June 2004
Interview
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EMAIL INTERVIEW - Toby Considine & Ken Sinclair

Toby Considine – Technology Officer, Facility Services, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Toby.Considine@fac.unc.edu


New oBIX Chairman

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Sinclair:  Toby welcome to your new position as oBIX chairman. How does it feel to guiding this exciting group?

Considine:  I am excited to be involved with group that I think has the potential to change the controls industry, to change what owners and operators can expect from buildings, and to advance several values that I hold very dear.

I have been integrating technology and facilities at the University of North Carolina for seventeen years. Clearly the first goal of Facilities Operations at a University is cost-efficient operation; I think oBIX will enable us to do that better. It is also clear that the way we have been doing things is quite simply not agile enough to support the ever –changing education, research, and public services goals of the University.

We do a good job at UNC in running an energy efficient campus. Our Cogeneration Plant and our overall operations have been recognized by the EPA for good work. We are visited by regularly by other institutions that come to see how our Cogeneration Plant, our Chilled water plants, our central distribution of steam, chilled water, and HVAC systems provide cost-effective operations. They come to see our internal power grid, fed from three separate external substations as well as by our internal power generation lets maintain power to critical research facilities, animal quarters, and, oh yes, students, even during hurricanes and ice storms that leave much of the state in darkness. But it is not good enough.

Today’s student expects a higher standard in comfort. Today’s research requires more precise control of temperature and humidity. Today’s mores demand higher standards of comfort for research animals. We know how to do this, for a cost.

At the same time, the rising cost of college is an unfortunate fact, an almost unbearable burden to the middle class, a barrier to social mobility for the poor, and a strain on ideals that we hold dear as a society. They have also become a political issue, a problem cited by both major candidates for president in this election cycle, and one causing rumbling of oversight from congress.

Not only must the costs of operating buildings not go up, they must come down, and not by a small per cent. This will require a change in paradigm, a change from hard to change, hard to integrate, systems. It will require a commitment more effective commissioning, not just once, but continuously. It will require the ability to integrate both the high end controls of the research facility with low-end controls for classroom buildings and the ever-present research trailer that we may need to just turn off.

At a University, there are many different constituents – and certainly no integrated chain of command. Multiple users need access to data. Animal Care specialist need the capability of live auditing of environmental data – and they are not content to view it as HVAC operators do. Our residence halls need direct access to steam and electrical data. Our caterer wants to monitor environmental temperatures in prep areas for food safety while monitoring steam and chilled water provision to verify that we meet QOS agreements. The students want live utilization data as they compete dorm-against-dorm, in the green games each spring.

On top of that, we have a commitment to sustainability, to green buildings and LEEDs standards. This demands a sensor-rich environment. This demands a more cost effective way to add monitoring other than using expensive control points.

oBIX is potentially the key to all of these issues, so personally, and professionally, I am excited to be involved with it.

Reliable Controls Sinclair:  How is the transition from oBIX to OASIS going?

Considine:  The transition is going along nicely. On April 26, the CABA board confirmed the recommendation of the oBIX committee at BuilConn. Paul Ehrlich of Trane, David Clute of Cisco, John Petze of Tridium, and Byron Hill of Johnson Controls had joined OASIS in the interim and were able to promptly begin the OASIS process. On May 15, a formal call to participate went out, and people have been signing up rapidly.

As we had hoped, the transition to OASIS has brought in a more diverse participation. I have fielded inquiries from power distribution companies that would like to talk to the building as well as had discussions of alliances with other OASIS committees and with technology companies that were not paying attention to oBIX before.

The first meeting of the new committee will be on June 15. Anyone signed up before the end of May will be a full member immediately under OASIS rules.

Sinclair:  Will the oBIX identity completely disappear?

Considine:  Not at all. The initiative is still called oBIX. oBIX is taking its place on the front page of OASIS alongside business standards such as EBXML and LegalXML, and technical standards such as WSDL and XAML.

Eventually, www.oBIX.org  ill be the public face of oBIX within OASIS. We need to meet certain organizational and administrative goals before then. In the meantime, this address will continue to point the site run by Clasma, although we expect it to be recast to reflect the organizational changes decided at the first meeting in June.

Sinclair:  Are you concerned that the cost of join OASIS may limit our total industries' involvement?

Considine:  Certainly it is a concern. It was an area of prolonged discussion during the oBIX transition team. Not joining OASIS also has costs. Web site management, the publication standards required to maintain an open organization, the organizational structure needed to own intellectual property, staff to issue press releases, these all cost money. Within OASIS, we are now have an infrastructure that provides them.

oBIX will require wide participation to be successful. A quick look at the roster of oBIX on OASIS will show that several members have joined as individuals. This offers a low-cost alternative for the small organization to join.

Sinclair:  Who are the core members of the new OASIS movement?

Considine:  I anticipate that almost all the participants of the old oBIX will remain participants in the new. The technical subcommittee, the one writing XML standards has moved over almost intact. It is still chaired by Aaron Hansen of Tridium.

Paul Ehrlich, the former chair, continues to offer active support to the project. I rely on him for advice and comments for each step. All of the sponsors of the proposal, those who joined OASIS right away have been very helpful.

David Clute of Cisco is an example of the wider participation we are starting to get. David is a involved in the real estate operations of CISCO as well as a strong participant in OSCRE.

As to other, well, we’ll have to see the dynamic of the first meeting. I am hoping to have special interest groups (SIGs) for each control vertical market participating. I am hoping to recruit more representative of owners and tenants to focus on developing the roadmap for oBIX.

http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=obix

But this is all speculative until June 15, when we actually begin to meet.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:  What do you anticipate will be the structure of oBIX within OASIS?

Considine:  I anticipate there will be several subcommittees where the bulk of the work will get done, and a general meeting that meets (by teleconference) less frequently to discuss and align the efforts of the subcommittees. The subcommittees that I see include:

Each subcommittee would have its own forum, its own mailing list, and its own archives. Members of the other subs could choose their level of participation with a particular subcommittee.

The exact implementation of this and a charter for each sub are the proper business of the first meeting.

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

Considine:  It is my intent that oBIX stay out of the internal controls of each system, to leave that work to the existing protocols, driven by the mature and well-understood needs of the controls systems. By doing so, the committee will be somewhat freed from the risks of control systems and therefore able to get a partial implementation out quickly, and to begin to bring value to the enterprise soon.

To that end, I hope to have an OASIS subcommittee of building owners and building operators to prioritize those items that will bring value to the enterprise quickly. Participants in this subcommittee can thereby be isolated, if they wish, from the technical commands of the data structures.

The first goal of this subcommittee will be to catalog what they want from oBIX, and to prioritize the development of features. This work will be shared with the technical subcommittee, to identify the low hanging fruit, those features that can be implemented early and that will deliver value to the enterprise immediately. This work will also be the basis for the road-map for oBIX.

If we can get early strong participation in this committee (picture yourself here!), to make sure we get the right things first, a goal of oBIX v1.0, delivering value to the enterprise, by year end seems doable.

 

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