Article - May 2001
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Ken Sinclair



[an error occurred while processing this directive]I have assembled 11 trends that are having a significant effect on the present revolution or rapid evolution of large Buildings Automation. I have taken extracts and edited content from articles published on our web site. I have provided reference to each key article so if you wish more insight you can read the complete article.

World Wide Web As with nearly every other industry on the planet, the future of Automated Buildings is directly linked with the World Wide Web. In fact the Web may have more to do with defining Direct Digital Control's future than any individual development in control theory, HVAC or building technology

Field Bus Communication Standards In 1995 when ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineer's) published BACnet®, there were 100 or more networks and communication protocols in use throughout the controls industry. The industry became aware of the role that communication played in the long-term success of DDC systems and the importance of protocols and networking. The same challenges remain today, but with a tremendous simplification, rather than 100 protocols there are only a few, and for now it is simpler to call them standards.

Wireless Revolution Working without wires is a new concept for our Automated Buildings Industry. Our industry has been woven together with wires and only recently have we gotten our minds around a wire-reduced world with the acceptance of several levels of networking. If you think that the networking standards and the Internet/Intranet have had a phenomenal affect on our industry in the last few years, just watch what wireless technology is going to do. Wireless has been demonstrated on a wide range of wireless appliances including web-enabled cell phones, pagers and web pads. Although the panoramic view of, and the ease of click and point that we have come to expect from full browser based systems is extremely restricted with these wireless devices, when they are put in the hands of skilled operators with good system knowledge they can provide quick wireless access to the majority of system information. 

Componentization of the Control of the HVAC Industry The next phase of building automation technology will bring new life to some traditional equipment. Likewise, it will usher in a rethinking of what building HVAC systems do, and how they do it. We have had the ability to use microprocessors for direct digital control (DDC) to enhance equipment energy performance and functionality for several years. However, this power has been locked into islands of automation intelligence in standalone controllers. Although this approach was originally not well accepted by the industry, the islands of automation intelligence are now being bridged with standards in communication protocols. The bridging allows optimum energy and comfort control in large buildings, using a single, cohesive control system with embedded building-wide control strategies. 

The Wireless Service Revolution Field service technicians will carry rugged handheld computers wirelessly connected to the internet. The computer is down-loaded with maintenance check lists for each unit to be worked on. This allows the technician to diagnose problems and record equipment readings and complete tasks quickly and easily by checking items from a list on the screen. All equipment history and readings are available to the technician in the field without even calling the office. This wireless service revolution is bound to find synergy with the rapid advances in wireless Automated Buildings allowing service super-techs to guide building maintenance runners through the diagnostics of complex system problems through the complete deployment of wireless interfaces. 

New words such as "Enviromation" The Art & Science of Communication/Automation Integration with our Environments. I coined this word over five years ago. The new word was needed to describe the radical, exciting changes that were occurring in the integration of communication and automation with our green building environment. Feel free to use the word in this context - I feel that it is very descriptive 

Direct Digital Control Evolution The term Direct Digital Control no longer describes the industry's goals; rather it wants Continuous Digital Control. DDC has transcended the direct control of individual pieces of equipment, and is now more about the integration of that equipment into a global system. Some in the industry have coined the term Enterprise Energy Management to focus on this larger perspective for automation and control. This is not to say that equipment control itself is no longer important, rather the point is that DDC effectively accomplishes that task, but the value that owners are seeking today goes beyond the finite building envelope. 

Connecting the Building Occupant to the Building Comfort System The real opportunity for wireless technologies is to implement a communication link that is only rarely employed in building controls and when it is not, is sorely missed - connecting the building occupant to the building comfort system. 

Wireless Sensors Sensors monitor temperatures from anywhere in a facility without running wires. Sensor system can be easily installed without drilling holes in walls, floors, or ceilings, making it a practical choice for retrofits, pre-fabricated concrete buildings, structures with glass atriums, and historic buildings.

Wireless Monitoring The two main components of the monitoring system are the wireless transmitter and the web site. The transmitter is mounted on or near the equipment being monitored. The secure website is used to configure equipment, alert messages, and define to whom and by what means messages are to be sent. Each message can be delivered via pager (alphanumeric or numeric), fax, e-mail, PCS or telephone (voice delivery). Alert messages will contain the specific alert condition which caused the transmission along with the location, make, model, and serial number of the equipment. 

Think green in all your work "Broadening our thinking to a "green" perspective helps us do a better job in all the areas of our responsibility." The acceptance of many new communication and automation concepts has radically changed the function of our large commercial buildings. Office hotelling has allowed the sharing of expensive office buildings with an increased number of telecommunicating occupants. To effectively manage this phenomena coordination of everything is required, ie phones, workstations, data links, security access etc. Occupants also must have the ability to interact virtually. The greenest of buildings extends beyond sharing office space; it includes sharing the total transportation and support infrastructures while making home units more efficient. 

If you understand that these 11 trends exist and are rapidly changing the building automation industry it will help you understand the radical changes that are now occurring in control products.

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