April 2005

BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
BACnet Testing Laboratories

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Steve Nguyen, Director Corporate Marketing, Echelon CorporationEMAIL INTERVIEW - Steve Nguyen & Ken Sinclair

Steve Nguyen, Director Corporate Marketing, Echelon Corporation

Mr. Nguyen joined Echelon in 1992 where he has been a marketing director since 2001. While at Echelon he has served in a number of marketing management positions including public relations and online services. In addition to his role in corporate marketing, Mr. Nguyen has been responsible for data systems and tools for marketing and sales including sales force automation, customer resource management and technical support. Mr. Nguyen currently serves on the marketing committees of the OSGi Alliance and LonMark Americas. He holds an MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University.

XML and the Buildings Market

We see the industry moving to a point where EVERY automation system, from HVAC to lighting to blind control will be accessible and controllable via an XML feed of some sort. 

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Sinclair:  How do you think XML will impact the building automation industry?

Nguyen:  It’s already having a huge impact.  We see the industry moving to a point where EVERY automation system, from HVAC to lighting to blind control will be accessible and controllable via an XML feed of some sort.  Every manufacturer we’ve talked to now includes the idea of connecting to the IP network via XML as part of their pitch.  The reality of course varies widely, but the gist of it is that the buildings industry is moving to XML capable systems, period.

Sinclair:  Will XML replace LonWorks?

Nguyen:  No.

Sinclair:  Is XML the answer to interoperability with which the industry has long struggled?

Nguyen:  No, absolutely not.  Here’s the part where people get confused.  XML is many things and is beneficial in many ways.  However, it is neither a communications protocol nor a networking solution.  The concept of having every device in a building communicate directly over IP using XML is a non-starter.  When you strip away all the hype, XML is complimentary to existing building automation standards such as LonWorks, and to a lesser extent BACnet (meaning the benefits of XML more directly map to the implementation of BACnet buildings whereas they are not analogous to the benefits offered using interoperable LonWorks).  More to the point, XML could function as a means to achieve system level integration when you put a powerful enough central controller in the building – or as we like to call them, a single point of failure.  On the other hand, XML is the best, most widely accepted method available today for getting the data from a control network to an enterprise application or external service provider’s management application.  This later example is where XML has the most value to the industry and to end-users.

Sinclair:  Who do you think will “own” the XML-to-the-building standard?

Nguyen:  Without question, XML is an IT standard and therefore defining the XML interface for building automation systems belongs with XML standards setting bodies.  That’s why Echelon is a sponsor of the oBIX committee within the OASIS XML standards setting organization.  It’s the only way that makes any real sense.

Sinclair:  What do you think of standards efforts like BACnet XML or oBIX will have on integrators and end-users?

Nguyen:  In general, we think they’re necessary for marketing purposes and to rally the industry.  In many ways, such efforts diminish fear and uncertainty.  Do they really accomplish anything?  Sure, but like all standards, manufacturers will find a way to make their offerings better.  In this way, standards efforts like BACnet XML and oBIX set the baseline that in turn fosters competition and creates choice – good things for end-users and integrators.



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