– Brian Frank & Ken
Brian Frank, Founder of SkyFoundry
Brian Frank is the founder of
SkyFoundry and software architect of the
SkySpark software platform. Previously, Brian was co-founder of Tridium
and lead architect of the Niagara Framework. He is active in the
development of open source initiatives for programming languages and
protocols including: oBIX, Fantom, Sedona, and Project-Haystack.
We are now awash in
large volumes of data, but we can’t easily derive value from it. Project
Haystack's mission is to define this common vocabulary so that we can
derive value from all the data our building automation
systems are collecting.
Sinclair: Brian, why did you start
Frank: Project Haystack evolved from our experiences applying analytics to
building automation and energy data. Most modern building
automation systems have made it fairly easy to collect vast quantities
of data from our buildings including environmental conditions,
equipment operation, and energy usage. However, the reality today
is that this data only exists in a low-level, unorganized format, which
is difficult to analyze to find patterns, issues and opportunities for
improved performance. The result is that we are now awash in
large volumes of data, but we can’t easily derive value from it.
To give an example, a building operator rarely cares about the raw
sensor data – who has time to look through history logs of temperatures
for every minute of the day? But if we could easily analyze all that
sensor data, we can often find the issues that matter such as equipment
and systems which aren't operating optimally or which need maintenance.
The first step to turning BAS data into actionable intelligence is to
give the data "context" so that we know exactly how each piece of data
fits into the overall system. For example, if an analytics routine
needs to compare the discharge air temp of an AHU against the return
air temp, how can we find this information? Today, often the only
indication of what a point means is to decipher an arbitrary name the
system integrator gave it during configuration such as "DA_TEMP".
So one key aspect of Project Haystack is to establish a common
vocabulary we can all use to give meaning to the information collected
by the BAS.
But to really take analytics to the next step, we need to build more
sophisticated models of our building and their environmental
systems. For example, we might need to model the complete air
distribution system so that software knows what AHUs feed which
VAVs. Or we might need to know all the relationships between
sub-meters and equipment in the electrical system. Modeling these
relationships allows us to analyze operations at the systems level,
building level, or even across an entire portfolio of buildings.
Project Haystack's mission is to define this common vocabulary so that
we can begin to build these models of our buildings so that we can more
efficiently derive value from all the data our building automation
systems are collecting.
Sinclair: Who should participate?
Anyone who has a vested interest in making sense of building system and
energy data should consider getting involved. We hope to have
domain experts who create, install, or operate building systems like
AHUs, boilers, and chillers who can lend their expertise. And we
desire different perspectives, because different parts of the world and
different climates often do things a little bit differently. Even
if you aren't an expert, we'd still love to have you get involved as
part of the community. In the end, for this to be successful the
entire value chain needs to appreciate how important this process is to
move the science of building management forward.
Sinclair: How can people contribute and what
would be a typical contribution?
Project Haystack is run as an open source project, which makes it super
easy for anyone to get involved. All our collaboration is done on the
forum at http://project-haystack.org/. All you need to do to get
involved is sign-up and start posting your ideas on the forum! A
simple way to get your feet wet is to provide feedback on existing or
new models under development. If you are ambitious and a domain
expert in a given space such as chillers, data centers, or
refrigeration feel free to start a discussion. Maybe you are an
equipment manufacturer who would like see specific tag models for your
products - we would love see that too.
Sinclair: What will the world look like when
we have standard tagging models to describe building system data? (In
other words what things will be possible.)
Today analyzing building system data requires significant effort
because these contextual models must be built by hand. So the
real opportunity for analytics to save building owners money and reduce
their energy footprint is being stifled by labor costs. Once the
industry starts to use Project Haystack models in products and on
projects, we can transition from a manual process to an automated
process. The value of creating a standard model building systems
goes beyond analytics though. In the future a wide variety of software
applications will be able to automatically find and interpret the data
they need to provide value to the user – for example, automatic
generation of equipment graphics and system views will be possible.
This all leads to a future where a push of a button can turn data into
true intelligence to understand and improve the operation of our
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