November 2015
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“Who is (the future of) BACnet?”

You are the future of BACnet, and you have been preparing your child for this day to meet the new world. You now need to allow your creation to go and grow.
Ken Sinclair
Founder, Owner, Publisher AutomatedBuildings.com

published BACnet International Journal

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As the theme for this issue of The Journal is “I Am BACnet,” by default, you are BACnet’s future (cue big smile). With this amazing responsibility comes the extreme danger of not doing enough, because that will damage the future of BACnet. But our “baby” BACnet is now 20 years old; all grown up.

You are the future of BACnet, and you have been preparing your child for this day to meet the new world. You now need to allow your creation to go and grow. However, because of our limited understanding of how the new world may play out, we may inhibit the BACnet movement’s cultural growth. We need to help baby BACnet find its own way in a new IoT world.

The amazing legacy of BACnet has tremendous value, of course. But moving forward, it has the potential of becoming history if it doesn’t find itself being embraced and enhanced by the new kids on the block who are part of the IoT movement.

Indeed, we need to engage the new people that are the change. We need to attract self-learning assets to our industry with continuing self-learning growth. That is the goal we all wish to achieve in our people assets and our cultures because it is organic and natural. But most of all, it is sustainable.

In one of my previous editorial rants, I called for an investment in our people in the industry, and this certainly spills over to the BACnet camp. How do we attract people assets to ensure BACnet’s future?

Our online presence needs to contain attractive—actually seductive—self-learning pieces so that when the autodidactic folks we are looking for find our great description of purpose and culture, they want—no, need—to join us to further their education while they earn a living and grow their personal endeavors.

As an industry, we could do better in this area. Our online presences often do not attract the desired autodidactic assets and possibly not our potential clients either.

We need to clearly and precisely depict our IoT play and our ease of learning so both people assets and clients want to join us and become part of our learning machine and culture.

They need to answer the question: Are you able to make our products and self-learning systems better?  It is everyone’s task, and we are all part of selling self-learning. Remember, people are our greatest assets.

Take, for example, this excerpt from a connected article to this editorial “Knowledge Sharing to Drive Learning:”

If you can hire good people, train them well, and ensure they continue to learn throughout their career will we see industry, from the operators to the engineers, achieve the potential we all know is there.

Comes this wisdom;

The main lessons I took away are to: hire the best people you can find (even if you are not sure what you'll do with them), hire people who cherish learning, and don't be afraid of unconventional planning processes since we also face a pretty dynamic industry

Now that we’ve come full circle, I’m starting to appreciate the real lesson in all of this: the volume of information, whatever the type, will continuously increase while the tools for coping with it will improve alongside. But only if you can hire good people, train them well, and ensure they continue to learn throughout their career will we see industry, from the operators to the engineers, achieve the potential we all know is there.

To effectively answer the question about who the future of BACnet is, it is important to review the past of BACnet and understand how our industry’s people created BACnet and how those people—in addition to many more new people—are needed to morph this powerful global standard into a new and dynamic IoT world.

In an attempt to capture some of the history of building automation I prepared a LinkedIn Pulse connecting to resources that provide good recreational reading of how the industry evolved over the last 40 years, as seen through the eyes of me and my colleague Mike Newman—often referred to as the godfather of BACnet.

From the way-back machine comes this comment by Newman:

The "final frontier" in recent years, since 1987, has been the effort to develop a standard communication protocol to replace all of the proprietary ones. (We have had 8 proprietary protocols communicating from the VAX concurrently!) This work has led to the adoption by the building control industry of "BACnet," the "building automation and control networking protocol." The protocol was developed within ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) by a committee that I have chaired since its inception. There are now "BACnet Interest Groups" in the U.S., Europe, and Australia - all as a result of the Cornell-sponsored initiative!

And when asked why he decided to write his new book on BACnet, Newman answered:

For years, basically since the standard was first published in 1995, people have been asking for BACnet training. While there have been some face-to-face courses organized by ASHRAE, the University of Wisconsin, and BIG-EU in Europe, among others, there has never been a comprehensive book on BACnet in the English language. My good friend Hans Kranz wrote the first and, up until now, only full-length BACnet book in 2005 in his native German. It is an excellent work but tends to focus on doing BACnet jobs in the context of building automation projects in Germany with all of their particular building codes, bidding conventions, certification requirements, and the like. I just felt the time had come to write a definitive text on BACnet in English.

Newman’s lifelong crusade is described in this interview with then president of Contemporary Controls, George Thomas, on the 10th anniversary of BACnet.

Meet the "Father of BACnet®" In an interview with Contemporary Controls, H. Michael Newman tells his story of leading the charge for adopting the BACnet® protocol, and the battles and victories that ensued. He describes the development of BACnet, its greatest strengths and much more.

This question helps us understand the creation of BACnet.

Thomas: Was ASHRAE initially receptive to your ideas and willing to initiate a committee?

Newman: At the recommendation of my boss, an avid ASHRAE supporter, I attended my first society-level meeting in January of 1981. I went immediately to sit in on the meeting of TC 1.4, Control Theory and Application, the technical committee that focuses on building automation and controls. Not a word was mentioned about the data communication issue. At the end of the meeting I spoke with the chairman, a gentleman from Johnson Controls, and asked him if there were plans to develop a standard for this emerging DDC technology. He said, in effect, "No, the vendors aren't interested in it." So I joined TC 1.4 and began advocating for a standard. It took six years, but in January 1987 the ASHRAE Standards Committee approved the formation of a Standard Project Committee to develop what we now call BACnet.

The rest is history. With the help of pioneers such as “BACnet Bill” Swan of Alerton/Honeywell, and the “Titan of Testing” Carl Neilson of Delta, and the support of their and many independent control companies Baby BACnet grew up strong and connected.

What is now needed in our industry is transformational change; the process of altering the basic elements of an organization's culture, including the norms, values, and assumptions under which the organization functions. This change is being driven by a force outside of our industry called the Internet of Things (IoT), actually the Internet of Everything (IoE).

In an article titled “Road Map of the Possible for Connected Buildings,” I attempted to enlist the industry to help map what the connected buildings of the future may look like. I stated the industry needs to do a better job selling the connected buildings and sharing ideas that unify our pitch to our clients. An excerpt from the article states:

I just returned from a meeting with our local utility who organized a brainstorming effort to what a road map for connected buildings might look like. The discussion went many directions; we discussed several normal issues such as how the maturity of the smart grid for the utility will shape the connected building; how new movements involving buildings as a community all sharing their pride with benchmarking and complete transparency / visibility of everyone's data would bring radical change. Remote operation, big data, deep analytic, fault detection, the gamification for simpler connected interfaces was all discussed.

CatNet Systems This map will engage BACnet into the big data arena, expose the standard to the evolving social media movement in building well-being and satisfaction metrics of measurement and control. We all need to share our take on this and help BACnet find the path to transformational change. How will YOU help Baby BACnet grow in the new world?

Reading resources for this article

Attracting Self-Learning Assets A continuing self-learning growth is the goal we all wish to achieve in our people assets and our company cultures because it is organic and natural but most of all sustainable.

Knowledge Sharing to Drive Learning Only if you can hire good people, train them well, and ensure they continue to learn throughout their career will we see industry, from the operators to the engineers, achieve the potential we all know is there. - Brad White, P.Eng, MASc, Principal, SES Consulting, Inc.

Meet the "Father of BACnet®" In an interview with Contemporary Controls, H. Michael Newman tells his story of leading the charge for adopting the BACnet® protocol, and the battles and victories that ensued. He describes the development of BACnet, its greatest strengths and much more.

Road Map of the Possible for Connected Buildings  “We all need to do a better job of selling the connected buildings and we need to share our ideas and unify our pitch to our clients.”



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