June 2008
Interview
AutomatedBuildings.com

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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EMAIL INTERVIEW  Mark Hunter & Ken Sinclair

Mark Hunter, Founder
Integration Systems Ltd Corporation (ISL Corp.)

Mr. Hunter graduated with a MSc in Computing,from Open University in the UK with the dissertation topic; "Incompatibility within SCADA systems". He started his building controls career as a project engineer with Trend Controls Ltd, England in 1986.  In 1992 Hunter moved to Hong Kong for Trend and founded Integration Systems Ltd Corporation (ISL Corp.) to handle Trend Asia's building control projects for clients such as Motorola and Chase Manhattan Bank. Demand for open integration building control systems is very strong and this has led directly to the creation of the ION Controls building control system by ISL Corp..


Openness and the Energy Connection

Our mission is to lower the barriers to so called sophisticated building control systems
for upgrading to 'Smart or Intelligent' Buildings

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Sinclair:  What does ION stand for?

Hunter:  Before I get in to the corporate stuff let me just say that the critical issue facing us all in the developed world, is reducing our energy consumption as fast and as efficiently as possible and I hope this interview will offer one method to do this.

However, back to your question Ken. Nominally, I like to think ION stands for Integrating Open Node but it's more of a philosophy rather than an actual entity and its genesis was born out of the solution approach to the SCADA incompatibility problem in my above mentioned University dissertation.

Sinclair:  How so?

Hunter:  If you actually examine how and where incompatibility occurs in SCADA and all building control systems you will find that, depending on the proprietary systems, incompatibility can be pervasive at all levels. But not only that, it only needs to occur at a single point and your complete system is rendered incompatible.

Sinclair:  Explain?

Hunter:  Well, for instance, you as an end user could specify and have installed a fully compliant BACnet system and assume that from there on in you will be able to have the ability and choice to modify, extend, and maintain that system from any variety of BACnet suppliers. Right?

Wrong! In most cases you will be totally dependent upon the original suppliers proprietary BACnet configuration and programming software to enable this to happen and you will be forced, at the risk of large economical cost, to remain with the original (now expensive) supplier if you wish to have a unified supervisor system, for instance.

Sinclair:  What makes ION Controls different then?

Hunter:  From the top to the bottom; hardware and software; our openness philosophy is paramount. For instance, take our software (please!). All our software is free issue; no dongles; no onerous license agreements; no per seat costs; totally free! From CreatION - our supervisor level programming, engineering, graphical authoring application - down to our ION FCx WEB Field Controller that uses any standard web browser to configure, program, control and monitor it over a standard Ethernet LAN.

Sinclair:  But most if not all the major players have web interfaces etc - what makes ION different?

Hunter:  The ION SuperVZR controller. It is a unique and complete building controls solution in a box: from open (BACnet, Modbus included as standard) protocol gateway; web, FTP and OPC server; to internal bespoke programming; to HMI graphical engineering and authoring; to point configuration for alarming, trending, logging, and monitoring; to expandable database and all configurable with the free issue CreatION.

Sinclair:  And how does this reduce our energy consumption?

Hunter:  At ISL our mission is to lower the barriers to so called sophisticated building control systems by making this technology as open, accessible, simple and economical to as many qualified installers and operators as possible; to reduce the overall cost of installing, maintaining, operating, and modifying these systems such that buildings that would presently be considered marginal or uneconomic for upgrading to 'Smart or Intelligent' Building level can now be easily upgraded using an ION Control system.

Sinclair:  Give me an example.

Hunter:  Let me ask you a question. How many buildings are there in North America that are still using standard hardwired, 'dumb' thermostats to control 3 speed FCU's?

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:  Hard to say. If you count Hotels, Motels, Hospitals, Schools, Public buildings etc probably tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands.

Hunter:  Right. And assume, on average, most of these buildings have 100's of thermostatically controlled FCUs. We both know that all these thermostat controlled FCUs are set at the optimum energy saving level for that occupied room. Yes? NOT!

Sinclair:  I see where you are coming from Mark - massive energy inefficiency as most thermostats are either set at the wrong set point or unnecessarily high motor speeds and usually left running when there is nobody in the room.

Hunter:  Exactly. And when we can use the existing FCUs and wiring etc., but easily and economically replace these dumb thermostats with ION Tx PIR type 'smart' thermostats that are programmable, networked and have occupancy detection then the potential for energy saving is enormous. But not only that, because we now have direct control of the FCUs, demand response (DR) strategies can be applied using the ION SVZR therefore bringing the potential for even more economic benefits to building owners via load shedding agreements with the power utility companies.

Sinclair:  Yes I can see what you mean but don't all the existing building control vendors promise the same systems and potential?

Hunter:  Perhaps, but it is the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), the proprietary and the incompatibility issues that we are looking at reducing with the ION range and openness philosophy, thereby unlocking and magnifying the number of buildings that can become much more energy efficient.

Sinclair:  OK. Any concluding comments or thoughts, Mark?

Hunter:  In this time of surging energy costs and economic slow down, particularly in the US, there is an opportunity, an imperative even, for renewal; for a change in attitude and a chance to thoroughly upgrade the energy consuming infrastructure thereby creating jobs and hope for all those workers made idle during this building slump and at the same time reduce our impact on the environment.

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