April 2010

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Why Do Open Protocol Myths Still Abound?

We see plenty of opportunities for the industry to educate itself sufficiently to overcome these myths.

Paul Ehrlich & Ira Goldschmidt
Building Intelligence Group

As published
 

April Issue - Column

Recently, a client with a good understanding of the owner/engineer perspective of the industry made some strong statements regarding the state of BAS interoperability:

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This sounds pretty damning if this is an accurate reflection of even a significant minority of our industry. What makes this even stranger is the fact that both BACnetTM and LonWorksTM are fairly mature technologies that have been “official” for well over a decade. In fact, the industry has thoroughly embraced their use, largely making proprietary protocols obsolete. So, why do the myths and confusion continue?

As professionals that focus on Intelligent Buildings we’re comfortable with the self-learning needed to demystify any new protocol issues that come our way. Therefore, we are constantly bewildered when reviewing project requirements and/or specifications that seem to mix and match BACnet, LonWorks and/or Modbus specifics as if they were interchangeable (i.e. provide LonTalk communications over EIA-485 using BACnet objects…huh?).

Is it fair to blame the “control suppliers”? Sorry to say but the cliché “buyer beware” applies here as with any other purchase. On the other hand, are the control suppliers and manufacturers doing enough to help diffuse this problem? While this is doubtful, it also is not their responsibility to fully shoulder. So what is one to do?

CatNet Systems We see plenty of opportunities for the industry to educate itself sufficiently to overcome these myths. How about:

The opportunities abound, so if an engineer can become an expert in Computational Fluid Dynamics why not in open protocols? We would argue that the challenge is more about priorities, interest, and investing the time needed rather than due to a lack of opportunities. Perhaps this means it is time for the industry to admit that the knowledge needed to properly specify interoperable BAS’s and intelligent building solutions is a specialty that needs to be viewed in the same vein as that for acoustics and/or for the design a building’s IT infrastructure.

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About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at www.buildingintelligencegroup.com  We also invite you to contact us directly at Paul@buildingintelligencegroup.com or ira@buildingintelligencegroup.com

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