BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
I have been singing the praise of the formation of the BACnet international group on our web site and even in a chapter of Dr. Barney L Capehart’s book Web Based Enterprise Energy and Building Automation Systems.
The feeling at the AHR Expo in Dallas around the BACnet International booth was very positive and powerful which the title of your proposed conference reflects.
THE FREEDOM OF BACnet® RINGS AGAIN
Topics of the conference include: the current state of BACnet, an introduction to BACnet, specifying BACnet, end user implementations, understanding the device profiles and listings from the BACnet Testing Laboratories (BTL), an induction to BACnet web services, network planning and design and the future of BACnet.
I would like to speak about BACnet web services and network planning and design and the future of BACnet.
Converging and Connecting Simply
Let me digress for a moment and tell a short story about installing a gps on my mobile pocket pc phone. Adding this useful feature to my phone seemed a way to eliminate yet one more carry-on device in my life. When the shrink wrap box containing hardware and software ordered online from the internet arrived, the intended operating system was an earlier version than my phone was running. No problem - with a little help a new version of the software, which was less that one month old, was down loaded from the manufacturer’s web site. When installed this new version of software upgraded the version of software operating in the gps sensor. I now had a current version of everything, a feat in itself. But the neatest part of what I bought was not the fact that the small sensor located several satellites in the sky and calculated its position on earth and then communicated this to my phone via wireless blue tooth protocol, but the fact that all of this converged and connected simply to the phone while using web services to provide a better than expected customer experience. The sensed and calculated global position information is overlaid on a map/database which is stored on a small chip in my phone. This database includes every city in North America and all streets and roads. In addition I was able to access another database I already owned that shows the rocks in great detail in the area where we sail. A tight integration with the phone and software allowed the phone to talk to me and become my navigator with this new information, while still remembering that one of its first functions was to be a phone and to let me know that I had an incoming call. Using phone text messaging with the gps locations I could send my location and track the locations of others. More integration with the internal program on my pocket pc allowed me to now store gps locations for my contacts and asked if I wanted to see a map to my appointments or did I want the gps software to create a route and guide me? The converged connection goes on providing weather conditions at my destination, route information such as cost of fuel, traffic problems, speed camera locations, hotel information and prices etc. This of course is a web service connecting with several other evolving web services; all very powerful stuff simply interfaced with my phone.
So why did I digress to tell you this story? Our industry is converging and connecting simply to enterprise infrastructures and web services everywhere. Although BACnet will be an important part of this it will not be the part people see. Grid integrators will work with BACnet data to make it a seamless part of their grid and or enterprise management products. The phone/gps example above shows that the company that provides the best integration at the lowest cost with the most features we can actually use, and provides the simplest interface, will win. Also imbedded in this thought is that it is no longer the notion of any company to provide the complete integration or in anyway attempt to control the use of their networked information.
Although the gps and cell phone industry are viewed as a mature industry it is not much older if any than ours. Our applications to date have been driven from a building perspective and are very narrow in how we perceive our information will be used. I am sure that in the early days of gps no one could of ever imagined the number of uses this technology would have.
In our May ES Building Automation Column titled Thinking Out Loud in an Industry of Change I encourage the industry to start a new process so we can combine our thoughts and mature our industry. I would be pleased if you would take time to read this column and share your thoughts with me either one-on-one, or in an article or interview on AutomatedBuildings.com.
From Paul Ehrlich’ article comes this out loud thinking:
“The industry needs to get together to integrate or at least educate all of the people that are involved. The owner cannot integrate the industry, the architect cannot integrate the industry, the industry must integrate itself and take the lead…” (Comment from participant in Commercial Office focus group)
These words appeared on a blog called Machine2Enterprise whose mission is;
The modern enterprise is becoming more and more complex to manage. As corporations adapt their enterprise systems to respond in real time, managers need to adapt to help their enterprise deliver higher quality services at a lower cost. This Blog, Machine2Enterprise, is about fully integrating today’s enterprise so that it uses less energy, is easier to maintain, is compliant with regulatory agencies, is secure from threats of all types and permits a totally integrated supply chain. Original link http://www.machine2enterprise.com/2007/04/building_20.html
Automated Buildings has an article on something called Building 2.0. From what the article describes it seems some real thought is finally going into the next step of intelligent buildings.
The whole concept of integration has become confused by protocols and standards. I was at a conference about integration and it seemed the majority of the audience was more worried about ZigBee vs. wired sensors, nothing about energy savings. It would be ridiculous for me to order a computer from Dell and ask them what kind of capacitor they had in the power supply, but for some reason in the world of buildings we want to fight over some aspect of the technology rather than focus on providing better answers for customers.
The Building 2.0 movement seems more about objectives. It includes a change in terminology:
Life Cycle Cost
Perhaps there is a conceptual overlap with all things 2.0 oriented (Web 2.0 etc). The Building 2.0 story feels more aspirational, while still being practical. Nothing is locked in. To me, integration is less about protocols (protocols being a necessary detail) and more about integrating Enterprise applications in with devices in a manner that reduces cost of energy, maintenance, operations, etc.
Out Loud Thinking Outside Our Industry is Affecting Our Future
An excerpt from an interview we have online with Steve Hauser, Executive Director GridWise Alliance and Vice President of Strategy for GridPoint, talking about;
Sinclair: So what is your primary purpose?
Hauser: We develop and promote concepts that will accelerate adoption of a “smart grid” around the country. We certainly promote new technology ideas, but also a spectrum of policies that will encourage market acceptance of these technologies.
Sinclair: Can you give us an example of the “concepts” that you promote?
Hauser: We believe, for example, that electrical “loads” (e.g., equipment and appliances) must actively participate in the day-to-day (and even minute-to-minute) operation of the electric grid in the future. This will create ways to use power plants (and other energy generation sources) much more efficiently and cleanly, as well as reduce operating costs. This presents many challenges of interoperability, security and privacy, for example, all of which we can manage.
Sinclair: Are you finding a willingness on the part of industry leaders, regulators, and politicians to listen to your message?
Hauser: Abosolutely! Just the willingness of companies like IBM, ConEd, SEMPRA and others to actively participate in the Alliance is one strong indicator. Beyond that, we are seeing a very positive response to our message from almost everyone we talk to in industry, but also in both state and federal governments. There is a broad realization that “business as usual” in the utility industry is not working, and we need to be creative in looking for better solutions. We are organizing a new national conference called “GridWeek” to bring together many of these leaders to discuss these alternatives and to begin to create a national action plan.
Sinclair: Tell us more about GridWeek.
Hauser: It’s a first-of-its-kind event that will include high-level keynote addresses from industry CEOs, state and federal politicians and other notables such as Secretary of Energy Samual Bodman, for example, who will speak on the state of the grid. We’ve structured it to encourage networking between regulators, legislators, utilities and technology companies. It’s being held in Washington D.C. at the Reagan Center April 23-26, and we hope it will become an annual event. You can get details and register at www.gridweek.com.
Also in the article "Electranet could see light of day" 'Smart grid' technology coming into real world BY LISA FRIEDMAN, Washington Bureau
Steve added this comment "If you allow this flexible, adaptable system to allow local solutions to flourish, you will get a lot more solar and clean energy systems."
My advice to the BACnet international group is keep improving your open protocol and simple connections to powerful web services and join in the open thinking that is now happening beyond BACnet.
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