BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
EMAIL INTERVIEW - Richard Theron & Ken Sinclair
Richard Theron is the National Sales Manager for FieldServer Technologies
Richard first started at FieldServer in 2001 and has a B.S. in Engineering Management
from the University of Durban. He has worked in sales and engineering for
several firms involved in protocol development.
FieldServer Technologies expands product line with cost-effective QuickServer gateways
FieldServer Technologies gateways are known for their ability to link many foreign and third-party devices to today’s modern BAS networks.
Sinclair: Please tell us about FieldServer
Theron: FieldServer Technologies has been a leader in protocol gateways for the Building Automation industry for over a decade. We have not only developed protocol drivers for the major “open”, or common, protocols such as BACnet, LonWorks, JCI Metasys N2, Modbus, and EtherNet/IP, but also a library full of the proprietary protocols such as DataAire, Lutron, McQuay, RussElectric, Veeder-Root, YorkTalk, Stulz and more. In addition, we have protocol drivers for every major Fire Alarm Control Panel manufacturer in North America, plus drivers for the primary industrial automation systems including PROFIBUS, DeviceNet, ControlNet, DF1, GE-EGD, GE-SRTP, SNMP and OPC. Thus, our gateways are known for their ability to link many foreign and third-party devices to today’s modern BAS networks, as well as interfacing BAS devices and networks to plant-wide control systems, enabling industrial plants to utilize valuable building automation, fire and safety information in management of an efficient production operation.
Sinclair: What do your customers see as important features?
Theron: I have talked to both end users and integrators about this question and there are many ways that a client can reach a solution for interoperability. Of course they can develop their own solution through extensive programming or even a complex network of relay contacts. Second, they can hire a programmer to develop a conversion program on a PC or, third, they can search out a hardware platform solution. The first two solutions involve a unique set of skills and once you have a solution it is a one-of-a-kind solution and, should something go wrong, you hope that the developer is still around. In terms of a hardware platform solution, there are a few manufacturers who produce a simple, common protocol solution such as BACnet to LonWorks. However, it is difficult to find someone who has the ability to interface to multiple devices or protocols on a single platform, or who has the experience and capability to interface to third-party or foreign protocols. And it is virtually impossible to find someone who has done this multiple times. We have the reputation of being the go-to solution for building automation interoperability because, not only are the products trusted and proven, but so is the technical support. In most cases a user or integrator has significant experience with one protocol in the equation, but no experience in the other. FieldServer is trusted to have the experience in both.
Sinclair: What is new?
Theron: In almost 60,000 instances of interface throughout the world, we have been very successful in meeting the needs of our expansive customer base. These include a major university utilizing hundreds of our FieldServers to bring over 50 different devices and networks into a comprehensive BACnet campus-wide network, a commercial building using FieldServers to provide ancillary fire alarm status information to a central monitoring system, and embedded ProtoCessors mounted in an OEM’s product to meet their customers protocol interface needs. While there continues to be a requirement for unique interfaces between proprietary devices and open networks, there is also a growing need for a simpler, low point count, cost-effective interface between common protocols such as BACnet and LonWorks. These customers demand the proven reliability and support of a our product but do not need the complexity of high point count, multiple ports and extensive configuration. For these applications we are releasing a new product line called QuickServer, a low-cost, easy-to-use gateway that can interface to BACnet/IP, BACnet MS/TP, LonWorks, JCI Metasys N2, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP or SNMP. It can handle up to 250 points, which satisfies the most applications. Yet, at this low price, the QuickServer still includes the same proven technology as the standard FieldServers. In addition, the user still receives the same proven, trusted technical support as with all of our products. This is a great deal for the basic user looking for a cost-effective solution.
Sinclair: What do you see for the future?
Theron: We will continue to meet the full range of interoperability needs of our customers, from the FieldServer line with its high point count, multiple ports, extensive driver library, to the QuickServer, a cost-effective simple solution for most needs, to the ProtoCessor for OEM’s to enable their products to meet their end-users protocol interface requirements. In addition to capitalizing on our extensive background in Building Automation, we are also expanding into the Smart Grid arena where we have already seen significant success aiding building operators to take control of their energy costs.
FieldServer works closely with individual manufacturers and associations to make sure that our protocol drivers fulfill the need for protocol conversion on both legacy and current products. We have a reputation of trusted protocol conversion because we go to the source of the protocol for the technical specifications and knowledge. You will not find “reverse engineered” protocol drivers at FieldServer, they are all developed with the assistance of the initial protocol developer. We will continue to provide our users with the trusted technical support necessary to achieve a satisfied answer to their interoperability needs.
For more information about QuickServer visit www.fieldserver.com/QuickServer/
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