Article - August 2002
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Can an Extranet Provide a Home for Web Based Facilities Operation?
Where should we locate our Web-Based Facilities Operation "WBFO"?

  Published August 2002

 Engineered Systems

Ken Sinclair

The World Wide Web is way too wild and woolly and the corporate intranet may be calm and secure but too restrictive to allow real time applications. Although security is a concern for the type of information we would have on our building web site it does not normally require the same bullet proofing the corporate Intranet does. The fact that we want to run real time data gathering applications that were invented yesterday is normally of concern to most Intranet administrators. An Extranet identity allows us to create a "state of mind" in which the Internet is perceived as a way to do business. 

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An Extranet is a buzzword for something that is not completely Internet or Intranet. Here are some definitions from the web.

From You might think it's...what a fisherman needs when he catches two fish at one time. But the real definition of an Extranet external Intranet. It connects people within your company with people who are outside your company--all within a secure, password-protected network that can be accessed from anywhere. 

From What Is an Extranet? An Extranet is really an Intranet with a wider range of users. For example, a company may allow its best suppliers limited access to the company Intranet via the Internet. Often, Extranets are used to provide companies and their vendors with a secure forum for interacting on projects, getting bids, etc.

An Extranet is a private network that uses the Internet protocol and the public telecommunication system to securely share part of a business's information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. An Extranet can be viewed as part of a company's intranet that is extended to users outside the company. It has also been described as a "state of mind" in which the Internet is perceived as a way to do business with other companies as well as to sell products to customers

Our definition of Extranet for this column is a separate web site that has the building name or address as a URL and is password protected but accessible to all project stakeholders.

The first question of insuring that equipment is not turned on/off or reset by hackers is easy, do not enable to web browser control anything you have a concern with. Use vendor software and its existing security to control the building as you have done before except now over the Internet.

To operate an unrestricted W B F O we must include real time data generated by several sources and allow access to contractors and support staff outside the core company. The stand-alone concept of an Extranet identity allows access and equipment problems to be quickly isolated without affecting corporate Intranets. Past building automation experiences have taught us the value of stand-alone capabilities. In this virtual world the stand-alone capability can be provided cost effectively on a virtual server without additional hardware.

The actual details and corporate enterprise structure will determine the configuration best for your project. An advantage of the Extranet approach is that it can be a development site. When the WBFO model is solid all files, applications and links can be transferred back to the corporate Intranet.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]The WBFO web site should include at a minimum the following: 1. Online documentation and linkage to energy, comfort, and safety strategies for the facility; 2. Real time presentation of success factors for each of the above strategies; 3. Generation of energy and success factor alarms via email and or pager; 4. Real time hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual energy reporting and accounting; 5. Documentation of existing design variances; 6. Email, websites linkage and phone numbers of all building stakeholders.

Please refer to this month's pull out supplement "A Guide to Web Based Facilities Operation" for more insight into this topic. This guide has been developed to try to address the reason why you would want to move to Web Based Facilities Operation and some of the additional benefits the new approach can bring. Of course both this column and guide express my opinions and point of view only. We have created an online forum on our web site so if you would like to provide correction or a different point of view visit and provide your input. 

Reason for our online forum

Rapid movement towards Web Based Facilities Operation involves the creation of virtual identities that reflect the physical form and function of our large buildings and facilities. While these concepts are gaining acceptance as the new operational model it is uncharted territory. The rapid evolution of building operators to Super Operators casting their control over millions of square feet of real estate is becoming common place. has created two interactive Online Forums to provide information, and examples, and to allow input from all stakeholders in the new movement.

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