May 2010

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What is a Web Enabled Building Management System?
The philosophy of designing a fully web enabled system is not only to take advantage of the current web technologies available in the market but also to be future ready with concepts such as cloud computing.

Also read the following sub-article
Data Integration Levels

Nirosha Munasinghe
Nirosha Munasinghe
MBusIT BSc BE (Hons) (Melb)
Product Development Manager,
Open General

Over the last decade web technology, information technology and open systems has been the key drivers in evolution of building management system. The drivers have opened up plethora of options for integration to improve performance of buildings. The combination of web, IT and open systems is improving the easy of use systems by delivering required information model to the correct audience. Web services, XML and Service Oriented Architecture are allowing easy data integration between multi-platforms, vendors and application. Just like many enterprise software organizations, building management system manufactures are following the web architecture model in developing their products.

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But what is a web enabled building management system? Is it the ability for the end user to monitor the system via the web? How easy is it for the project engineer to create a web enabled system? How many different software packages does the project engineer need to use make the final end user system web enabled? Do you need to know HTML or JavaScript? Can you program the controller via the web? Can you edit graphics via the web or do you need stand alone application? These are some the common questions being asked to define a truly web enabled building management system. Many vendors claim to have web enabled system but in order to achieve the result many stand alone applications must be used to generate the web pages. Due to the pressures of releasing products to the market, many vendors are modifying their existing legacy software to fit the web model. In terms of development and cost analysis it is a beneficial approach but these software applications fail to utilize the powerful web technologies available in the market.

Open General’s OPENXpress is a web enabled BACnet based user interface designed from ground up with fully integrated web application philosophy. The interface allows the engineer to complete a project from start to finish using simple web browser. From engineering, controller configuration, controller programming, generating user graphics and to commissioning is performed via the web interface. There is no requirement to generate web pages using stand alone application and then download the pages to a web server. OPENXPress is a web server that the user simply logs on via web browser to complete all the tasks in managing a building management system.

The philosophy of designing a fully web enabled system is not only to take advantage of the current web technologies available in the market but also to be future ready with concepts such as cloud computing. Some key advantages behind the web enabled system are as follows:

New technology will come and evolve and it is up to the building system manufacturers to fully utilize the correct technology as an enabler to improve their product range to improve performance of building management systems.
 


Data Integration Levels
The philosophy of the integration device is to obtain required data from different vendors and protocols with minimum use of network bandwidth.

Open system protocols have transformed the building automation industry opening up endless possibilities for system integrators and end users. Multi-vendor integration is driving the industry today improving the competiveness of the market. BACnet has been a key driver in open system protocol in the building industry allowing multi-vendor integration. But at what level in the system architecture are we integrating the data and what are the implications? How do we share data between two multi-vendor BACnet devices? This article examines the two levels of integration; software level and controller level and its implications.

Software Level Integration
The software level integration approach uses the main server/workstation that resides in the IP layer as the main integration device, polling and writing data to the required device. The software is used to integrate the devices. For example as outlined in the diagram, the workstation polls for outside air temperature from Vendor A and writes to Vendor B.

Read from Vendor A and write to Vendor B
Read from Vendor A and write to Vendor B

The primary implication software level integration method is the high network load on the workstation causing a bottleneck in the system. Unnecessary data packets are flowing from MSTP to IP level and then back from IP to MSTP level. The software application can have smarter algorithms to minimize bandwidth but in a large site with many shared data points it’s insufficient. Also, an offline server/workstation causes a failure in the system. From a software engineering (developer) point of view, such an integration method is the simplest in terms of implementation and testing due to single point of control. As a result many vendors opt for such solution.

Controller level Integration
In controller level integration the data sharing between vendors is completed at the BACnet/MSTP level without increasing bandwidth at the server. Typical solutions involves the router reading data from Vendor A and forwarding the information to Vendor B. Open General’s BNET, Multi protocol gateway, extends this concept to share data between different BACnet vendors and to convert other common protocols such as Modbus and ZigBee to the BACnet backbone.

BNET obtains data from various protocols and medium and presents data in BACnet network
BNET obtains data from various protocols and medium and presents data in BACnet network

The integration features of the BNET as follows:

Reliable Controls The philosophy of the integration device is to obtain required data from different vendors and protocols with minimum use of network bandwidth. It is important to minimize traffic at low level protocols to improve the health of the system. The BNET can be positioned at either IP or MSTP level depending on the data sharing requirements to optimize the network design.

Open system protocols permit endless possibilities for data and multi vendor integration. However, it is important to understand at what level the data is integrating at and what is the effect of the integration method to the system. With the continual convergence of BAS and IT networks, it is becoming even more important for engineers and facility managers to understand how data is integrated to have strategies in place to manage risks in the system.


About the Author

Nirosha Munasinghe is the product development manager and chief architect of building management system manufacturing company Open General. He is involved in research and development activities of BACnet based digital direct controllers, integration devices and web based user interface. Nirosha was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year 2010 for his contributions to the industry at the Australian Air-Conditioning Refrigeration Building Services Awards. He holds Masters in Business and Information Technology, Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from The University of Melbourne. Contact: nirosham@opengeneral.com

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