May 2008
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Service Performance, Compliance, and Business Responsiveness

Just as in the rest of business computing, open source is coming to building control systems. Open interfaces such as oBIX make open source programming effective.

Toby Considine
Toby Considine
Systems Specialist,
Facility Services, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
The New Daedalus

Contributing Editor

Enterprise participation in energy use offers a far greater opportunity for energy savings and resource optimization than does device-based demand/response (DR). Building systems will need to become autonomous agent-based systems before full business participation energy use becomes widespread. This requires that those installing building systems reach outside their traditional ways of thinking.

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Facility engineers and business managers speak different languages. Facilities engineers do not give business executives actionable information upon which to base business decisions. The business manager needs to know what the effects of degraded system operations will be on providing for the other needs of the business. For example, the facility engineer might know that a rolling 10 minute air conditioning outage on each floor will not be noticed in the offices. It might, though, interfere with the regulated environment in the animal care facility. One is degraded service; one is a failure.

We are beginning to see the first effects of agent thinking in new control structures. The interaction patterns assumed in oBIX 1.1 assume a responsible agent. Scheduling is done using business calendar standards, the ones you use to invite a colleague to a meeting, not a special control schedule. All requests are assumed to mean “be done by”, not “do at”. For example, scheduling a meeting for 12 in the conference room means condition room to be ready at the start of the meeting and maintain for duration of the meeting. In the same way, the new BACnet Load Control object understands that a load request for 2:00 means “complete shedding load by 2:00”. Control systems are starting to communicate in business terms and take responsibility for their functions.

Each Building Service must be defined in terms of Business Values, not in terms of processes or components. No retail business manager ever started the day thinking “I hope I can buy some air conditioning and compressors today”. Each business service implies a compliance metric. Compliance metrics define how quality of Service (QOS) is measured. Compliance metrics may be delivered and documented by building systems or by their effects on other business processes.

A business may have its own building service definitions. IT-savvy businesses often define their unique value proposition through a proprietary service definition. Even these unique service offerings should fit within the framework as a variant of one service or a combination of several.

Perhaps the most critical factor in improving building design and construction is making important decisions earlier and expressing those decisions in terms that allow the owner to be the informed decision-maker in control of the project. The owner cannot be in charge of a project when the questions are expressed in terms of equipment and processes that the owner does not understand.

Thinking about business services early in building design will improve outcomes. Real energy modeling during design requires more than understand building mass and envelope, it requires understanding how the space is to be used and how many will occupy it. A developed Building Service Performance framework will enable design processes that develop real energy models based upon business services, and let the owner choose the compliance level he wants to pay for.

When building designs define compliance requirements up front, then the requirements for building commissioning will be known. This will make processes for automated commissioning possible. Automated commissioning will lead to perpetual autonomous commissioning, a key precursor to self-maintaining facilities.

The compliance portion of the framework defines how we get performance information about each service. The elements of compliance define the actual deliverables. We may be able to derive some aspects of compliance definition from the emerging Business Quality of Service (BQOS) web services standard. Compliance is the only rational basis for business decision making about system selection and performance.

Service and compliance may span several systems. For example, occupancy sensors for lighting systems can provide compliance information for the security service of intruder detection. Under a common Building Service Performance framework, compliance reporting for that service has identical requirements. The lighting system, though, may have other compliance requirements to support the other services it supports.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Business systems are being redefined as services. As these service definitions mature, they are each expected to define their quality standards, and self-report their performance. EERP is becoming a major effort for Chinese industry to regain credibility through supply chain quality analytics. They are creating formal quality analysis frameworks that can be generalized across multiple domains.

More interesting efforts in this area include a major effort to define semantic Service Oriented Architecture (sSOA). This work acknowledges that even when to services use the same semantics, that is they use the same vocabulary to describe what they offer, they will not use those words the same way. sSOA allows you to map the meanings (ontologies) of the service semantics onto the ontology of the requester.

Together these two projects are defining genera frameworks for understanding business quality of service (BQOS) across dissimilar domains. This could offer business systems a path to conformance frameworks. All of this is a bit far afield for control system programmers, who are traditionally great on process but bad on defining business service?

So how can we jumpstart this?

Just as in the rest of business computing, open source is coming to building control systems. Open interfaces such as oBIX make open source programming effective. Traditional EMCS for entire towns is now being done using oBIX in China. Open source for oBIX clients and Servicers is now available on SourceForge, allowing you to quickly extend base functionality and extend it with plug-ins. Open source Enterprise Building Management systems are being used by Cyrus Technologies for campus management. Open source business functions and reporting are being grafted onto control systems to make enterprise responsive systems in Chicago.

On the enterprise side, the higher order semantic functions discussed above are now available for download. Semantic plug-ins for SOA are now available as open source Eclipse plug-ins as WSMO studio. You can even incorporate complex business processes into your web services, or you building service into a complex business process, i.e., catering, using BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) using the Apache ODE project.

Facility systems integrators serve their customers best by bringing deep building system knowledge and applying it to live businesses. All of the most advanced business thinking for business services is now available in open source for free download. Open source code is now available for control system interactions. You can start using open source in your building system integrations today.


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