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Article - March 2000
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Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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TakeOffTheHandcuffs

Submitted by
David G. Zavetsky
Building Control Technologies 

With BACnet based systems a customer has the capability to expand or add to the system with products from different control companies


With the introduction of Integration and Open Protocol Systems the industry has allowed Building Control Technologies to Support and Control Competitors systems from a common Front-end Workstation. How Does it Work? Because most systems are Microsoft™ based they share a Trojan Horse that Mr. Gates has built into Windows®™. Each Control System that is based on Windows has a built in DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) server. This DDE technology is often used by Windows to share information between Windows applications.

The first stage of shared System technology is based on the multi-application capability of Windows. COHABITATION, as BCT calls it, allows more than one Control Vendor's systems to operate on the same PC using all existing Microsoft conventions to switch between applications (i.e.: Alt-Tab, Ctrl.-Esc). This allows a very inexpensive single seat connection to existing, as well as, new control systems by multiple vendors. If the customer is monitoring Building 1 by vendor "A", they simply hit Alt-Tab key and monitor Building 1 or 2 by vendor "B". This is often times accepted by customers that have Competitive Bidding requirements.

The next level of interface between systems would be the application of a MULTI-DRIVER Front-End with drivers for multiple systems in a single software application. Most ATC system, today, are outsourced or reverse engineered which allows the Drivers for different companies to be placed on a common front-end workstation. BCT has applied this technology on current competitor's systems which has taken the HAND-CUFFS off of our customers.

The next level of interface between systems is referred to as Front-end System INTEGRATION. Each Control System that is based on Windows has a built in DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange) server. This DDE technology is often used by Windows to share information between Windows applications. This is the same application used by Control System Vendors to share Trend or Report data with other applications such as Microsoft Excel or, in fact, with other control systems. The process of connecting multiple systems to a single front-end that is developed by a Control company using DDE is called front-end integration. This option usually has additional mapping costs over cohabitation. Any Integration may be effected by changes in the systems (like Y2K upgrade).

The ultimate level of interface is BACnet™ OPEN PROTOCOL Systems. BACnet Open Protocol (developed by ASHRAE) allows multiple vendors to provide hardware that can co-exist on a BAS LAN. Unlike Integration BACnet systems talk to each other, not just the front-end. With BACnet based systems a customer has the capability to expand or add to the system with products from different control companies. If existing BAS equipment exists at a facility, a GATEWAY which routes proprietary to BACnet could be Cost Effectively provided (see below). This is usually the most economical solution for a customer that wishes to switch vendors and the option that affords the best future protection from Proprietary Vendor Lock!

GATEWAY INTEGRATION

If Integration is made at the Field-bus level, instead of the Front-end level, this is often times referred to as a GATEWAY Integration. In this type of interface the Gateway acts as a protocol, or media, router from one protocol to another, such as BACnet. This type of interface between systems is usually industry systems (i.e.: Chiller, Boiler, Fire Alarm, Security, Laboratory vendors) that are non-competitive and cooperative in the gateway development. Automated Logic currently has 45 Gateways available to systems such as Simplex™, Pyrotronics™, Phoenix™, Liebert™, Trane™, York™, Carrier™, Tecogen™, McQuay™, Fireeye™, GE™, Caterpillar™, Notifier™, Tek-Air™, TSI™, MODbus-RTU and many, many others. Automated Logic has products PORTAL Gateway products available for Lighting, Security, Fire, Co-Generation, Power, Data Center and Mechanical system for just about every application. These require only a two wire or EIA-232 connection to each system. This simple connection gives the BAS system hundreds of points for a very small cost. Ask BCT for products for your next application.

 

 


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