June 2008

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My 10 Takeaways
from ConnectivityWeek in Santa Clara, California

Ken Sinclair

Jane and I just returned from an extremely successful ConnectivityWeek in Santa Clara, California, called “Empowering the Energy Revolution”.  The previews in our May issue “Convergence in Action” came alive at this event and the overwhelming takeaway message was ”We must be the change we seek!”

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As we all talked to the folks who are not normally part of our arena, about the necessary changes it became obvious that as individuals we must first be the change if is to occur. Changing our views and past ways while becoming part of the overall change required for convergence and empowerment to occur.

Anto is to be congratulated that his vision started several years ago has resulted in an event that saw major players from the Electrical Power Generation, Distribution, Regulators, ISO, Standards Groups, End Users and Automators all at the same event. Organizations such as GridWise, ASHRAE, LBL, PNL, Demand Response, Standards and Protocol groups and those rallying around the open source flag all interacted.

Several years ago at one of the first BuilConns, Anto’s keynote discussed the vision he had and how it was more than a vision it was a hallucination.  Hallucinations are the "perception of a nonexistent event".  I believe that this was the event that contained the substance of his hallucination. Thanks Anto for creating this event; it was truly the cross over that achieved its goal of “Empowering the Energy Revolution”.

My 10 takeaways

1.  We must be the change we seek.  As we all talked about the necessary changes it became obvious that as individuals if this change is to occur we must be the first to change. In my following takeaways from the event I attempt to tell of what we can do to be the change.

2.   Who are we?

In the CSI roundtable development of actionable items John McCaffrey asked a great question of the group. Who are we? What common organizations do we have to best educate and present our capabilities?

That is a very good question. We live in a silo perhaps called Building Automation, but we have never attempted to define the size, reach, scope or mission that silo might contain. We have never provided a unified education of our combined capabilities to those who might actually use our products and services. We are nobodies to those who need our services.

The following satire provides insight into our past thinking.

Hi my name is Ken I belong to Automation Anonymous.  “AA” for short

Group responds…..Hi Ken

I have ….an automation addiction.  I crave incredible integrations, continuous convergence and an elegant entrance to the enterprise.

I want to tell the world, building owners, power companies, architects, and engineers of my visions but I fear that I may not portray the latest and best solutions. I am concerned that others with the same addiction may use my ideas to forward their addictions so we all must stay anonymous. My successes are with many large projects that the owner’s advise me they will kill me if I tell you about so I must remain anonymous. But I want to tell the world!

The members of Automation Anonymous meet yearly at ConnectivityWeek to discuss our automation addictions, while playing the part of the boys in the band we increase our abstractions.

We are frustrated when the world uses automation solutions from the 1960s when we have all this great information.  Do they not understand that we at Automation Anonymous have great new solutions?

Somebody………… s.should tell them.

Please can you as part of the AA group help me?

My name is Ken I have an automation addiction.

Be the change. Help us as an industry break the habit of internalizing our visions and our successes. Let us all reach out and collaborate with ourselves and others who are empowering the energy revolution. Let me know as an industry what I can do to help. I must be the change - I am going to provide connection to web sites that provide good definitions of our industry and will attempt to combine all for an industry definition. I will redefine the mission for our web site although what we have is not wrong it is not right, we need clearly to define who we are. Any help in this task would be appreciated as our scope evolves daily.  One of the best examples we have to date is Tridium's new ad.  Tridium's video of the ad.

3. Open Source

Lots of excitement about Open Source and the May issue article by Anno Scholten of NovusEdge.

Imagine if we had an open source application development platform today.  Think about the new applications that our clever people could build tomorrow to extract new value from the open systems being installed right now, and the plethora of legacy systems already installed.  Think how quickly we could develop enterprise connectivity solutions, or energy data analysis applications, or the next generation web user interfaces, or a SOA solution.  And you probably know someone right now who could do it.  More importantly, I believe we have several companies now who are ideally positioned to lead the charge on an open source initiative.  The leaders in the industry who had the vision of and established open systems realize that their significant value is in not in the underlying infrastructure but rather the applications and services they’ve created.

Be sure to read Open Source for Open Systems – Follow up to ConnectivityWeek  Anno Scholten, NovusEdge
"I would like to start a community called OpenLynx where I would like to bring these and several other open source initiatives together to discuss how we can all collaborate on a common goal for our industry."

I am committed to help promote Open Source, please help me with your opinions and connections.  Be the change.

4.  New Blood for Our Industry

As we viewed the crowd there were few without grey hair.  Although wisdom comes with grey hair, we need those who can take us to the next level now and quickly connect us to the changing browser based world. Open source could be a door to let new folks into our exciting world. Open protocols have created several niche markets and Open Source will greatly increase the ability of existing online resources to flow towards our industry while keeping us current with daily enterprise evolution. SaaS will grow rapidly in this open environment and our work force will be greatly amplified with new blood and open source libraries. Hire folks with these skills that can provide an elegant entrance to the enterprise. Be the change.

5. Agility

Agility is the ability to change position rapidly and accurately without losing balance. We all need to enhance our agility as if you think things have been changing rapidly over the last few years keep focused on the next few years.  Make every decision pliable so that you can maintain your agility in the future. It is likely that the details of your plans will change so build on strong platforms that will not.  Have your plans include services and products that have not yet been created but are talked about. Analyze and understand change then, Be the change.

6. The Power of Collaboration On and Off line

Collaboration is data sharing and personal exchange to an extent that makes the team more than the sum of the individual members. We have the tools; we have the mission, and the desire to seamlessly make buildings a part of a changing world. ConnectivityWeek has introduced us to many folks that we should be collaborating with. Be the change, make collaboration part of your plan. Create your new team.

7. Change starts at Home

The success of the first ever HomeConn event was overwhelming with several of the presentations having standing room only. The reality of two way communication between the utility and the consumer is a great mutual benefit bridge. As the large building automation industry we have to watch how this all plays out as potentially this change may be well implemented in the home before our buildings. Analyze change then be the change.

8.  Demand Response is the Killer app for today

Demand Response is no longer a vision, it is a reality and everyone is working hard on its implementation. The change we need is to communicate this fact and to insure it is part of all building retrofits and new construction. This is a now opportunity that will allow us quickly to reach our Empowering the Energy Revolution goal. For insight into DR read my interview with Peter and Leighton . Be the change

9. We must eliminate energy conversions, they are very wasteful

The law of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another.

Every change involved in the conversion of energy costs us huge. Yet we continue to build wasteful systems that convert energy poorly, often creating more wasted energy than useful. Then we transmit this energy with great losses to the consumer who reconverts it to low grade energy sources with extremely wasteful processes. Are we crazy? Any conversion is wasteful and not useful to our goals.  The amount of energy lost in our Electrical Grid is something to be ashamed of.  GridWise is helping heal the immediate aches of the grid and Toby's column Stop throwing it away – Energy Recycling  suggest some methods of improvement but clearly we must reduce the amount of conversions and the distances of the transmission of energy. Which brings me to my tenth takeaway.

10.  Edison was right!  Westinghouse was wrong!

In the "War of Currents" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Currents

era (sometimes, "War of the Currents" or "Battle of Currents") in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over alternating current (AC) advocated by Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.

In 1887 there were 121 Edison power stations in the United States that delivered DC electricity to customers.

Imagine if Edison had been successful, the fact that DC does not transmit well is an advantage not a disadvantage. It is much easier to generate locally. Imagine that if all the money that was spent on the electrical distribution grid and AC generation was spent on developing DC generation, storage, and renewable energy sources our buildings and homes would look more like space stations and not conversion abortions with national umbilical cords.

Control Solutions, Inc Our world has evolved to a digital world that is a DC world. But we greet this digital world with AC and wastefully conversion because energy is cheap and inexhaustible right? Get over it.

Just like the communication industry that was founded with analog devices and wire distribution systems our installed assets are shifting to become a liability. Countries that do not have this wired distribution infrastructure are able to leapfrog us in cellular wireless networks that require little infrastructure and provide improved performance for a lower cost.

Such will be the development of “off grid buildings” utilizing DC distribution. Communication and power will merge into common infrastructure. One of the speakers showed us the future using OLED lighting as part of a ceiling tile grid system that included gigabit data and DC power distribution with the ability of renewables to interact at a building distribution level. This is a great easy retrofit for our aging buildings. Wow, that is a head shaker and involves someone being the change..

As a person who spends several weeks a year off the grid in a sailboat this concept is not a reach. Most offshore boats have Photo Voltaic Cells, Wind Generators, plus Cogeneration from a diesel motor. All devices are DC on a boat; and this is coupled with a large amount of DC storage in several batteries. If they must use an inverter to deal with some pesky AC load the inverter is turned off when the load is, as the inverter uses as much energy as the device it powers. Of course the main propulsion is provided by the wind. Of interest all sailboats are connect to the GPS network.

On the water all navigation lights are powered with batteries and PV cells running completely on renewable energy.

Cars are another excellent example of off the grid DC distribution and generation particularly hybrid cars and now all include several network connections such as Cellular, Bluetooth, RF, GPS, etc

If electrical grid growth is now stopped, solutions that involve the reduction or elimination of wasteful energy conversion will prevail. The luxury of having a grid will allow us an easy hybrid transition to a new world.

Be the change.


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