Article - Sept 2000
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Building Automation: The Net Effect

Someday, engineers and managers will wonder how they ever got along without it.

Ken Sinclair, 

Article as published by

Engineered Systems 

August 2000, in their new monthly column Building Automation.

The effect of the Internet on our industry is evolving daily. Understanding its real effect requires constant education and attention to potentially significant trends. Much has been written on the Web about the rapid Internet evolution for the automation industry, but in short, the Internet has become the presentation model for information. Our clients are demanding and expect more information and easier access. Protocols such as BACnet and LonMark are the heart of interoperability.

Current Commonalities in BAS and IT 
Many building automation systems (bas) are based on technologies found in today’s information technologies (IT) marketplace. This commonality between IT and bas is propagating further integration of software from both sides.

Deregulation is fueling the rapid development of Web-based energy control systems. Our Net-savvy clients are redefining “ease of use” and “accessibility to information.”

New products are being introduced daily that have Web servers as an integral part of their operating systems. Web-based hardware devices are greatly simplified and have an extremely low cost while providing inherited Web-based features. Features include worldwide access to generated data, e-mailing of data and alarms, unlimited statistical analysis, remote configuration from anywhere, and more. I call these products Web Ware and predict this exciting trend will grow rapidly in the next few years. The Internet/Intranet TCP/IP protocol, when coupled with an example like the building Web address in San Francisco, sets the mind churning as to the possibilities of total integrated Web control. To date, the Web address has only been used for marketing and general promotion. The potential of obtaining a completely “Webified” automated building excites me. 199 Fremont’s Webcam made progress on construction visible to the world, including builders, subcontractors, suppliers, consultants, and potential clients.

A building Web address has the ability to bring Web-based control concepts to the project. These include:

Tight integration with Intranets and the Internet is now mandatory for our survival. If our industry does not provide this service, others will.

Soft documentation and interactive help is becoming an integral part of every product. Computer-based net training (CBT) is the way we will learn about these products, platforms, protocols, and software on a need to know basis. All of the above will feed our need for speed in accessing information sources; dial up will no longer do it.

How Will We Learn it all? 
How will you keep up with the tremendous amount of constantly changing information? First, you will learn only what you need to know, and you will teach yourself using the Internet. You will download relevant information or access online instruction to complete the task you must do. The above resources and new resources added daily to the net and/or on CD-ROM will become your education lifeline. The value of a vendor, supplier, and contractor will be judged by their ability to provide Web-based information.

Ask your vendors how they support:

Will Internet Convergence Consume or Save Us?
That depends on us. If we ignore the force of this river of information, it will consume us. If we become part of its flow and energy and direct its strengths to help us, our markets will grow unprecedented. All of the above Internet puzzle pieces and questions are harbingers that “The Net Effect” is rapidly evolving and requires our full attention and involvement to ensure we successfully enter into this new virtual world. Organized information, well-presented in trade magazines and on the Web, is our best line of defense in preparing for our necessary metamorphosis into the new Net-based world.

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