April 2022


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The OAP (Ontology Alignment Project)
 Ken Sinclair Founder, Owner, Publisher AutomatedBuildings.com

INTERVIEWEDPatrick Gilhooly is a Customer Onboarding Engineer at Buildings IOT and a member of the OAP working group and advisory council. Patrick is based out of Ontario, Canada, and a graduate of the University of Waterloo. Before joining Buildings IOT, Patrick held project engineering positions at Bombardier Inc, SAP, and HTS Engineering.



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Sinclair; What is the OAP?

patPatrick Gilhooly - The OAP (Ontology Alignment Project) is an open-source taxonomy that was developed by Buildings IOT to model the built environment. The OAP uses unique codes that are based on Project Haystack tagging to model entities in a building, such as HVAC equipment, lighting equipment, IoT devices (such as sensors), spaces, and their underlying points.

In addition to providing standard tags for equipment and points, the OAP is also a model for specifying relationships such as an air handling unit supplying air to a variable air volume unit. These relationships define how entities within the building’s systems relate to each other. They may include the flow of air, water, chilled/hot water, electricity, metering, building spaces, and connectivity. By designating these relationships within the data model, system-based and root cause analytics can be applied efficiently.

The ultimate goal of the OAP is to support and extend the existing modeling standards such as Project Haystack and the Brick Schema to make building data compatible with real-world integration projects.

Sinclair; What is data modeling?

Patrick Gilhooly - Data can be modeled in a source system by applying OAP tagging standards. As an example of tagging: a fan coil unit would be an equip with the code FCU and references to other devices and equipment that supply air, provide electricity, and control. There will be a set of standard points that reside within that VAV, including Occupied Zone Temperature Heating Setpoint that would have the code OCCZTHTSP and tags – air, heating, occ, point, sp, temp, and zone.

Sinclair; What is the advantage of the OAP?

Patrick Gilhooly - The value is being able to normalize and standardize building and IoT data. The main advantage is that it enables the programmatic application of analytics, user interfaces, FDD, and other use cases with leverage building data.

The OAP is bringing together multiple naming and tagging standards that allow for automatic translation between standards. This automated data translation layer eliminates the need to retag a building to deliver building automation products and use cases.

Sinclair; How do you incorporate/use the OAP?

Patrick Gilhooly - This is a great question. You should start by tagging equipment, points, and other entities based on the OAP standards. This can be completed at the integration stage for new builds and for existing buildings the data model can be applied to building systems at any time. It’s easy to consume the data model because the OAP is an API. By using the GraphQL API, users can build applications that are interconnected with the OAP’s data model.

Sinclair; Who benefits from using the OAP? Why do they benefit from using it?

Patrick Gilhooly - There are several groups that benefit from using the OAP. Building system integrators, operations managers, and even building owners and investors. Having a standard allows building controls contractors and integrators to deliver building automation systems more consistently. This results in easier commissioning and troubleshooting while improving understanding of the type and purpose of data in the building systems.

For building owners and investors, The OAP provides confidence in the practicality of their building system’s data. The data model can be understood by building automation platforms without significant investment in custom solutions. And, operators and service managers can gain meaningful insights into commissioning and maintenance activities.

A great example of this is the use case for the 800 Fulton project in Chicago. Our integration team at Buildings IOT used the OAP standards to model the data in all connected systems at the property. This had multiple benefits in a highly integrated building. For instance, system models were able to be leveraged by applications relying on the data and members outside of the integration team were able to recognize data based on consistent naming and tagging.

Sinclair; How do you deal with existing “standards”, such as Project Haystack and the Brick Schema?

Patrick Gilhooly -  The members of the OAP working group are actively participating in other industry forums and groups. Haystack is the primary basis for the tagging schema that is used in the OAP, and we feel the existing standards are a great starting point. While the OAP expands on existing taxonomies to support real-world integration needs, our working group is helping to contribute anything new back to the industry.

To facilitate the use of multiple standards in the industry, we’ve built out automatic translation between other ontologies. Users of the OAP are then able to leverage the data modeling already completed at a site without having to conform to the specific variants of a model.

Sinclair; Is there an ability to automatically tag data (equipment, points, etc.) based on the OAP standards?

Patrick Gilhooly - We are continuously improving the methods used for tagging data using the OAP standard. Our goal is to make this as accurate and time-effective as possible. While automatic data tagging is not currently possible, we are working on making this a reality.


About the author:

Patrick Gilhooly is a Customer Onboarding Engineer at Buildings IOT and a member of the OAP working group and advisory council. Patrick is based out of Ontario, Canada, and a graduate of the University of Waterloo. Before joining Buildings IOT, Patrick held project engineering positions at Bombardier Inc, SAP, and HTS Engineering.

At Buildings IOT, we’re pioneering a world where the capabilities of smart buildings surpass expectations. We are a full-service smart building and building automation firm that provides end-to-end smart building contracting, consultation, technology, and services. Our solutions play an essential role in the advancement of smart building technologies and introducing the world to smart buildings as they should be. Headquartered in Concord, California with offices in Ottawa, Canada, Buildings IOT operates across North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. For more information visit BuildingsIOT.com.


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