Article - June 2003
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Johannes RietschelEMAIL INTERVIEW  Johannes Rietschel & Ken Sinclair

Johannes Rietschel, founder and CEO of Zurich, Switzerland-based Barix AG, has more than 20 years experience in the security and device networking industries. Until 2002, Rietschel served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Lantronix, a leading provider of networking solutions. To date, more than one million TCP/IP-based network modules, which connect numerous devices to LANs, WANs, and the Internet, carry his signature.


Sinclair:  Why is Internet Protocol (IP) and IP connectivity becoming so important in building automation?

Rietschel: Over the coming years, the use of conventional wiring and other proprietary communications methods within buildings will become largely obsolete. TCP/IP-based networks are now the primary means of communication for devices ranging from Controllers to handheld wireless tablets.

IP networks are ubiquitous. Structured wiring, which is ideal for IP networks, already is installed everywhere, and the necessary network gear for amplifying, distributing, routing, managing and testing is cheap and available from a broad range of manufacturers, unlike proprietary systems.

Now, with the "power over Ethernet" standard solving the problem of bringing communications and power to the device level in a interoperable and standardised way, it makes perfect sense to route Ethernet down to the device or sensor level.

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Sinclair:  Specifically, how does IP communications impact building management and security systems?

Rietschel: Internet Protocol communications is the easiest, most flexible and standard way to integrate and connect building management and security systems.

Security systems that tap into existing IP networks now allow end-users to fully integrate multiple systems and share information in real-time via the Ethernet network in a secure manner.

Further, IP communications can be secured, independent of the underlying technology (Ethernet, wireless or fiber), and allow authorized access to the system from anywhere and at anytime.

The same is true down to the single-room thermostat. When IP enabled, the devices can communicate in a standardized way with the building management or security system. The devices can, for example, send status, failure or service information via the IP infrastructure and the Internet link directly to outsources service providers or, ultimately, directly to the manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer or service provider to react early to failures and product misuse.

One of our products, an IP/Ethernet interface of the DALI light control protocol used to individually control FL lamps, can send email automatically to a service hotline if lamps burn out, informing the service personnel exactly which lamps are burned out, where they are located, and even how many spares to bring.

Sinclair:  Can IP systems lower costs for building management?

Rietschel: Absolutely. Knowledge about installing IP networks is broad, contractors are available, and no proprietary network knowledge is needed. The components used to build up a network are standard, and the network infrastructure can be shared by security systems, software, and platforms to easily connect, forward and share information. No separate wiring for building management, security, video surveillance and audio/paging is necessary, as it has been in the past.

In locations with multiple tenants, the connected systems typically can be reconfigured without rewiring - connected "local" for the tenant, giving him full control over his rented space. This (and, as mentioned earlier, gathering of service related information) can even be done remotely by the real estate management company without physically accessing the premises.

Sinclair:  Is this the reason why Barix developed its new Defconlock?

Rietschel: Yes. Defconlock is an Ethernet-enabled security system for homes, businesses and remote facilities that allows users to take advantage of IP communications. By using Defconlock, the wiring scheme of a building is simplified, using standardized components and connections right up to the door.

Sinclair:  Describe how Defconlock works.

Rietschel: Defconlock communicates using web-based protocols and over standard Ethernet, wireless or wireless GPRS media. With a universal reader interface, serial interfaces, as well as multiple inputs and outputs, the device easily connects to most readers, locks, keypads, doorstrikes, and a wide range of sensors and detection devices. Users can access the unit anytime via Ethernet connection, the Internet or even wireless networks using any standard web browser.

The Defconlock can operate in two different modes. Standalone (with configuration and access locally via browser or email), or as an internetworked device which "talks" directly with a remote management system.

For autonomous room/door management in buildings and homes, the device can be managed by a standard web browser without the use of any other software, and locally stores IDs and schedules. The controller maintains a log in local nonvolatile memory, which can be retrieved from the device using a standard web browser or via scheduled emails. In the case of a security breach, an alarm is activated locally via relay output and/or through network communications, such as email, SMS, pager or network management alerts (SNMP).

For controlling and monitoring remote facilities the device reports its status in regular intervals and receives commands or access list and profile updates via encrypted communication.

With OEM specific software extensions, the Defconlock can act as a smart door controller, integrated in larger scale access control systems.

Sinclair:  Barix has developed additional products with many applications for building automation. Can you describe some?

Rietschel: Besides the specific "Defconlock" functionality, the same hardware is also available as our "Barionet," which is a universal I/O device allowing a host of discrete devices, signals and sensors to be network connected. Examples include temperature, humidity, light or motion sensors. Additionally, sensors/devices with a serial port, such as legacy systems, HVAC controllers, etc., can be connected.

One specific functionality, which we'll introduce in the near future, is a DALI to Ethernet converter. This, we believe, is a highly interesting device, as it allows the popular DALI protocol, used mainly to control fluorescent lights for energy savings, to be easily connected to the building management system.

In addition, Barix's networked digital audio devices allow for routing of background music, announcement and paging signals over the IP network infrastructure, which can result in tremendous cost savings and simplicity achievements, especially in highly complex building infrastructures like shopping malls, larger office buildings and airports.

For additional information about our product offerings, I'd invite readers to visit or email me at

About Barix  
The security and networking products team at Barix has provided secure TCP/IP based communications solutions for more than 15 years. Barix develops, designs and licenses reliable, working and cost-effective solutions using standardized or custom hardware and software. Barix also offers a generic IP interface for building management and security applications, which easily connects existing systems to TCP/IP networks, providing on-the-fly strong encryption, and can be connected to anything using serial, digital and analog interfaces. 

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