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A look at the BACnet User Group in New England

- share experience, learn from each other
Svetlana Lyons
Svetlana Lyons
Cimetrics


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The purpose of the BACnet User Group, whose website is http://www.bacnetusergroupne.com, is to bring together the local BACnet user community on a quarterly basis to share tips and techniques, pains and joys, regarding the use of BACnet products and technologies. The user group features BACnet experts from Cimetrics, Siemens, Schneider Electric and many more.

Since 1987, when the development of the BACnet protocol began, the BACnet community has continued to grow and evolve. There are hardly any commercial buildings which don’t have BACnet devices of some kind. Many engineers and facility managers have had to educate themselves in using the BACnet protocol. The Standard for the protocol itself gets updated on a regular basis and now has 1,378 pages! Some facility managers have multiple BACnet vendors on their site, and their products need to communicate with each other. In addition, different vendor’s products can have different BACnet revisions.  All this is enough to make anyone’s head spin. There are so many questions – how do you get the answers?

You can go online - there are some online BACnet user groups and BACnet email lists where you can ask the questions and get the answers from the users all over the world e.g. Linkedin BACnet Group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/114757. BACnet international is doing a great job developing its online educational initiative, the BACnet Institute. The BACnet Institute is an online center for BACnet educational resources and intends to provide an easy path to BACnet information and learning for everyone involved with BACnet systems, as well as forums to share knowledge: http://www.bacnetinternational.org/page/the_bacnet_institute

Despite all these online social activities we wanted to create physical experiences that would bring BACnet enthusiasts together in the offline world. Overcoming a shared obstacle/situation brings solidarity to the people who go through it. That’s why activities like this are great ways to strengthen existing bonds and form new ones quickly.

That’s why the BACnet User Group was formed in 2014 in the New England area, where user group champions Siemens and Cimetrics are located. As Jim Butler, Chief Technology Officer of Cimetrics correctly states it:

“We created the user group in order to provide a venue for people in New England to learn more about how to apply BACnet.  Our face-to-face meetings give us an opportunity to meet our peers and share information about topics of mutual interest.  We greatly appreciate the support that we have received from BACnet International.”

The very first meeting was held at Cimetrics' office in Downtown Boston. The next meetings were in different locations to add more excitement to our gathering, to let people from different parts of New England easier commutes, and to learn more about our hosts. We held meetings all over Massachusetts: at Philips Color Kinetics in Burlington; Fraunhofer Living Laboratory, South Boston; Siemens, Canton; and Schneider Electric in Andover. After discussions and considerations, we decided to have a specific format to make meetings educational and entertaining at the same time.

Meetings are opportunities to network so we usually start with a networking hour where people can meet each other in an informal way. People are getting to know each other better and learn about their experience with BACnet. This is a great opportunity to build long-term relationships in the BACnet field. Then we have a dinner sponsored by BACnet International and an official part.

Our official part usually has two presenters and discussions afterward. The topics include educating attendees about the latest BACnet developments or events or sharing BACnet integration challenges.

Reliable ControlsIt’s an environment where the BACnet professionals can learn from each other. Together they can propel BACnet to work seamlessly between vendors. The industry experts can help a lot of end users. Facility managers who have BACnet systems at their sites are the ones to benefit from the user group greatly. They can ask any burning BACnet questions and get a consultation from BACnet gurus.

Here is what Andy McMillan, President & Managing Director of BACnet International had to say about a user group experience:

"There are many tangible benefits from our members meeting face-to-face, including the exchange of knowledge, problem solving and relationship building," said Andy McMillan, president and managing director of BACnet International. "The BACnet User Group New England hosted a great meeting, and it was my pleasure participating in the presentations and getting a chance to talk with our members."

Most of the attendees are from Massachusetts, but we also had attendees from as far away as Connecticut, New Hampshire and even from Atlanta, Georgia. Participation is growing every time. We started with 10 people, and the last meeting had around 30 people.
To give you an idea of one of our meetings let’s look at our latest one.

Meeting PresentationOur last meeting was on the rainy day of October 27, 2016, in Andover, MA at Schneider Electric's office. One of the speakers drove for four hours in the rain and even snow to attend the meeting - that's what we call dedication! There were people from all over New England - from Plymouth, Boston, New Hampshire, North Shore, West Massachusetts.

This was the biggest meeting so far - we are growing!! We had great presentations from the president of BACnet International, Andy McMillan, with a live demo of "The BACnet Institute and its associated educational content and its forums," and from Larry Stangel - Automation Specialist at Siemens Building Technologies about "BACnet integration challenges with real life examples from the job sites."
 
BACnet International provided great food and beverages!!

We plan the next meeting in March/April in some new and exciting location. If you are in New England area, please join - subscribe to our newsletter or to the User Group forum to be sure you are notified http://www.bacnetusergroupne.com/!

We hope that our BACnet user group experience will inspire BACnet specialists to form one in their area.




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