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When I first got involved with building automation, back in the late 80’s, most referred to the subject as EMS, Energy Management Systems. Talking to others that have been involved with this space confirms this, even further back to the early 70’s. The key foundation of automating building systems such as HVAC and lighting has always been about managing energy.
Somehow, the “cheap” energy of the 90’s together with the focus on efficiency of building use, security, comfort and lifestyle has changed the focus of automation in the 90’s. Then came a flurry of technology challenges, first with open systems, then with the implication of Internet as a wide area network and of Internet Protocol as a fundamentally new paradigm in how devices can be connected together, both locally and on a wide area basis.
Welcome to the new world order
We are now truly in the 21st century, and from many angles it is becoming clear that this century will be significantly different than the past one, not a far reaching statement as centuries typically define major global, social and economic re-evaluation and recreation.
While I am not going to try to predict how the 21st century will be seen in centuries in the future, some aspects of this age are becoming clear. It will affect buildings and thus automation, so it’s important to discuss this.
Globalization is the first of the major trends that will define the 21st century. Tom Friedman refers to this as flattening of the world, as the barriers of distance have been made inconsequential by the information network we know as the Internet. The other globalization trend is the change in the balance of power from the West to emerging areas, the impact of which we can only speculate.
The 21st century is also likely going to be defined as the energy economy. In the past, we’ve used and relied on energy, but have not considered the implications of using energy; from a cost or impact to the future world. Even without considering the climate change challenge, we as a society now realize that the irresponsible use of energy in the past cannot continue. Energy is now the major cause of much of the world’s insecurities, poverty and economic woes. If you bring with the climate change issue, this challenge is magnified by orders of magnitudes.
How does this effect buildings
Buildings are one of the key attributes to human existence, without buildings as shelters, we are just one of the animal species. Buildings, small and large, are also a major energy consumer, consuming around 70% of energy, one of the major world issues of this century.
Simply stated, we cannot solve the global energy problems of world without including buildings.
Buildings, especially medium to large ones, are typically managed and automated by BAS systems, in most cases installed and managed by readers of AutomatedBuildings.com. This puts you in the bull’s-eye of solving much of the world’s energy problems of this century.
Thankfully, you are not alone. As one of the major energy media that feeds buildings is electricity, and here the industry is facing huge challenges; to provide enough capacity for future demands in addition to dealing with reduction of carbon emissions. One of the key solutions being developed is the broad application of automation to the generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity. This is also known as the Smart Grid.
The synergistic relationship between building automation and Smart Grid is huge. So are the opportunities for BAS players to be in the heart of this convergence. As stated at the B2G Summit in Orlando in January, Smart Grid cannot happen without building automation – period.
But, there is no demand for this, you say!
The quote from Henry Ford has maybe been used far too often, but is very appropriate here. He said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. The inevitability of the path I have outlined above, of the relevance and opportunity open to building automation players is as real as the sun rising in the East tomorrow. This is your chance of being ahead of the curve.
There are two things at stake here; firstly the future of your business, and secondly the future of the world.
Am I being over dramatic? Maybe. Maybe it’s ok for your business to be reduced to a commodity supplier of parts for complex building automation systems that will be engineered by a new breed of integrators. Maybe it’s ok for us to depend on questionable sources for our energy, sources that facilitate a great deal of the world’s current troubles right now. And maybe it’s ok that our world’s climate changes to the extent that will impact your grandchildren’s future.
Energy is a BIG DEAL for the future of BAS
The truth is that energy will be a big deal in the 21st century, likely to be the century of the Energy Economy. Also that the Smart Grid is the future of the electricity system and the interaction of building automation systems to the energy supply systems is required. The BAS industry is the incumbent player to solve that problem and build a new and vibrant industry around energy management.
Let’s focus on EMS as the fundamental function of building automation.
The key theme for BuilConn at ConnectivityWeek
A quick glance at the agenda of BuilConn at ConnectivityWeek will reveal how the above issues will be addressed. On the building automation side, the BuilConn tracks will deal with the key issues of recreating the BAS industry; it will deal with the key issues of the interaction with the ballyhoo that is green buildings. Lastly on Thursday, the conference will focus on how the industry should focus on selling this new proposition.
The discussion at BuilConn about buildings will be held in the broader context of smart energy and specifically Smart Grid. ConnectivityWeek will be one of the key events for Smart Grid technology leaders to gather. From the newly formed SGIP (Smart Grid Interoperability Panel) formed by NIST, to a broad range of industry and technology groups, ConnectivityWeek 2010 will be a one-of-a-kind event to outline the steps for BAS to become EMS again.
The expectation is that attendance at ConnectivityWeek will greatly surpass last year, the number of speakers suggesting subjects of interest has been huge, so plan to attend to discover for yourself how to evolve your business in this new century that we are facing.
BuilConn at ConnectivityWeek is truly an event worth
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