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Making Friends wherever
As with everything in my life there is something anecdotal that inspires me. Having recently relocated to Phoenix from the “Frozen North”, a mother figure in my life told me that I should go out and “make friends”. She commented that the success in life stems from the relationships that you make. I would think that the same thing stands to reason in the world of business. This was particularly evident to me having just returned from Connectivity Week in Santa Clara. Connectivity Week provided some great opportunities to listen to other industry professionals from the building automation and communications verticals speak about the challenges that they face. There was a common theme amongst a great many of the presentations and that was the need to advance existing technologies, and collaborate with similar minded companies. This was to gain a position of strength and weather the storm of today’s current economic uncertainty. Strength and unity during uncertain times is often the key to success.
During a presentation from Jim Lee, Cimetrics, he spoke about needing to continue to advance the BACnet specification and prepare it for the next evolution. He spoke about adding web services, and security. These things sound very familiar to those of us in the OPC field. To us, it seems only natural to think that collaboration would be the "key" to success in standardization.
In my opinion, collaboration is probably one of the most overused terms by the media, analysts, vendors, system integrators and my favorite industry-standard consortiums. Everyone reads about collaborations between companies in the news, but what does that really mean? What is the ROI from a business perspective with regards to collaborating? Companies that are successful in this day and age (of this global economy) are successful because they partner and collaborate with other companies that also are successful. No one company, or consortium, can truly afford to stand alone. Everyone needs to embrace that there is strength in numbers to weather the storm. The same holds true for technology. Collaboration between technologies seems a completely natural course of action to ensure longevity and end-user adoption.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is a truly wonderful thing. But only if and when the technology solves the problems that the end-users and vendors want solved, not create new ones. When companies and consortiums collaborate together growth of technology deployment and adoption is achieved. OPC fosters and facilitates vendors who typically build proprietary open infrastructures to communicate and collaborate together to develop an open industrialized version of their own vendor proprietary open infrastructure.
OPC has been extremely successful in terms of widespread adoption of the technology in industrial automation. Vendors who want to succeed always provide, and leverage OPC technology, as part of their product portfolio. Many of the vendors that have products and offerings in industrial automation are also the same vendors that service building automation. It makes economic sense that the companies who are using OPC technology in industrial automation for multivendor interoperability want to leverage their expertise, and products, into domains outside of industrial automation.
That poses the question that always needs to be asked: “What value is OPC in building automation?”
Answer: The value of OPC is clearly to provide the best specifications, technology and processes to enable multivendor secure communications interoperability. The significant advantage to building automation is the proven adoption and deployment by more vendors than can even be counted in the industrial automation domain. Vendors from both domains will be very willing to expand their existing products to meet the needs of the other domain. If Connectivity Week illustrated anything to me, it is that there is clearly a need for information flow between industrial automation devices/applications into building automation applications and vice versa. End-users benefit by being able to integrate devices and applications in domains, sharing information and opportunities, for increased efficiency and lower costs. That improves everyone’s bottom line, and that is truly what companies today are striving to achieve.
To quote my old Project Management instructor Mave Darhiwal:” Companies today need to achieve synergy at all levels in order to truly grow”. I see a true opportunity for synergy between an organization like BACnet International and the OPC Foundation to collaborate together and achieve a truly best-of-breed technology solution which empowers end-users with the ability to not be limited for growth in the future. One standard infrastructure could be used to cross into a variety of domains. Connecting systems to the Smart Grid would be extremely more cost effective because there would be no requirement to integrate a new technology simply to active a data pipeline.
As companies in the building automation vertical look
for solutions for inter-domain connectivity they need only look to make some new
friends in industrial automation. A synergy between technologies is good for
business, good for technology, and ultimately good for the planet. Who knows
where finding some synergy today might take things for tomorrow?
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