April 2008
  
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Communicating To the Enterprise Isn’t Science Fiction
Far from being science fiction, providing the ability to connect building automation systems to the enterprise using OPC is very much a reality today.

Eric Murphy
 

Eric Murphy, BSc, PEng
MatrikonOPC

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To some the vision of the future is more about soaring energy costs, global warming concerns and increased environmental awareness, and less so space exploration and brave new worlds. The ‘Enterprise’ the building automation industry is trying to reach is more down to earth that that of Captain Kirk and crew. Their mission is to improve the design and operation of building processes to reduce emissions and improve energy usage. Fulfilling this destiny means the enterprise systems need to be monitored and maintained. Far from being science fiction, providing the ability to connect building automation systems to the enterprise using OPC is very much a reality today.

Beam Me Up, Scotty
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to transport any object across great distances almost instantly? In the building automation systems of today’s buildings and facilities, real time information does just that. A modern building management system monitors and operates all technical facilities; heating and air conditioning, security and surveillance, lighting, fire and safety systems and other equipment. Managing these data sources ensures optimal building performance by enabling control of building systems in an integrated manner. However enterprise facility management requires more than just building automation control systems. Real time information from these sources must also be supplied to advanced applications, such as decision support systems, historical analysis, process optimizations and energy calculations and other high level information processing systems.

United Federation of Data
The various building automation subsystems come from many manufacturers using a wide range of different connectivity methods. Building automation and control systems have to communicate with several common interfaces such as BACnet, LonWorks® and Modbus, as well as a wide range of proprietary protocols. Advanced levels of automation, integration of systems, enterprise-level connectivity, and new generation of efficient and intelligent hardware bring real advantages that businesses can leverage to make buildings more productive and less expensive to operate. In order to realize these benefits the building automation systems must integrate with higher level systems. OPC is the preferred method for standardizing the integration of facility management systems, building automaton systems and business management applications to perform the complex task of enterprise energy management. OPC is like a federation of different worlds of data, united to achieve a common goal.

Multi-vendor system interconnectivity

To Boldly Go Where No ONE Has Gone Before
The mission is more than just automating buildings. It is now a question of how to ensure the greatest return on this green investment. Improving the use of existing systems requires timely access to data in order to determine the best way to control and manage the building systems. OPC allows users to integrate real-time and historical building system information into existing business applications for a complete view of their facilities and energy requirements. The vision of the near future is complete enterprise wide integration of managed assets including building systems across the space of the Internet. The OPC UA is the next generation of OPC specifications which are implemented on a service base architecture. This promotes the power of standard based connectivity across more layers of the enterprise. Service based models also allow OPC UA to leverage standard security aspects such as authentication, encryption, data integrity and auditing. Another key component of OPC UA is its ability to be an enabling technology for other industry standards. An example of such a standard in the building control world is oBIX (OASIS Open Building Information eXchange Technical Committee), which is an industry-wide initiative to define XML- and Web services-based mechanisms for building control systems. Using standardized protocols such as OPC UA and oBIX will enable facilities and their operations to be managed as full participants in knowledge-based businesses.

Control Solutions, Inc Live Long and Prosper
Organizations are using OPC to integrate real-time and historic building information into existing business applications to improve the balance between people, infrastructure, facilities and their overall impact on the enterprise bottom line. As new connectivity standards and BMS technologies converge with existing enterprise systems, building owners and property managers will see increasing benefits. By providing interoperability between disparate equipment throughout the enterprise, the OPC standard leverages a company’s total technology investment for better system performance and a greater return on investment. As an accepted industry standard OPC is proving to be a long-term solution to building management issues.


About the Author

Eric Murphy, BSc, PEng, is a Chemical Engineer with a Process Control specialization and an OPC expert. Eric has been a part of the OPC community since its early beginnings in the mid-1990s. Eric is heavily involved with the OPC Foundation and currently acts as the chair for the OPC Historical Data Access (HDA) working group. Eric is also a member of the OPC Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and an active member of the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) working group.

Eric has worked for companies including Honeywell and MatrikonOPC holding position’s including software development architect, OPC R&D Manager, OPC Project Manager and OPC QA Manager. Eric has acted as chief consultant on hundreds of OPC projects where he has architected standards based OPC solutions.

You can often find Eric presenting online as the featured speaker for webcasts or at industry related events such as ISA Expos, OPC Conferences and other events.

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