January 2005

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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 Aaron Hansen, Senior Software Engineer, TridiumEMAIL INTERVIEW -  Aaron Hansen & Ken Sinclair

 Aaron Hansen, Senior Software Engineer, Tridium

Aaron Hansen chairs the XML Standards subcommittee of oBIX.  At Tridium, Inc. he is a senior software engineer responsible for bringing enterprise technologies to the Niagara platform.

Update on oBIX

Sinclair: So what's up with oBIX?

Hansen: We have made a lot of progress and wanted to get word out that documentation for one of our services is publicly available. While nearly complete, this isn't an official public review. We are proud of what we have done and by making it available, we hope others might be motivated to provide input sooner rather than later.

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Sinclair: One of your services? How many are you planning?

Hansen: There may be numerous oBIX services, but at the core will be three services: Sys, alarms, and history. These are the horizontal services, applicable to all verticals. We already have some special interest groups looking into vertical services such as security and power management. Our architecture will allow these vertical services to be plugged into an oBIX server via the Sys service.

We are nearly complete with the Sys service. It performs discovery, reading and writing of primitive data, and models other oBIX aware namespaces. In the IT world, Java and .NET call this functionality introspection: the ability to inspect the structure of a system via its primitive types without knowing its higher level complex data types.

Sinclair: What do you mean by "models other oBIX aware namespaces?"

Hansen: The Sys service is a reusable discovery service. oBIX, OPC XML, BACnet/WS all implement some form of discovery, but it isn't their core competency. The oBIX Sys service allows providers of other services to insert hooks to their data so they won't have to re-implement discovery. This also means that IT can have a single point of entry to the facility, no matter how many services are involved. Even though the OPC and BACnet XML specifications have already implemented discovery, oBIX could still be used to learn about their data. I think this feature will interest a lot people and they might be encouraged to get involved because we haven't finalized its design.

Sinclair: Speaking of OPC XML and BACnet/WS, how are you different?

Hansen: I would say those specs are XML interfaces to their native protocols. OPC is also an interoperability standard geared toward the horizontal movement of data. OPC created their spec because they needed independence from Windows and DCOM. The enterprise, looking at their spec might be scared by things such as sampling rate, deadband and similar issues only our world cares about. OPC also has too many data types, some not compatible with Java. The distinction with BACnet/WS is less clear, their specification is quite explicit about being an enterprise interface to building automation systems including BACnet. However, I'd be surprised to see BACnet/WS as an interface to systems based on other protocols such as MODBUS or LonTalk. I think oBIX is more protocol agnostic.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair: What is the probable time line to see the first real standards out of the OASIS?

Hansen: We hope to have an official public review of the Sys service underway by Builconn in March where we also intend to be demonstrating oBIX connectivity. If the public review goes smoothly we could be submitting our work for approval by the entire OASIS community in the first half of this year. I expect history and alarms to make public review later in 2005.

Sinclair: What would you like readers/users to take away regarding oBIX?

Hansen: The future of building automation will be a new breed of applications that connect facilities with traditional business units such as human resources and accounting, for functions such as cost savings and performance management. This is new territory and it's requirements are evolving. oBIX hopes to address this by allowing vendors to model anything from high level abstractions to low level details, with an architecture that embraces additional new services as requirements evolve.

Sinclair: What's the best way to contact you for those interested in oBIX?

Hansen: Documents, email archives and contact info can be found at our subcommittee homepage:


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