September 2005

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

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Building Automation has become Pointless
Our remaining frontier is to insure that all the devices and sub-systems we buy fit nicely into our enterprise managed building automation system.

Ken Sinclair,

As published

September Issue - Column

Ok, Ken has really lost it this time!   What is he ranting on about now?

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I got a call last week requesting help to update a Direct Digital Control (DDC) typical point cost. The definition of what a DDC point is in today’s market and how we should view it has just gotten a lot harder to define. Let me explain.

Years ago Direct Digital points were added to a system to improve energy performance and make the facility easier to operate.  The tide has since turned and almost all devices come with DDC points as an integral part.  If the manufacturers of the HVAC and other building related devices have done a good job of “future proofing”, they will have adhered to one or all of the open communication protocols. This being the case each device’s collection of DDC points cost has become an integral part of the hardware. These integral points are assessable as part of an open network of points which results in a radical drop to the building infrastructure cost. Today’s large building automation task is now one of connecting the networks of the points supplied with each device or sub-system into a useful integration that becomes a valued part of our client’s enterprise.

Several years ago as an industry we convinced our clients to add more intelligence to their projects by adding more DDC points. The purpose of our industry has completely flipped from installing these physical devices and wiring DDC points to engineering and integrating the inherited myriad of networked open standard points. If open protocols such as BACnet, Lon, Zigbee, are wrapped into existing IT standards such as XML and the ever slowly evolving oBIX, the integration of these supplied device points is the only real cost. All equipment requires control, DDC is the lowest cost method and with open standards these points will become an active part of tomorrow's Building Automation Systems. We as an industry no longer control even the definition of what points will be provided. Point selection is now dictated by the device and sub-system manufacturers. These manufacturers must provide every point and resource plus any information they can at no charge with their product because if they do not their competitors will.

So back to the original question - what is this doing to the cost of DDC points in buildings?? In a do nothing scenario you get DDC control. No one can build a product with conventional hardware type control, the cost is prohibitive. If you are smart about the purchase of your devices and sub-systems you will ask that they support all the open standards or at least the one of your choice. Manufacturers have given a strong response that they are interested in supporting a reasonable number of open standards to sell their wares.

Control Solutions, Inc If I buy a Chiller, Rooftop, Heat Pump, VAV box that comes with all of its DDC points as an integral part, what is the cost of the DDC point?  Our response is pointless. What we have been talking about for the last 20 years has become a reality. Our remaining frontier is to insure that all the devices and sub-systems we buy fit nicely into our enterprise managed building automation system.

Anto wrote these words in an article called BACnet/ML Drives new Business Opportunities for BIG-EU for inclusion in their BACnet Journal 

The opportunity of the convergence of building systems and IT cannot be limited to the scope of issues and problems seen from a buildings perspective.

While standards such as BACnet has and will continue to do a great deal in evolving standard ways to connect devices and share information, the real, true and enormity of the value of building systems can only be liberated by looking from a completely different perspective – that is the perspective of the businesses that own or operates these facilities.

The significance of BACnet/ML is in essence the ability of BACnet systems to start to play a role in the IT centric world of today’s enterprise organizations. But that statement is only the start. Connecting the building automation and control system to the IT centric world of XML brings significantly more opportunities than the adoption of an IT standard and the use of IT infrastructure to carry building automation and control network traffic.

It is not that our industry has become pointless, it is just that we have to view differently what a DDC point is, and what it is not.


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