interact with their open platform and provide connection to many other connection communities. Once these connections are build they exist for the complete community which is very powerful.

Of course truly powerful products have the ability to straddle many communities and build on the power of all. We must clearly define which communities we are to be part of or create our own.

The reality is you need to be part of many connection communities such as;

http://project-haystack.org  Project Haystack is an open source initiative to develop naming conventions and taxonomies for building equipment and operational data. We define standardized data models for sites, equipment, and points related to energy, HVAC, lighting, and other environmental systems.

Here are some others:

I took a little time to walk the floor and look at the new heavy metal for our indstry and was pleased to hear the name of connections communtity such as BACnet, LonMark, Niagara and EnOcean being bantered about.  Another community I heard a lot of mention of was the Wi-Fi community.

Lots of changes in the industry for sure.


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