October 2013
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The Tridium Evolution

The End of the R2 Legacy

Zach Denning
Zach Denning
Engineering Sales
Western Allied Mechanical

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Over the course of the last few years Tridium has risen to the pinnacle of integration platforms through its Niagara OS. Yet, how did Tridium originate? Is the Tridium R2 platform the same as A/X? As referenced in The Evolution of Integrations article, Tridium has adapted its building automation platform, Niagara, in the same manner as other major software developers including Apple and Microsoft. The DOS (Disk Operating System) platform, although one of the first and most groundbreaking operating systems, was simplistic and only capable of basic computing tasks in comparison to its successor Windows 3.1. Windows included features such as an ergonomic GUI (Graphical User Interface) as well as a calculator, calendar, and notepad. The same contrast can be applied to the Tridium developed Niagara R2 and A/X platforms. Although Tridium has continued the evolution of the Niagara A/X platform, R2, much like that of DOS, has reached the end of its life.

Soon after the introduction of the Niagara R2 platform, Tridium became its own entity separate of Invensys and began development of Niagara A/X; A more robust platform capable of new features including: fully developed programs or “wizards”, a more ergonomic development environment, and pre-built legacy integration drivers. In the same manner that Microsoft shifted the market with the introduction of Windows, Tridium utilized the flexibility of the platform into an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) business model. The Niagara A/X platform quickly took a large share of the integration market due to its flexibility, as vendors each customized the software to meet the needs of their end users. Tridium, and its line of Niagara controllers Vykon, were subsequently ushered into Honeywell’s business portfolio in mid-2005 as an independently run company.

What’s the future of the R2 platform? How is Tridium transitioning from the older operating system? Tridium has released an End-of-Life statement regarding R2 that includes target dates and strategies for a full phase out of the product. Among the strategies is opening up the platform by eliminating the need for software licensing; A feature that will allow anyone with Windows to install and run the software. So how secure will your R2 site be after the release? Historically the R2 system was protected by the vendor, or install contractor ID as well as the manufacturer brand. If these two facets of the license didn’t match to the R2 software on your computer, you couldn’t access the field hardware. As part of the new open license software to be released in 2015, any computer running R2 will have access to any JACE or Server regardless of the manufacturer or installing vendor. If you’re Tridium R2 site is one of the hundreds located in a campus style environment your tenants will have access to your BAS with the correct username and password. Now imagine your tenants are students!

Reliable Controls Most people often associate technological shifts to that of the mobile world as its industry changes directly affect our daily activities. The release of the Apple iPhone 5 was the first in a long line of successful products that added server hardware limitations to the older iPhone platforms. Tridium has allowed end users the flexibility of converting to their new operating systems (A/X and eventually N4) with the release of the Replacement Board or RB product line. The RB-603 or 645 hardware is the latest Tridium technology containing the added functionailty of running the existing antiquated R2 software, or upgrading to Tridium A/X. By replacing the current R2 backplate with the new RB-603 or RB-645, end users have the flexibility of running old R2 software until obtaining the capital to fully upgrade to Tridium A/X.

Much like Google or Apple, Tridium is in a constant state of development for their Niagara platform and supporting hardware. Building automation is often overlooked as a technologically driven industry as it’s typically associated with the construction market. With the push to conserve greater amounts of energy, building controls are making huge strides to bond consumer awareness to complex engineering strategies; A strategy that has proven to yield quick returns for building owners. Like most successful tech companies, Tridium has found a way to seamlessly transition newly developed software throughout many iterations of hardware. This business model will certainly be proven during the A/X – N4 transition. Yet, even with the flexibility of this strategy, older platforms are always compromised due to severe hardware limitations no matter what the industry.


About the Author

I currently maintain an engineering sales position at Western Allied Mechanical. Our business is consulting customers on energy consumption and reducing costs through a joint mechanical and automation venture. I’m an avid follower of the industry and am always open to new opportunities and approaches. You can reach me at zdenning@westernallied.com or my cell at 650-798-4154.


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