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|BACnet, BAS, and…Lighting?
Director of Business Development
Blue Ridge Technologies
Marketing Committee Chair,
“What is BACnet?” Say this in any BAS related community and, most likely, you will get a response that defines it as the most specified open protocol in the BAS market today. Ask an End-User and you might hear that it is what allows them to have a choice between manufacturers. Ask a manufacturer, and you could hear the protocol enables them to integrate to other systems to meet their customer’s demands. It’s understood, right? All of us in the BAS industry know BACnet has gained significant momentum since its inception over 20 years ago to become arguably the most specified and utilized open protocol in the market today. It’s common sense right? Everyone speaks BACnet! But wait, what about lighting? Isn't it an automated system that goes in a building? All lighting speaks BACnet right? The answer for most lighting companies at this juncture is… well… sort of.
It might seem like common sense that lighting controls should integrate seamlessly to a BAS infrastructure, but if we investigate the matter closely the truth is BAS and lighting have been on separate development paths for so long it has made getting complete integration between systems a difficult task. BAS has traditionally been the automation of HVAC mechanical systems and temperature controls, and lighting has been seen separate from this as a stand-alone system with its own front-end and controls. Even in the traditional specification, lighting and BAS are separated into different divisions, with the electrical contractor doing all of the lighting install and programming (division 26), and the BAS controls contractor only getting involved in lighting if there is a need for some sort of integration (outlined in division 25 or 23). For all intents and purposes, this is how it has been since the beginning (division numbering, etc. not withstanding). However, with the advent of BACnet and its proliferation, open has become the rule and the market has become accustomed to leveraging multiple systems under one BAS infrastructure. This demand is driving the next wave, carrying traditional BAS and lighting to the shores of pure integration.
Right now, with the exception of a handful of companies, traditional lighting control integration is done through a gateway. These are generally designed and sold by the lighting control manufacturers to speak to their proprietary system and translate the lighting communications to BACnet. Oftentimes this means there may be limited integration as not all points may be readable, and in frequent cases some points will not be writable. This means that BAS systems may be able to get data, but not be able to do things like share schedules, occupancy sensors, or the sequence of operations. In these cases, the uncertainty principle for integration creates more cost as the electrical and BAS contractors cannot predict integration issues and are sure to add resource cost in for uncertainty in integration. This of course does not mean users should avoid integration. What it does mean is they should be very clear on what level of integration they can achieve. There is a wealth of lighting solutions out there and almost every manufacturer is striving to create better forms of integration, and an overwhelming majority of them have selected BACnet as their protocol of choice. The key point being, lighting is moving towards BAS and wide-open integration.
In my opinion, one of the most interesting shifts in the market right now is the move of the lighting control industry into the BAS market space. While this shift has been at the forefront of the BAS conscious for years, the traditional method of specification and integration has created so much momentum that the overall cost to create an open, native BACnet lighting control solution has stymied the ability for many corporations to move the direction most BAS manufacturers went 10-20 years ago. Case in point is the Acuity Brands acquisition of Distech Controls in 2015 and their acquisition of DGLogik this year. If anything, the expense associated with these purchases should signal the relative perceived opportunity lighting companies see in being natively open in the BAS space. My employer has been singing this song for years and we have created Native BACnet solutions that eliminate the gateway and talk directly to the BAS. We have been watching the shift closely and are glad to see much larger companies recognizing this market demand. It, after all, is where we believe the customer gets the best value and functionality.
the years the BAS landscape has changed, and we have seen the
development in BACnet systems create a common sense approach to
integration. As a result, the market now expects most systems will talk
to each other in a way that allows them the ability to centralize their
data and workflow. Developments in the BACnet standard, and the work of
countless individuals and manufacturers, have led to a more open and
inviting BAS landscape where systems share data and sequences in a
manner allowing for more centralized control. As lighting and HVAC make
up, on average, over 65% of a building’s energy consumption, it only
makes sense these systems should be sharing as much information as
possible as well as leveraging the sequences associated with
efficiencies. As the world of BAS and lighting continues to merge and
the ever expanding and quickening pace of technology changes, BACnet,
BAS, and… yes… lighting are going to continue to morph. In this one
humble controls guy’s opinion, they are going to continue to unify. Oh
About the Author
As the Director of Business Development for Blue Ridge Technologies, Rocky brings over 12 years of commercial and industrial Building Automation and control market experience. During his tenure, Rocky has headed multiple Operational, Marketing, and Sales efforts in the HVAC and lighting space.
Rocky has contributed to the creation and introduction of award-winning control platforms and has participated in a wealth of engineering and facility tradeshows. He has been published in industry related publications and has presented to various audiences globally on a number of topics including building and integration market trends, BACnet, and HVAC and lighting control solutions. He has been a contributing member to BACnet International for over 10 years and currently is the Chair of the BACnet International Marketing Committee.
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