Archive for the ‘Echelon’ Category

The Future: Smart networking, LonWorks, the IP network, and open source computing are going to drive a different world

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Lunch7

At Apple co-founder Mike Markulla’s Venetian Hotel-styled private theater in this posh Palo Alto suburb, the chairman of Sun Microsystems, makers of Java, and CEO of Duke Energy, makers of 36,000 megawatts of electricity in coal and nuclear plants, shared the stage.

The CEOs found common ground pushing a vision of the future where light switches are superfluous and any device that uses power is networked, easily automated, and far more energy efficient. Holding up a standard Sun identification card, Sun Chairman of the Board Scott McNealy noted that it was faster than an Apple II computer.

“We can connect anything that is more than a dollar in value,” he said.

But McNealy’s declaration that he was “over” the network was the real highlight of the hour-long event to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Markulla’s post-Apple endeavor, Echelon, which makes sensors and controls for all types of devices.

“I want my stuff to be on the network”   said McNealy.

Coming from the CEO of a company that once had the tagline, “The network is the computer,” the comment drew laughs from the small crowd. McNealy admitted that his statement probably was “not the best marketing thing.”

Crowd

Beyond his glib distaste for social networking, McNealy and Jim Rogers, Duke Energy’s CEO, presented a serious case that the future of networking lies with your toaster, lights and curtains. By turning “dumb” devices into nodes on a smart network, the businessmen said that the entire economy could be restructured to use energy more efficiently.

“I believe the most energy efficient economy is going to be the one that provides the greatest standard of living for its people,” Rogers said.

Rogers also noted that utilities would have to redefine their businesses away from commodity power and start making money by helping their customers control, not just use, their electricity.

“I see embedded in every customer six to eight networks and on each network there’s three to five applications,” he said. “What if I create value by optimizing those networks and those applications?”

That’s a major change in thinking for utilities that previously considered their job finished when the electricity hit your meter.

Though they painted grand visions of what the future could hold, both executives said there were many challenges to be met in creating the network of things.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” McNealy said. “There’s a lot of work to take the complexity out of client devices and to take the cost out of client devices.”

Jimrogers

Cost and complexity have slowed the adoption of home automation systems, but all three companies clearly see an opportunity to capitalize on the high cost of energy and increasing concern over carbon emissions.

McNealy even dropped Echelon’s protocol LonWorks into his solution for the future.

LonWorks, the IP network, and open source computing are going to drive a different world where per capita energy usage can plummet as green becomes the new black”, he said “And I mean black in terms of making money.”

Rogers’ vision was equally amibitious and showed that the North Carolina-based CEO knew his big-thinking Silicon Valley audience.

“At the end of the day, what I’m gonna provide is universal access to energy efficiency the way we provided universal access to electricity in the last century.”

Images: Jim Merithew. Top: Scott McNealy speaks to the crowd. Middle: The crowd is bathed in green LED light during a demo of the room’s fancy lighting system. Bottom: Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers lays out his plan for the future of a smarter electrical grid.

Lonworks – Control Network for Building Automation

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

 An introduction to Lonworks

Lonworks networks really describe a complete solution to the problem of control systems. Like the computer industry, the control industry was, and in many cases is, creating centralized control solutions based on point-to-point wiring and hierarchical logic systems. This meant that you had a “master” controller, like a computer or programmable logic controller, physically wired to individual control, monitoring and sensing points, or “slaves.” The net result worked, but was expensive and difficult to maintain, expand, and service. It was also very expensive to install.

Lonworks networks started out with some very simple notions – control systems are fundamentally the same regardless of application; a networked control system is significantly more powerful, flexible, and scaleable than a non-networked control system; and businesses can save and make more money building control networks over the long term than they can with non-networked control systems.

Where and how is Lonworks used?
Lonworks networks can be found in all key building automation sub-systems including heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, lighting, boilers, air handlers, security, elevators, fire detection, access control, energy monitoring, irrigation control, and window blinds. In factories, Lonworks technology can be found performing a multitude of industrial tasks — from running wastewater treatment plants to checking paint colors to monitoring the arrival of parts at assembly stations. Lonworks is supported by Echelon.

Background

LonMark is a proprietary protocol developed by the Echelon Corporation in conjunction with Motorola in the early 1990s. The LonMark standard is based on the proprietary communications protocol called LonTalk. The LonTalk protocol establishes a set of rules to manage communications within a network of cooperating devices. To simplify implementation of the protocol, Echelon chose to work with Motorola to develop a specialized communications microprocessor called the Neuron. Through the use of this chip and its supporting software, the protocol establishes how information is exchanged between devices. Because much of the communications protocol is contained on the chip, system designers and installers can focus on other aspects of the system.

While LonTalk addresses the issue of how devices communicate, it does not consider the content of the communication. A second protocol, known as LonWorks, defines the content and structure of the information that is exchanged. LonWorks is a distributed control system that operates on a peer-to-peer basis, meaning any device can communicate with any other device on the network or use a master-slave configuration to communicate between intelligent devices. The LonWorks platform supports a wide range of communications media.

LonWorks-compatible devices communicate with each other through what is known as a Standard Network Variable Type or SNVT. While a SNVT defines a device just as an object does for BACnet, its approach is somewhat different. For a SNVT to function, both the sending and the receiving devices must have detailed knowledge of what the SNVT structure is. Therefore each SNVT is identified by a code number that allows the receiving device to properly interpret the transmitting data.

Initially, LonWorks did not define what a particular SNVT code meant. This resulted in confusion between vendors who used the same code to mean different things. To eliminate the confusion and to standardize SNVT codes, the LonMark Interoperability Association was formed in 1994. Made up of hundreds of manufacturers and integrators, one of its primary goals was to lay out standard methods for implementing the LonWorks technology.

To ensure that any device installed in a LonMark system will work properly with other devices, LonMark requires that in order to carry the LonMark logo, products must have been verified to conform to the LonMark protocol. LonMark uses a Web-based tool to reduce the time and cost for certifying devices.

One of the more recent innovations made by LonMark is the network profile. The idea behind the network profile is that no matter who makes a particular device used in a building system, such as a variable speed drive, all like devices will perform a similar function. To ease and speed system installation, LonMark then defines how a particular device should function on the network, from the points included to how they are named. This predefined network profile is the minimum profile for any connected devices. Manufacturers can add additional items to the predefined profile based on their particular product, giving them flexibility while maintaining simplicity and interoperability.

LonWorks has been accepted and adopted by the international standards organizations (ANSI/CEA 709.1 and IEEE 1473-L).