June 2007

Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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Toby Considine EMAIL INTERVIEW  Toby Considine & Ken Sinclair

Toby Considine, Technology Officer, Facility Services, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
OASIS oBIX Technical Committee Co-Chair

Toby Considine has been working with enterprise applications and and integration of embedded control systems for 20 years. As a Systems Specialist in Facilities Services at the University of North Carolina, Mr. Considine has struggled with the network demands, poor data sharing, and non-scalable security issues posed by last-generation systems. This work led him to focus on open discoverable data standards for control systems, and from there to the oBIX committee and work with the GridWise Architectural Council.

Before coming to the University, Mr. Considine worked to integrate other silo processes into the enterprise for companies including The Architect's Collaborative, Reebok, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Southco Distributing. Mr. Considine's experience also includes public access to computer resources and data, beginning with Citynet, one of the largest "pre-Internet" public access systems and writing device drivers for some of the first microcomputers sold.

New Daedalus

Today pervasive intelligence in every aspect of the design, construction, and operation of the building, as well as the intelligent interaction of the building with the outside world, is making the most profound changes to the way we build and operate buildings since Daedalus.

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Sinclair:  Tell us why you created http://www.newdaedalus.com/

Considine:  For some time, I have been concerned with how conversations within the industry seem to cycle back on themselves. Or more precisely, conversations within the four industries that oBIX interacts with:

  1. Building Systems continue using bad models for integration, models based upon uniting any two systems that use the same low level protocol as a single control system. It remains enmired in processes, and in describing those processes to others. The Automated Buildings industry needs to talk differently about and to integrate the services it provides differently if it is going to mature into Intelligent Buildings…

  2. Building Design and Construction are well along in describing what they do. The National Building Information Modelling Standard (NBIMS) is at last codifying the description of assets. They are even beginning to reach into operations with standard metadata and formats for commissioning and building hand-over. NBIMS does not yet concern itself with the control systems.

  3. GridWise looks to solve the problems of growth and reliability in the power industry by leveraging information technology. In particular, the GridWise Architectural Council looks to open the grid up to new models of entrepreneur-driven innovation. It will be difficult to meet its goals without being in conversation with Intelligent Buildings.

  4. Emergency Management is beginning to ask for things from buildings. The Broadcast warning system is dying and buildings are being asked to pick up the slack. Buildings are being asked to provide situation awareness to first responders.

The interactions between these domains of knowledge are something outside the expertise of those within each domain. I want to talk about those interactions.

Sinclair:  We now have BACnet-Web Services and we have oBIX. Why aren’t these good enough tools to build intelligent buildings?

Considine:  Right now, many see the new tools we have as mere variants on the old ones. We have just bought a new wrench and are using it to bang in nails. We now have open protocols for control systems and we will use them to build control interactions with < and > embedded. We need to work together to understand what it will mean to use the embedded processes of the Buildings as services instead.

Sinclair:  NBIMS – is that the same as BIM?

Considine:  No, and that causes a lot of problems. BIM is a building model. Using a BIM is an entirely different process than CAD. Lines in CAD are just lines, even if we agree that two parallel lines represent a wall. In BIM, we have a model of a building and all its components. One component may be a wall, and when we project that wall onto paper, it may appear as two lines. Transitioning from CAD to BIM is an important part of NBIMS. NBIMS is bigger; it includes and preserves all of the information about the design and construction process, from Design Intents to Construction Hand-Over. One component of that information is, however, a BIM.

Sinclair:  That sounds Expensive.

Considine:  Actually it appears that NBIMS saves money. Because buildings are fully designed construction is cheaper and faster. Because problems such as co-locations are discovered in advance, as-builts look like the designs.

Sinclair:  How does this help the Building Automation process?

Considine:  Not enough, yet. This is one of the reasons for New Daedalus. Control systems in new buildings are rarely designed, and almost never designed completely. At the same time, Green Building initiatives expect control systems to produce the results predicted by Energy Models created directly out of NBIMS-compliant building models. This is one of the areas in which I want to start conversations.

Control Solutions, Inc Sinclair:  Is this different than Buildings 2.0?

Considine:  I would say it is aligned quite well. Buildings are being redefined into the services they provide. Performance and amenity are expected to increase while energy costs go down. We must meet societal demands for both security and privacy, concerns that are often antagonistic. I think we will find the architectures, the situational awareness, and the behaviours of Buildings 2.0 in the space between the four domains I talked of before.

Sinclair:  How’s it going so far?

Considine:  Pretty well. Traffic is slow, but picking up each week. It’s only been up for a month. People only find out about it by word of mouth or email. But I am seeing several dozen unique visitors a week, as well as more than a few who subscribe to the blog. Unfortunately, visitors tend to send me email rather than commenting directly on the blog. I guess folks in this industry are not used to blogging culture. I hope people will start responding in the blog soon. Perhaps the buildings industry will come to understand Web 2.0 and Buildings 2.0 together.

Sinclair:  One last question – Why New Daedalus?

Considine:  Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. All temples and monuments were considered to be based upon his archetypes. Contractors and Integrators may sympathize with the problem Daedalus and his son Icarus had in escaping an owner who just wouldn’t let them get off the job. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daedalus)  Today pervasive intelligence in every aspect of the design, construction, and operation of the building, as well as the intelligent interaction of the building with the outside world, is making the most profound changes to the way we build and operate buildings since Daedalus.

I think it is time we discuss the new archetypes.


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