April 2020

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Talking Today's Tools

We need to change our tools and how we use them, trading hard hammers for humanistic based softer more encompassing solutions.

Ken Sinclair
Founder, Owner, Publisher

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Help me, lead our Conversations/Talking to tell of "Today's Tools"  which are so much more than hardware and hammers. We need to stop hammering out our old way solutions and nail a new understanding of our today's toolset and how we can best use them.

The old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”   -  Abraham Maslow

Coupled with the thought,  It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

We need to change our tools and how we use them, trading hard hammers for humanistic based softer more encompassing solutions.

We have a myriad of soft and hard solutions these days. Do we clearly understand what tools we now have in our tool kit and how they are used completely different than our hammers of the past?

Those who are now Born Again Connected know not of hardware hammers, they also understand the waning of wires so do not have to Wake Up To Wireless Ways.

Wireless is there when we are born again connected but we need to explore and discuss our new toolset.

You need to Open Your Mind, Get Out of Your Head  Step away from your hectic life.

All of our forgoing chapters about our transformation / adaption help create framing for our future discussions.

What are some of our new softer today tools we need to add to our experimental sandboxes to grow them in a controllable scalable way to move ahead?

IoT of everything rapidly changes our tools as we struggle to navigate this new environment we need to discuss what we can just use and what we need to change.   Wireless emergence people are having a hard time understanding why being wireless is not simply just a transport medium. It gives you totally, completely different freedom of architecture for a very different approach.

We need to get these new solutions and some hybrid solutions mixing old and new out to several sandboxes scattered around the globe.  I caution to keep the sandboxes smaller so we can deploy quickly with only a few floors so we can fail early, fix quickly, and move on in never before achieved success. We need to practice using these new tools as they are very sharp and all-encompassing plus we are very clumsy and coming from using hardwire hammers.

Open Tools, Sticky Tools, and Trapping Tools

Our contributing editor Zach Netsov share these open thoughts in addition, to his thoughts we capture in What Does Open Mean to You?  a very successful Open discussion for an Open Future

An open controller has: Open communication,  Open programming, Freely available software tools or interoperability with other open tools on the market.

The truth is that a lot of people in this industry do not want this. I am not talking about Honeywell, JCI, or any other large manufacturers only. It goes much deeper than that. The systems integrators who are working with these lines of controllers and installing them at jobs are drinking the same Kool-Aid. They do not want “open” because the job is tied to them forever if they can install something they can only operate.

When you want to have your own approach such as exchanging JSON data, but you also want interoperability, you have to do both JSON and BACnet.

[ JSON JavaScript Object Notation is an open standard file format, and data interchange format, that uses human-readable text to store and transmit data objects consisting of attribute–value pairs and array data types. ]

JSON data is exchanged using APIs or whatever you have going on, but that data must be updated with the BACnet server as well.

This way you’re doing your thing but then you are also BACnet compliant so others can mess with it too. This is how BASpi works. It works with BACnet, it has a REST API and no matter what you do, both ends are updated.

I do really like Concentric’s wireless offerings. I think they are very clever. They are certainly next-generation solutions. 

From what I can read on their web site testimony, they use Node.js server-side communications. These are small server nodes (light java script code running on a variety of platforms such as sensors or controllers or gateways, cloud servers, or anything really) and exchange data with an extremely common data format – JSON (new, more elaborate version of XML). This is wonderful. Most classical BAS devices such as a BAScontrol or other DDC controllers that have been around for years do not support this data exchange method directly. They would need a gateway from JSON to BACnet. There certainly are devices out there which do support these methods such as the Dingo from Go-IoT, our BASpi, our Mango, or any kid’s project using something like a Raspberry Pi or a Beaglebone, or any other tinker board. Node.js is “javascript anywhere” (rather than only in a web browser where java script started) and JSON data format is very a common method of data exchange in the mobile, PC, IT, and home automation industries, and now we see it making its way in the BAS industry – which it should because it is great and useful. 

Most people are not yet very familiar with this and most classical/legacy equipment will not be able to directly interface with Node.js servers carrying JSON data, but next generation controllers should and will. We are already seeing REST support and soon enough I think everybody (at least those who make sense) will be able to exchange JSON data between nodes whether wired or wireless. There are gains and drawbacks with everything, so I think we are really reaching an era where things that make sense can be supported in one box. We have the powerful hardware platforms and software that can make it possible. One good example is the Dingo from Go-IoT, another is the Mango we are offering, so is the BASpi, so is Calvin’s open-source controller which certainly has the power to run Node.js server next to a BACnet server, next to a Modbus master, next to a RESTful server, next to a Haystack server, next to an MQTT server etc. These are all great technologies that offer unique benefits (and drawbacks if we have to be honest), but having them all (or most)  gives you power and different abilities in devices such as gateways, supervisors, or IoT gateweys – because you can get data where you need it. Having most, or all of these technologies in one box is very useful for ease of integration and interoperability. A sensor or a controller will usually support one or two of these methods, however, a gateway or a supervisor is most useful if it has many of these. Some of these technologies are also dependent on specific hardware such as specific radios with different frequencies for mesh networks or EnOcean or LoraWan, 5G cellular, etc. The purpose of gateways and supervisors, and IoT gateways is to interconnect different equipment and make data visible and available for analytics, cloud, web services, graphics, etc - all that “icing on the cake” – whatever you may want from data requires communicating to equipment to get the data out. As we all know, that can be difficult and yes, sometimes you need to talk to a Modbus Air Handler from 1995 and contact the manufacturer about their Modbus registers and wait a month to get that datasheet. 

In short, the BAScontrol would need a gateway from JSON data to BACnet data structure – it could not do it on its own. That is why they talk about using your own gateway or one of theirs on their website. A BASpi, a Mango, or a Dingo would not need a separate gateway, because technically, the “gateway” is built in to their on board software. They have the horsepower to run a small Node.js server or MQTT server, or REST server next to their existing firmware and do it all. For example the BASpi actually runs the same Sedona and BACnet code as the BAScontrol, but it has a ton more system resources so you could run that, plus a RESTful server, Haystack server, JSON data server plus XML if needed, etc. 

What I am talking about here is mostly software-defined, because once you have powerful hardware platform you can run more things on it.

I think the message here is that in the future wireless products will come with non IP networks that will enter the traditional network with readable an writable data through powerful open controllers.

From this LinkedIn post these words

Most importantly, there is a desperate need to shift to common and open tech stacks such as “the language of the web” JSON, so that new labor resources can learn from traditional education and across industries, to supply the labor gaps in building automation caused by legacy vendors using arcane, archaic, proprietary architecture that only they can train for.

In this article, "Removing the Umbilical Cord between Controllers and Sensors"  - Phillip Kopp CEO Conectric Networks

The next order of flexibility is to remove the specialized, compiled programming tools that exist today’s PLC’s and bring in standard software languages like JavaScript or .Net, where sequences can be programmed into Graphical Interfaces, this opens the door for a very large resource pool to work on building automation, the entire global software developer community! Imagine what having access to the global developer brain trust and market would do not only for the quality of the control algorithms but to the cost of developing them. This is only possible by removing the logic from the logic controllers and putting it into standard software running on edge computing. And that is only possible by removing the umbilical cord between controllers and sensors, the wires that restrict them from taking more and better inputs.

Talking Today's Tools in the UK   Dave Lapsley, Managing Director Econowise Group of Companies

These tools will transcend BMS and Analytics platforms incorporating the best elements of other industry platforms and provide System Integrators and end-users with levels of flexibility, power and visibility that the industry will ultimately come to see as an expectation

The Haystack and JSON models are very similiar since they both support the same core list and object/dict types. The difference is that Haystack has a richer set of scalar types such as Date, Time, Uri which are not supported directly by JSON; so we encode them as strings using a special type code prefix.

How the BAS Market is Opening Up Over the last decade, the BAS market has responded to end-user and specifier requirements for open standard protocols, making the integration of systems easier than the previous era’s proprietary protocols. As the deployment of IoT solutions in buildings accelerates, there is a growing need and expectation for even more openness and compatibility with various new open standards.


This article maps out the direction of our today's sticky licensed networks that are now being defined. These OT networks provide a great connection place for hybrid wireless systems but in the future mesh networks will self created with AI and will follow the G5 & G6 explosion as part of the building owned wireless networks.

From Kieren McCarthy writing for the UK-based The Reigster: Are the IoT wars are over, maybe? Amazon, Apple, Google give up on smart-home domination dreams, agree to develop common standards :  After years of trying and failing to dominate the smart home market with their own standards, tech giants Amazon, Apple and Google have finally agreed to work on a set of common code that will allow smart home products, from thermostats to cameras to plugs to digital assistants, to work together seamlessly. The broad brush blueprint of the new standard is stark in its obviousness. It will be an IP-based protocol so it can connect directly to the internet rather than require a hub; it will be open-source and royalty-free and allow for end-to-end secure communication; and it will work with core standards like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

How To Design an IP Network for an IP Based BAS System  BAS OT Network Design: ON-PREMISE First, OFF-PREMISE Second - Scott Cochrane, President, CEO, Cochrane Supply & Engineering   The BAS network topology shall include an on-premise managed IP operational technology network (OTN) to include all the hardware and software required to ensure proper network operation without being connected to any other IP network or the internet. 

What we need to avoid is "Trapping Tools" products that require you to buy tools to modify the product you have just bought. They are in no way open even if they support BACnet.  if you are locked into buying proprietary software or worse yet they do not allow you to buy and force service and change of product by them they have used their product as a trapping tool.

The home market has much more experience than us at trying to maintain wireless standards. Re quoted from, Waking Up to Wireless ways, 

The OCF UCI is a programming interface that can be used to standardise connectivity between different manufacturers’ cloud servers, and between devices and the cloud. This cloud application programming interface (API) helps the IoT industry to streamline partnerships and avoid implementing and maintaining numerous proprietary programming interfaces at once.

Connected everything, Sharping hardware Hammers (our old ways) while shifting to power tools?

5G: Don’t Wait. A Future-Ready Approach for Building Owners  Art King, Director, Enterprise Services & Tech, Corning
Pressure for coverage and capacity by enterprise subscribers translates to (1) Don’t wait for 5G and (2) Don’t wait to invest in your wireless fourth utility.

“In fact, as 5G hype pervades the public consciousness, it may be useful in sparking discussions between enterprises and operators (or RAN vendors) that lead to LTE investments, because in many cases, the operator will tell the enterprise that what they want from 5G can be accomplished with LTE, only sooner (and perhaps cheaper).”

“Going forward, operators are likely to talk less and less about 4G as they try to stir public demand for 5G. But 4G will remain a silent, steady workhorse, enabling the industry to achieve many of its 5G ambitions.”

Smart Workplace and the Power of Location  How Wayfinding and Location Data Influence the Smart Campus Workplace Experience - Leon Papkoff, CEO & Chief Strategist, The CXApp

The more you know about your employees, your spaces, your buildings for example, the more equipped business’ become to refine and craft on-site experiences with data, usage trends etc. A lot of this data can be sourced through integrated touchpoints, IoT devices, mobile apps, and location-aware technology. The modern workplace is either being built with this in mind or buildings are being retrofitted to enable smart applications and infrastructures.

Occupancy Analytics is an up-to-date assessment of the emerging market for IoT  technology platforms in office space, which locate and map people, assets & workspaces

One major trend reshaping the smart buildings market is the increased focus on occupant-centric workplaces, which has developed over the past few years. Organizations are looking for new ways to attract and retain the best people and empower them to be productive. Shifts in the landscape of work are driving a greater focus on occupant experiences and interactions with buildings. Although challenging to quantify, the impact of employee surroundings on business performance is receiving increased attention.

This company adds new and existing capabilities including desk-level temperature, people count, noise, and others, in optional wireless

The matchbox-sized unit is designed to easily snap into Signify luminaires as part of the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) lighting scheme, called Interact Office. Data collected by the sensors travels either via Zigbee wireless or via Ethernet cables — depending on the user configuration — to a central dashboard from which operators can adjust settings.  The bundle includes an occupancy sensor which communicates whether or not someone is in a room, and a separate people-counting sensor. A temperature sensor takes readings at desk level, even with the bundle residing on the ceiling. Other sensors detect light levels, humidity, and noise. The noise sensor is new to Signify, as is the people counter and the ability to gauge temperature at desk level. The company’s previous standalone temperature sensors measured heat at ceiling level when mounted at that height.

AI is now part of everything and must be considered as one of our newest and most powerful tools

AIX Book
Our contributing editor Sudha Jamthe CEO IoTDisruptions

AIX: Designing Artificial Intelligence Paperback – February 24, 2020
has just published a book

AIX is the primer to design Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Product Managers and Business owners. This book offers a unique glimpse into the gap between the technical algorithms and the high level business considerations to teach you to design and build products, and extend markets, using data and AI. You will learn: Foundation of AI Algorithms and Data that powers the AI; How to apply enterprise data with your business acumen to train AI models to solve customer problems; How to design product and customer experiences with Voice, Computer Vision, Machine Learning (MLUX) and Augmented Reality (AR); How to humanize and genderize AI for consumers to work with ML; How to harness the data sources in your company to train AI models to create business models that work for your industry; Learn AI ethics to create products that respect privacy and earn users’ trust; Learn about AI job roles AI Product Manager, AI Designers and AI Business Owners and how to pivot your career to AI today. Technology Futurist Sudha Jamthe brings her insights and in-depth analysis of 3 industry areas that are changing our futures: 1. Digital Mobility, 2. Digital Health, 3. Sustainability AI across industries.This book brings case studies from industry practitioners with clear in depth lessons to make AI work in your company. Welcome to AIX!!!

In the below article Troy explains Why AI (alone) Won’t Save Us - While artificial intelligence (AI) will play a large role in the next wave of automation systems, it cannot save us on its own.

Transforming Automation User Experience with Deep Digital Twins
  Deep Digital Twins enable a new type of automation platform, built on the fundamentals of physics, with the guarantees that come with it. - Troy Harvey, CEO, PassiveLogic

The UX of Everybody: Shifting The Value Chain - The UX revolution opportunity extends well beyond the users who have a direct touch on the building.  The building value chain has a wide array of external ‘users’ who benefit from Deep Digital Twins, starting with the architect, designer, and engineer who all want design guarantees that the building will preserve their intent. The contractor would like a worksite that digitally check-points the technician’s wiring, ensuring proper point mapping. The commissioners get built-in commissioning tools to validate the system. Managers and maintenance teams automatically receive detailed notifications, insights, and analytics of underlying operation without integration effort. And utilities receive a true demand-response system and auto-validated buildings for demand-side management programs.

The article was written by Troy before this one is a necessary read to better understand.

Establishing a Smart Building Industry Standard - We spend the first hour of a meeting establishing what we mean by smart, how smart is smart, navigating disbelief, educating about new technology, and finally arriving at common ground.

What are autonomous buildings? Just like autonomous vehicles are the pinnacle in the automated vehicle standard taxonomy, fully autonomous buildings are the end-point of the “smart building” revolution. Like autonomous vehicles, these next-generation buildings “navigate” in real-time. Only instead of navigating a single car in a 2D spatial map, autonomous buildings navigate a whole “fleet” of sub-systems simultaneously in a multi-dimensional temporal map.

This is literally a Talking Tool,  UIB is a ‘universal translator’ between humans and machines, leading a new market category of conversational AI with cognitive IoT capabilities which allows us to “simply communicate.”

“Your AI’s ability to support your and other people’s needs will determine your company’s success.”- UIB Chief Marketing Officer Ken Herron

UIB is a ‘universal translator’ between humans and machines, leading a new market category of conversational AI with cognitive IoT capabilities which allows us to “simply communicate.” Communication has become complex and with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), we now not only communicate with each other but also with our “things” and with our buildings. With billions of connected devices driving trillions of interactions between humans and machines, we use Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to make human to machine communication as simple and as natural as human to human communication. We play a leading role in giving people choice, whether they decide to own their data (and monetize it themselves), trust a device manufacturer to own their data, or trust a free (potentially ad-sponsored) service. With a single UnificationEngine®-powered SmartContact™ in their smartphone’s contacts, people can use natural language text and voice messaging to talk in any language to any cloud-connected software, service, ERP, chatbot, robot, building, or device on over 30 of the world’s most popular communications channels (including WhatsApp!). Chat with UIB’s technology now at

contemporary Everything as service we need not own anything both hardware and software can be provided as a Service.

Online services build from online services that all call home for verifications.

The Call Home Strategy - Yes, Another Building Data Story… - Scott Cochrane, President and CEO, Cochrane Supply & Engineering

As we continue to see cloud-based solutions deployed in buildings, we have stumbled upon what may be a future industry in itself.  How does the digital device/system share its data, commands, logic, everything???? from inside a building to an on/off-prem cloud?  We call this a product or system Call Home Strategy.  With more and more IP devices flooding the market, many are coming with remarkable cloud-based services that set the product capabilities on fire.  There are way too many cloud advantages to hard line into an on-prem-only policy for all building control systems.  Even the most secure systems in the most secure buildings need software updates to maintain their highest level of cyber security, which often requires a download from a cloud.  In past years, we considered this remote access. But, with the advent of IP devices with attached cloud services (like a Wi-Fi stat for your house), this becomes much more complicated than just setting up a VPN into a remote network.

New tools develop daily ON OUR PATH OF ADAPTION we need to bring them into our talkings

Dahua Technology launches the industry's latest thermal camera, which is capable of highly accurate body temperature measurement ±0.3℃ (with blackbody). With built-in AI algorithm, it can measure multiple persons from up to 3-meter distance, enabling fast and non-contact access. Which was part of this great article COVID-19 Lockdown Leaves Empty Smart Buildings to Ponder their Failings

Published: March 17th, 2020

To date, the smart building’s health applications have focused on maintaining the best indoor temperature for occupants, developing lighting in tune with the human circadian rhythm, or improving air quality with sensors-enabled ventilation. While all these systems do support general health and, therefore, an improved ability to fight disease, they do not help control the spread of Coronavirus. With many experts claiming that this kind of pandemic may become more common in the decades ahead, the smart building may need to start looking into its deep toolkit to see how it can help.

I wish to close with this just where I started, It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. Let's understand, share and celebrate our adaption to the challenge.

Starting to collect useful resources here is link to ASHRAE COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) PREPAREDNESS RESOURCES

COVID-19, the Worlds Biggest Remote Working Experiment is Underway 


As Europe goes into lockdown and the rest of the world prepares to do the same, millions of office workers will be attempting to work from home. Tens of thousands of companies will experience what it is like to have no physical office at all. While there aren’t many “winners” in a situation like this, those involved in offering flexible working services are seeing hundreds of millions of people thrust into an involuntary remote working trial. This leaves us all working remotely where videos are king with these two interviews about Today's Tools. Thank you to everyone.

Amazing discussions are now online exactly what I am talking about maybe we are now ready to change as you know I have been trying to create change for over 20 years this coupled with wake-up-to-wireless-ways are some of the greatest changes I have ever seen. I have included links please become part of the discussion.

Eric, Kenneth, Prabhu, & Troy great job on this online interview   ControlTrends

James and Nicolas discussions in this online interview    Nicolas Contributing editor

Some Online posts to share your thoughts

Lots in both of these online interviews to think and talk about.

Please help me define Today's Tools in discussions with your peers.



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