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September 2019
AutomatedBuildings.com

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

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API = New Software
(& Integrator) Capabilities x Infinity!
Scott Cochrane
Scott Cochrane,
President and CEO
Cochrane Supply & Engineering

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Control Solutions, Inc

Welcome to 2020… all of the new controllers and devices showing up are IP enabled—and we are not just talking about controllers. We now carry many devices, including actuators, sensors, light switches, gateways, cameras, thermostats and all sorts of promises of more IP enabled controllers and devices in the coming years.  It’s becoming an IP utopia overnight and with all of these new choices to enhance applications; owners are diving in for all sorts of digital retrofit business opportunities and enhancing the occupant experience, all while increasing energy and business efficiencies. Oh boy, can’t wait for next year, all that new work!
 
API BUT… it’s just not that simple. As you can imagine, it brings new challenges for the integrators for normalizing data from these unique new IP systems so they can incorporate the new tech occupant experiences while still providing the comfort, safety and security for the buildings they serve.   Frankly, BACnet IP just doesn’t cut it. Why? Because BACnet IP doesn’t have all of the information needed to properly integrate the application being served. BACnet is valuable for BAS data and will continue to be, but IP networks are super dynamic, always challenging, and never the same in two buildings. As a result, we will need more from IP controllers and devices to be able to deliver the next level occupant services and be in harmony with the networks we now live on.
 
Enter the API. (Or Application Programming Interface.)  Devices that come with a documented rich API are the open solutions of the future. Rich with what???  RICH API = NEW SOFTWARE CAPABILITIES x Infinity!
 
These new IP controllers and devices can basically give us a huge menu of software choices in how we integrate, incorporate, secure, manage, access and play with that IP controller or device.  For example, an IP controller API might give you the code on how to program it without any other programming software from the manufacturer. We have seen IP controllers voice-enabled by integrators on multiple platforms like Amazon and Google through well designed and documented APIs.  The controller might already be BACnet IP, which is one implementation of the API, but these new IP devices can talk to multiple systems at the same time, and as such we can double/triple task a device depending on the master for which it serves. Kind of cool…
 
Here's an idea, let’s tap the IP temp sensor from the BACnet chilled water loop control application, and use an XML call from our web service to feed the digital historian in the cloud offering analytics and remote monitoring.  What? “FREE DATA!!!!” Woo hoo!
 
As we unwrap the new controllers and devices, we ask for API after API after API after API. Long story short, we are amassing a huge library of them in our Tech Services Department where they are supporting a huge range of API implementations from RFID tag systems, asset tracking, cameras, new BAS IP Controllers and plenty more.  But it’s not just about collecting and supporting them; it’s about being able to develop a new digital connection between a human and a building—which these API’s are enabling Systems Integrators to provide. It’s definitely exciting to be a part of.
 
So when they come to sell you an IP controller, “Don’t ask what the IP controller can do for YOU, ask what YOU can do with the API!!!!!” 
 


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