Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Allan M. Olbur,
The advent of the automobile seatbelt heralded the consumer push towards safer vehicles. The ripple effect across the industry became a focal point of legislators who enacted laws to preserve lives. The evolution from these primitive belts to shoulder harnesses, front and side air bags and sturdier construction of the passenger cabin has provided an enabling technology and further research to facilitate the public good.
Automated Building Technology
The proverbial battle between achieving aesthetics in building design and complying with municipal codes for mechanical and structural engineering requirements related to life-safety is fought daily. New construction readily provides a canvas for creativity and the incorporation of the latest technology offerings. Retrofitting existing structures poses challenges to preserving the character of the buildings and typically results in substantial capital investment. Like the seatbelt illustration, systems have progressed from primitive fire sensors to robust converged heat, smoke, and fire, chemical, biological, intrusion, etc. systems that provide a level of intelligence that sets the platform for enriching assessment and tactical strategies related to life-safety.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has commenced an initiative to study intelligent building information communication to first responders. The Department of Homeland Security is making available grant monies to non-profit institutions to enhance their security systems in venues and structures to prevent terrorist threats to these assets and human capital. Advancements in mobile high speed communications for converged voice, data and video transmissions offers an opportunity to provide multi-path critical realtime information to building management and responding agencies in the event of an emergency.
In many municipal jurisdictions, there are requirements to provide current building floorplans as part of the emergency pre-plan. However, these paper documents are not readily accessible to multiple agencies. Ironically, these paper files are initially created with CAD packages that produce electronic media. It is a requisite that these electronic files be made available to first responders while en route and also be visibly displayed at the building entrance in conjunction with the fire annunciator panel. The footprint of an in-building computer server that is securely connected to the Internet and accessible by first responders is no longer a luxury. Additionally, a visual interactive display can provide levels of information related to viewing situations on impacted floors via live camera feeds down corridors coordinated with the sensor information provided by the automated building systems. Disparate building systems can be uniformly integrated with the visual display. Realtime video, data and voice can be delivered to mobile units responding to the scene. These floorplans and updated disparate data can simultaneously be viewed on dispatcher displays back at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAPs or 911 Centers).
The confluence of both the 802.11 standard for high speed Internet and the excitement of the emerging ZigBee standard provide multiple transports for data transmission. Hardware that supports Ethernet over power, wireless and wired connectivity (including switches, routers, PCs and visual displays) can now integrate with touch points (sensors) that are BACnet or LON enabled. These server driven systems can be internally networked to the master building server that archives both historical and realtime data. Middleware that assimilates disparate database information, graphics and video can then be cohesively delivered to secure first responder networks.
Chicago Fire Department Deputy Chief Eugene Ryan, one of the foremost HAZMAT experts in the United States, has been an advocate favoring realtime delivery of in-building information to first responders en route to an incident. Critical judgments related to choice of equipment and human intervention response is time critical in an emergency. Assessment and tactics hinge upon obtaining accurate information, particularly where events are fluid as to risk.
David Holmberg at NIST references NEMA B-30 as the beginnings of the standard. NIST welcomes a consortium of commercial vendors, educational and governmental institutions to develop universal standards for moving proprietary data and graphics to an open middleware knowledge management software platform. This inclusive approach enables holders of information to share without compromising security, proprietary intellectual property or methodology. Facilitating a hierarchical approach to access enables users of the information to rapidly digest and interpret the results of focused queries. Response to threats and incidents can be accelerated without compromising the source of the information. Vendors of automated building systems certainly have a place at the table. Network and communication companies need to leverage existing infrastructure and promote new buildout of access points both within and outside of building structures. Cost mitigation can be measured against preservation of human life. Dual use visual signage can display content that is relevant to the venue, additionally featuring commercial messages that are fee based and, in the event of an emergency, broadcast focused directions and communications originated by life safety rescue personnel.
Cisco’s Connected Real Estate envisioned by John Chambers provides the cornerstone for creating a discrete network within a building or campus environment that can connect the internal local area network to the public wide area network. Their recent investment in digital signage provides a platform for expanding simultaneous communications to both the desktop and “public” electronic signage network. ZigBee development to create a low power mesh network that is supported via the emergency power grid can transmit critical information over this discrete network that can be interconnected to the in-building local area network. In-building mass notification systems can now be augmented by simultaneous delivery of distress information to emails or handheld devices. Siemens, Johnson Controls, Honeywell and the other proprietary vendors of sensory systems must be able to deliver the output of their technology to a standardized software system that can digest and assimilate the disparate data into flexible visual presentations that are uniform for first responders. This E-911 converged information must be conveyed directly to the display device at the PSAP without impediment and made simultaneously available to mobile displays within the vehicles of first responders. The emerging H264 standard for compressed video transmission is a step in the right direction.
Call to Action
The cabling industry historically supported proprietary vendor cable configurations with a multitude of connectors, pinning arrangements and composition of cable. Examples include EIA/TIA cables, coax, twinax, TDI, and unshielded twisted pair cable from one pair to five pair configurations. Standards and levels that supported increasing transmissions speeds finally resulted in Category 5 and 6 unshielded twisted pair components. The RJ45 interface for Ethernet was adopted by hardware vendors to support devices attached to the network. The original advent of Division 17 was established to create architectural standards for universal cabling systems.
The Automated Building Systems industry must move towards meeting standards for “rich content” delivery of information, with particular emphasis on delivering life safety information to first responders.
If you are interested in participating in the development and support of these standards please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 847-276-2627.
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