March 2010

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The Next Big Things

This dynamic duo will eliminate complex installations, provide; self set up, connection, and commissioning while self populating the needed information for web deployment.

Ken Sinclair
Ken Sinclair


One of the advantages of a life spanning over four decades in an industry is being able to recognize trends that will radically redefine that industry.

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In 1975 I worked on a Direct Digital Control "DDC" project that saw the first buildings operate without physical controls. That was the first big thing I saw in the Building Automation Industry. The problem was the cost was too high and the system too complex for the masses.

The next big thing I saw was the rapid evolution of these DDC concepts into low cost stand alone panels "SAP" with simple operator control languages "OCL". These concepts were pioneered by the likes of Delta Controls and Reliable Controls in my area of the world.  This SAP concept was then deployed at a card level as microprocessor costs radically dropped.  This was the early 1980's and the rest of the world was still installing pneumatic devices while we had moved to virtual devices controlled by powerful OCL.  This was truly the next big thing that redefined our industry. By the early 1990's DDC became a way of life as the major control companies were forced to abandon their costly pneumatic controls. DDC allowed many new players into the industry which forced the big three to change.

Early DDC system communication protocols were a Proprietary Babel and in the early 90's the concept of open protocols such as Lon and BACnet started to gain traction, truly the next big thing. The open protocols were quickly adapted by the new DDC companies who finally provided enough market pressure to force major control companies to embrace.

The next big thing in the late 1990's in our industry was the internet and early adopters the likes of AutomatedLogic Controls, Andover, and Enflex blazed a trail of how the internet would become an integral part of our industry.

How the internet would become an integral part of our industry was the next big thing of interest to me, and in May of 1999 we started to provide an online saga of the evolution of our industry as part of the world wide web.

Working with the web and its pioneers allowed me insight to this next big thing and it was huge. Even in the early years I heard of the coming of powerful web services.

But more evolution was required by the web and our industry to unleash the web deployment. From Andover grew a new company - Tridium that more than any at that time provided close coupling of our industry to the web. Truly the next big thing. This step was very significant because it allowed our industry to grow up into the Information Technology "IT"  industry but more important it allowed the IT folks to grow down to our industry.

All of this scene setting is necessary so that I can tell you that the next big thing is "Web Deployment" and have you believe me.

Although my peers cringe at my loose definition of web deployment, which I have chosen to include any services provided by the web automatically or even utilizing manual intervention, web deployment of all our services is redefining our industry. Because we are now part of the IT industry and our industry is just viewed as a data stream, we are being swept at an unbelievable rate into web ways defined not so much by our industry but by the incredible daily evolution of the web by the IT industry.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] My January editorial contained this quote;

The past decade has been an extraordinary adventure in discovering new social models on the Web - ways to work, create and organize outside of the traditional institutions of companies, governments and academia. But the next decade will be all about applying these models to the real world.

The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is now about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into entrepreneurship, no tooling required.  Web was just the proof of concept. Now the revolution gets real. These are words from Chris Anderson Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine.

Understand we are part of this web revolution and this is the next big thing.

So can my old mind grasp what might be the next big thing after web deployment? I am betting that rapidly evolving low cost wireless BAS devices that actually work well with open protocols with self discovery, self healing, cell phone like networks closely coupled with web deployment will completely redefine our industry.

This dynamic duo will eliminate complex installations, provide; self set up, connection, and commissioning while self populating the needed information for web deployment. As industry equipment such as chillers, boilers, air handlers, etc are moved into place and powered up they will wirelessly connect to their creator and powerful web services will take over complex commissioning.  Their identity, an IP address will be a part of the manufacturers, owners, designers, and operators web deployment, it is a new world and these are the next big things.


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