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Interoperability Writ Large  

Cybersecurity is expanding the scope of interoperability
Andy McMillan contributing editor 


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Andy McMillan contributing editor 


Andy McMillan is President and Managing Director of BACnet International, where he works with users and suppliers to expand and enhance the BACnet community. Previously he served as President of a building automation and energy management business unit of Philips Lighting. Andy has been an invited speaker on BACnet and open systems at conferences around the world. He has been awarded a dozen patents, has co-authored a book on data communications and his background includes BSEE and MBA degrees.


When BACnet was initially developed, the concept of interoperability was focused on interactions among controllers and equipment in building automation systems. However, as IT infrastructure and building systems continue to converge, our concept of interoperability must expand to include IT systems and best practices. Nowhere is this more urgent than in cybersecurity. That is why the BACnet community is developing a Building Automation cybersecurity roadmap to guide users and equipment suppliers through the complex and rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape.

The industry journey toward interoperable and secure building automation systems began a long time ago with the initial release of BACnet and has continued with its subsequent enhancements and extensions. Through the end of 2019 our journey brought us to broad interoperability covering a wide range of building controls subsystems and requirements. Security, however, was accomplished outside of BACnet and thus did not benefit from the interoperability BACnet provides. In 2020 BACnet Secure Connect, or BACnet/SC was added to the standard, and it pushed us further along the road by providing interoperable device authentication and message encryption. These are major advances, but they are not the end of the road.

There are other things we need to address, including interoperable message authorization, security certificate management and other system management functions. The BACnet Committee (SSPC 135) is working on these further enhancements to the standard. In addition, a collective industry effort is underway to move the industry further along the road. This effort is focused on interoperability in the context of IT infrastructure and best practices. Over the next few months, you will hear more about this work as it becomes more visible through industry forums and publications.    

It is an exciting time and a challenging time in Building Automation. The possibilities that new technology brings are endless. It is up to us to ensure those new technologies are implemented in ways that enhance interoperability, not impede it. For more on these topics, join BACnet International to receive our monthly newsletter.


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