BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
EMAIL INTERVIEW Ed Richards & Ken Sinclair
Ed Richards, Co-founder and Senior VP Business Development, Envenergy Inc., Santa Barbara, CA
Envenergy, located in Santa Barbara, is the developer of the Mediator technology -integrated software and hardware for energy and facility management. Envenergy's Mediator provides the infrastructure needed to bring information from disparate facility systems (building automation, energy, lighting, access control, metering, etc.) into an enterprise Information Technology (IT) environment. The Mediator meets the needs of Energy Service companies (ESCOs), Facility Management providers, equipment and Building Automation System manufacturers, and utilities. For more information visit www.envenergy.com.
Interoperable, Open Systems. Are We There Yet?
Sinclair: There's lots of talk and interest in open systems, integration and seamless connectivity across an Enterprise. How do you see the state of delivering on these promises?
Richards: If you believe what you read, you would think interoperability was a done deal. Those in the field, who are struggling to deal with legacy systems and new standards (such as BACnet and Lonworks) know that's far from the case. Many non-technical issues (such as BAS giants letting loose their proprietary protocol) still need to be resolved to deliver on the promises of web-based interoperable environments. BACnet and Lonworks have done a good job to push issue farther towards resolution. At the end of the day, the one bankable standard is TCP/IP, so the safest place to be from a standards point of view is with those standards aligned with Information Technology.
Sinclair: What do you see are the primary barriers today?
Richards: Proprietary protocols are definitely the barrier. Open systems such as BACnet, Lonworks, and Modbus have made great inroads at getting manufactures to "design-in an open approach in their products. But, we are a long ways away from being able to take a Barber-Coleman legacy system and simply talk to a Johnson Control Metasys. That is, allowing a facility manager to look at their buildings in a single view form without concern as to what type of systems sits in each building. Clearly, this is the goal of the facility managers - manage systems across an enterprise without care to vendor issues.
Sinclair: Is the technology here today to make interoperability a reality?
Richards: As you know, there have been lots of attempts made to address this problem- from gateway devices to protocol converters. All pretty much band-aid solutions. They were clunky, difficult to implement, and did not provide a comprehensive time sustaining approach to the issues at hand. Most were designed to handle just one or two of the problems (such as BACnet to Modbus conversion). They are not capable of doing much more than the specific task at hand.
Today, with the advances in high-tech, the opportunity to build a platform for integrating disparate devices, managing in a web-based environment, and interacting with enterprise software applications is possible. That's exactly what we have done at Envenergy. We've constructed a platform utilizing the best in high-tech-embedded Linux O/S, advanced networking, web-serving and data management designed for the building environment-ie. BACnet and Modbus, and more. It's a platform to resolve not just a few of the problems you will encounter, but a long term approach to interoperability.
Sinclair: What will be the primary driver to breaking down the existing barriers?
Richards: Customer demand. Pressure from those that matter most, the customers, will make the most effect on giving building managers the most flexibility in creating an environment right for them, without lock-in to a particular manufacturer.
Sinclair: What can facility managers do today?
Richards: Across the board, there's so many different technologies and products on the market to address different aspects of integrated, intelligent buildings. The goal of a complete integrated solution needs to be kept in mind from the beginning -even if there are no plans or immediate need to create such a system today. My advice is get a solution that addresses the most critical needs you have today, whether that's web-based access to building automation systems, or advanced metering and sub-metering. But make sure your investment in the solution provides the ability to migrate down the open, integrated pathway.
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