– Richard McElhinney and Ken Sinclair
Richard McElhinney is a founding
member of the Project Haystack 501C corporation and a member of the
board of directors. Richard is the Chief Software Architect with
Airmaster Pty. Ltd and Conserve it and works on developing the Project
Haystack standard as well as being involved in efforts to develop the
various Project Haystack software toolkits.
Richard McElhinney has more than 15 years experience in commercial
building automation product development. Having started his
career in Australia Richard worked for a number of years in the UK and
has delivered products across Australia, Europe and North
America. Being formally trained in LonWorks and DALI product
development and as a Niagara AX System Integrator and Developer,
Richard is now the Chief Software Architect at Airmaster Australia and
Conserve it. As an early contributor to project-haystack.org
Richard was the author of the first Niagara AX semantic modelling
implementation which has served as the basis for the current NHaystack
View on Project-Haystack From Down Under
We are hearing the need for raising more awareness within the BMS
contractor community and trying to organise some general education on
Can you tell us how you came to be
involved in Project Haystack?
organization implements advanced building automation and
enterprise energy management systems for facility owners and operators.
We regularly need to connect disparate systems to accomplish customer
goals. Open and standard protocols help but leave a big gap. That gap
is interpreting what the data means. In other words is this sensor a
room temp or a return air temp. Historically the only way to do that
was with human interaction – technicians or operators could look at the
points in a BAS and could determine what they meant. But there was no
way for that descriptive information to be captured and communicated
between systems and applications. The result was that an inordinate
amount of time and project cost was spent on this part of the project.
A group of like-minded people had the opportunity to communicate about
this challenge and thought there was a way to address it.
Project Haystack was born from those discussions. I joined the effort
at the outset in early 2011.
In order to directly promote and deploy standards such as Project
Haystack in our market I work with our own clients directly to educate
them about Project Haystack and semantic modelling and I also work with
a subsidiary organisation we have founded, BUENO Systems
to focus on driving the adoption of semantic
modelling in building control systems.
Project Haystack is an open source
community driven effort and appears to be continually developing. Can
it be used today?
an important question to answer for the readers and the
answer is absolutely. Haystack is being used in thousands of facilities
today. Some background may be helpful for readers to understand
what Haystack does, and where it stands.
First of all Haystack defines a methodology for defining descriptive
data for equipment systems and devices. That methodology – known as
tagging -- is well proven and very complete and stable. The community
is building on that methodology with a number of additional efforts.
One is to use the methodology to define standard tags for typical
equipment systems. That work is ongoing as experts in different systems
voluntarily contribute their knowledge to define the tags that should
be applied to various equipment systems. It should also be noted,
however, that there is a huge amount of building systems that are
already defined. Perhaps most import on this topic is that fact that
you do not have to have an approved tagging model for a device to use
Haystack techniques. The methodology is very flexible and can be
extended. It allows people to define their own tags as needed while
still adhering to the standard and making their data “self describing”.
Others in the community build tools and plug-ins to enable different
products to implement Haystack. For example, along with a number of
others including J2 Innovations (www.j2inn.com
), I have been involved
in the development of an add on for NiagaraAX® systems that allow them
to natively “speak” the Haystack language. That add-on, known as
NHaystack has been deployed in well over 1000 buildings but continues
to be enhanced based on field feedback. By the way it’s available for
download at no cost. See www.project-haystack.org/downloads
Others have built engineering tools to streamline the process of adding
tags to legacy systems that do not allow for add-ons.
All of this work is available at no cost. You can learn about Project
Haystack and all of the work developed by the community at
How do you see Project Haystack
being adopted in Australia and what sort of feedback are you getting
from the market?
feedback we are getting is that once people understand the
concept of tagging they immediately see the need for this sort of
technology. Sifting through thousands of data points is no simple
task for just one building, let alone a portfolio of buildings.
we are hearing the need for raising more awareness within the BMS
contractor community and trying to organise some general education on
the topic. Hence why I’m here!
Having said that there is no better place to learn about Project
Haystack than at Haystack Connect 2015 in Colorado Springs,
for more information.
In terms of adoption, first of all you need to remember Australia is a
relatively small building controls market with respect to the USA or
Europe, however we are pleased to say that we have two clients who are
openly specifying Project Haystack directly for analytics, another very
large property management company who are specifying Project Haystack
as a requirements for all new BMS projects and a very large
multi-building / multi-vendor systems integration at one of Australia’s
most recognised universities.
Sorry Ken unfortunately I can’t reveal
any names just yet, but hope to be able to in the future.
You mentioned downloads and
add-ons that are available for Niagara
AX, can folks from outside the Niagara AX Community use Project
Haystack in their systems?
this is one area we are constantly developing. The
answer is unequivocally YES! However we haven’t got that
message out there yet, but are starting to now. The Project
Haystack standard is Open Source, which means anyone can use it in
their systems. The tagging and communication standards are well
documented and based on modern web systems that are increasingly
pervasive in our world.
The Project Haystack Corporation is already talking to a global
building technology standards group with the hope of working with them
to embed Project Haystack in their system.
There are also a number of individuals who have various implementations
of the Project Haystack standard they have developed as well.
It’s all there in the forum (www.project-haystack.org/forum/topic
if people are interested there is an active community willing to
support individuals or companies who wish to get involved developing
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