Archive for the ‘Integration’ 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.

Best pratice: Combining green and intelligent building solutions

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The best practice is a building is one that is both green and intelligent. It is a building that uses both technology and process to create a facility that is safe, healthy and comfortable, and enables productivity and well being for its occupants. It provides timely, integrated system information for its owners so that they may make intelligent decisions regarding its operation and maintenance, and has an implicit logic that effectively evolves with changing user requirements and technology, ensuring continued and improved intelligent operation, maintenance and optimization.

This building to be designed, constructed and operated with minimum impact on the environment, with emphasis on conserving resources, using energy efficiently and creating healthy occupied environments. It must meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainability is measured in three interdependent dimensions: environmental stewardship, economic prosperity and social responsibility. The building to exhibit key attributes of environmental sustainability to benefit present and future generations.

The building to be fully networked for all incorporated systems, where the basic objective is the simple integration of independent systems to achieve interaction across all systems, allowing them to work collectively, optimizing a building’s performance, and constantly creating an environment that is conducive to the occupants’ goals. Additionally, the inclusion of a fully interoperable system in the buildings tend to perform better, cost less to maintain, and leave a small environmental imprint than individual utilities and communication systems.

UK BREEAM and Energy Star rated buildings in the United States earn substantial benefits compared to non-green buildings; in particular 40 per cent greater energy efficiency compared to standard buildings and significant lower operations costs.

Based on industry data, approximately 85 per cent of ENERGY STAR-rated buildings use a system with energy management controls and 50 per cent use lighting system motion sensors to qualify for the ENERGY STAR certification. The idea of leveraging intelligence to enhance building performance, either for energy efficiency or occupant comfort and thereby obtaining credits is also acknowledged by the U.S. Green Building Council. If the objective is clear, the credit system under LEED is geared to recognize building performance that has been enhanced by automation and IT-centric intelligence.

Each building is unique in its mission and operational objectives and therefore, must balance short- and long-term needs accordingly. Bright green buildings provide a dynamic environment that responds to occupants’ changing needs and lifestyles. As technology advances, and as information and communication expectations become more sophisticated, networking solutions both converge and automate divergent technologies to improve responsiveness, efficiency and performance.

To achieve this, bright green buildings converge data, voice and video with security, HVAC, lighting, and other electronic controls on a single network platform that facilitates user management, space utilisation, energy conservation, comfort, and systems improvement.

According to industry experts, building owners are not going to make any investment unless it has a return-on-investment. The question that building owners should ask is what is going to drive the ROI calculations. If there is no value in carbon and no value in saving energy and no value in terms of corporate social responsibility, then there is no value and there are no ROI calculations. In developing a financial justification for investments in intelligent and green technologies, and assessing the potential return on that investment, it is necessary to consider new construction and retrofit projects separately, because the requirements, and therefore the economic fundamentals of the two types of projects are very different.

New Construction
In a new construction scenario, the cost of creating a green and intelligent building is often not that different than the costs associated with creating a traditional building. Certain aspects associated with intelligent building technology and applications, such as cabling, are actually less costly than traditional infrastructure – in the case of cabling, labour costs are often lower where intelligent designs are used. However, other technologies and equipment will require additional investment to integrate all of the components of the system. For example, integrating the access control systems with lighting and HVAC systems will cost more up-front than installing disparate systems alone. As has been found in all of the case studies examined as part of this research, this initial investment in green and intelligent design and technology generally has a relatively short ROI period when compared to the anticipated usable life of a modern building.

Existing Buildings
Retrofits are more frequently driven by the desire to reduce energy costs than anything else. These are often cases where the existing technology or system in a building can be upgraded easily and the payback period is expected to be short. Intelligent building features such as better monitoring and control of energy-intensive systems such as HVAC and lighting can provide for optimum performance and predictive maintenance needs, reducing both energy usage and operating expense. Additionally, reporting features assist in making decisions that make the building more efficient and more reliable.

Integrated building professionals report that facilities managers get very little decision making information, so tuning up the control system is the best thing they can do to optimize the building. With one unified approach to monitoring facilities, buildings can change the underlying infrastructure without changing the enterprise level reporting mechanisms. This allows building owners to have a heterogeneous infrastructure that creates more competition between technology vendors, where they can begin to generate savings more quickly, and can generate an ROI payback in two to three years rather than over the course of a decade. By integrating utility bills into the enterprise asset management system, facility managers can further provide diagnostic information to facility managers, enabling them to take immediate action. In order to conserve energy – and money – it is imperative that proper information management architecture is in place, which makes the information actionable and definable.

Occupant Productivity and Comfort
Occupant productivity, especially in owner-occupied buildings, has a significant measurable impact on the ROI calculation. Given that energy costs represent about one per cent of the overall cost of doing business and investment expenses are about 10 per cent, staffing costs can represent up to 85 per cent of the total cost of doing business. Any improvement in productivity can therefore have a significant positive financial return.

Life Cycle Benefits
Depending on how the life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is addressed, this could potentially enable facilities and organizations to attain their long-term sustainability goals by developing their environmental monitoring systems to generate pertinent data. Therefore, keeping in mind that intelligent technologies are installed to deliver effective payback and long-term returns, it is critical for such systems to incorporate LCCA.

Hotel Solutions – The ‘Basic’ core systems

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Hotel solutions come in all levels of systems and user complexities.

For a quick overview of a traditional typical basic hotel system, here is a quick description of the typical systems:

First system included to increasing the overall energy efficiency of a hotel complex, a Building Management System (BMS) shall be installed to provides a central point of control for  the heating, security, booking, and financials, dramatically, reducing the operating costs and simplifying the management of a hotel system(s). This can be dramatically improved by combining these systems into an integrated system.

Central control made easy
For heating and ventilation control, a good system systems will use zone controllers as opposed to room thermostats, which are a far more economical solution to temperature control, leaving your guests warm and cosy with consistent temperatures around the whole building. Because reception areas, restaurants, conference rooms, offices, pools, spas and fitness centres all have different climate and security needs, a BMS solution is a simple way to control all these areas centrally.

Behind all of this, sits a comprehensive range of advanced electrical distribution equipment.

Resulting in a ….

Reliable, maintenance free and efficient energy management system.

This overview is deliberately simple to convey how a hotel complex can be made into an efficient business machine that delights its guests. The offer includes everything from single products to scalable integrated solutions.

 Gym/Pool

  • Building Management Systems
  • Lighting Control
  • Temperature Control
  • Closed Circuit Television
  • Electrical Distribution

 Reception/Communal Areas

  • Building Management Systems
  • Closed Circuit Television
  • Lighting Control
  • Audio Supply
  • Wiring Accessories
  • Cable Containment Systems

Car park

  • Closed Circuit Television
  • Electrical Distribution
  • Energy reduction in lighting

 Guest rooms

  • Wiring Accessories
  • Lighting Control
  • Integrated Installation Systems
  • Audio/Visual Connectivity
  • HVAC
  • Key / card / biometric Switches
  • Electrical Distribution
  • Cable Containment Systems
  • Wi-Fi
  • TV
  • DAB’s
  • Intergrated Broadband connection

 Hallways / Corridors

  • Electrical Distribution
  • Integrated Installation Systems
  • Lighting Control
  • PIR (Movement sensing)
  • Cable Containment Systems
  • CCVT
  • Wi-Fi

 Services

  • Electrical Distribution & Control
  • Variable Speed Drives
  • Energy Management Systems
  • Metering & Monitoring
  • Maintenance Contracts
  • Uninterruptable Power Supply
  • HVAC

From the plant room to the penthouse . . .total electrical and IT control

With individually tailored solutions and specialist product knowledge. This article was intended to described as basic hotel system, a lot more sophisticated systems can be adopted. Which I may describe if  future articles.

Technology Grows as a Business Strategy Driver

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Property owners face steady pressure to stay ahead of competitors, to grow or diversify their portfolios, to full fill varying reporting commitments and accounting practices, to satisfy senior executives, tenants and other stakeholders, to stay abreast of industry best practices.

How can those leaders reconcile so many demands into a coherent business strategy that drives efficiency and profitability?

Much of the answer lies in a technology strategy?

Specifically, the adoption of advanced business systems that comprise a central element of a strategic business plan.  Technology solutions allow a comprehensive visibility that gives a complete picture of a portfolio, illuminating a path to organizational growth, efficiency and profitability. Heeding demands from property owners and managers for these advantages, leading software providers consistently deliver innovative solutions that give rise to the next wave of real estate best practices, including the latest in operational efficiencies and sustainable initiatives.
When all the crucial elements of an integrated, business-wide solution are present, the benefits become clear: better-informed decision-making and immediate access to a broad spectrum of relevant information.  The strategic payoff: risk mitigation and competitive advantage arising from cost savings, efficiency and economies of scale, and effective portfolio management and growth potential.

Consolidation into one solution

How do Internet-based software packages work to property and asset managers’ advantage?

They consolidate portfolio, financial, lease and other information into one database, while extending the solution to automate business processes and encompass all factors in the real estate lifecycle.  These factors include capital formation, investment management, acquisition and development, leasing and property management, electronic transaction processing, tenant services, portfolio analysis and reporting, and valuation and forecasting.  This kind of business-wide solution gives all network users instant, secure, real-time access to a single global repository of information from which all of these functions can be integrated and automated.

Integration of multiple management systems into one means that managers’ access to source data is immediate, avoiding the costly, time-consuming process of summoning ledgers and other reports from other data systems.  CFOs seeking underlying financial data, for example, can access that information in real time, rather than endure the costly, time-consuming process of requesting ledgers from a separate program.

Electronic processing drives efficiencies

Also crucial in such end-to-end technology is the capability to achieve operational efficiencies through systems that enable electronic transaction processing for both invoicing and payment processing.  Capability to scan mass invoices into digital images, automatically send them through the approval workflow electronically according to custom approval rules, and activate an electronic transfer of funds to the vendor?

With bank accounts is built into the most advanced business solutions.  Other characteristics of such systems including allowing residents and tenants to pay rent online using a credit card or ACH; and the mass-scanning of checks into digital images, the auto-application of these payments to charges, and deposit of the payments using electronic file transfer.  In such systems, images are stored in the central operating database, and processes are digitized and streamlined.  Meanwhile, the elimination of paper and paper handling introduces a more sustainable business practice.

MRO purchases standardised

Another potential element of an integrated technology solution for real estate properties includes online purchasing of building MRO supplies.  This practice ensures corporate-wide standardization for those items, along with integrated spend management.  In addition, procure-to-pay systems, in conjunction with systems described above, can eliminate paper invoices and reduce the costs of storing, sorting and printing invoices.

The routing and synchronization with various accounts payable systems across an organization that arises from centralized invoice processing cuts invoice-handling cycle times and costs and enforces consistent processes.  And again, if your company is interested in sustainability, such an e-procurement solution offers the opportunity for customizing green catalogues for your sites.

Portals extend dynamic access

Another of the latest strategic elements in an integrated real estate management solution is portals, which delivers the ability to extend dynamic access to services and information to external stakeholders such as tenants and residents, prospects, owners and vendors.  With its dynamic marketing capability and online resources, portals promise clear competitive advantage to property managers who leverage them.

Testaments to integration benefits

Users of an integrated property management software system validate its benefits.  “A principal benefit of a unified system is getting answers quickly and being able to discern, in real time, what the good and bad business decisions are,” said David Hott, CIO of the commercial and residential real estate owner/manager Legacy Partners.  “It’s also highly efficient to have one point of entry, without having to reload data from one platform into another or hiring extra staff to do that.”

Ken Kalman, Director of Information Services for the commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., added, “Our centralized system allows us to extract data for clients who might want two hundred general ledger accounts, for example.  Along with portfolio-wide information, we can access repair and maintenance information at the building level when we need it.”

Real estate technology has fully matured as a strategic element of a business plan, providing superior service, risk reduction, business-wide visibility and many other benefits.  Fully integrated systems with capabilities that were virtually unthinkable even 30 years ago are now within easy reach.  Companies are well positioned to achieve their strategic priorities across the full real estate lifecycle for their entire portfolio.  By adopting integrated technologies, real estate business leaders can reap the rewards of a more efficient, agile and competitive enterprise.

The Convergence of Building Controls, IT (IIT)

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Varying perspectives of usefulness of increasingly common practices

For more than a decade, many in the buildings industry have been envisioning a day when building-automation systems (BAS) would become fully integrated with communication and human-interface practices and standards widely employed for information-technology (IT) networks. With the number of those individuals growing and their dream coming closer to reality, five-question survey with the intent of gathering the varying perspectives of a control-system designer, a controls manufacturer, a controls integrator, and an advanced controls user on practices becoming increasingly common in development BAS.

The Survey Participants

THE DESIGNER
A senior partner of New York-based Lehr Consultants International and a member of HPAC Engineering‘s Editorial Advisory Board, Valentine A. Lehr, PE, FASHRAE, is noted for innovation in high-rise construction, hotel design, and master planning of complex projects. He has led design efforts for numerous award-winning environmental projects.

THE MANUFACTURER
The vice president of sales and marketing for Reliable Controls Corp., the Victoria, British Columbia-based designer and manufacturer of Internet-connected building controls and green building-automation controls, Tom Zaban, P.Eng., has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Waterloo and a family-business background in electronics manufacturing.

THE INTEGRATOR
As the vice president of sales and marketing for Delta Controls Inc., the Surrey, British Columbia-based developer and manufacturer of building-automation systems, Brian Dutt is responsible for the company’s product-strategy, marketing-services, and global-sales teams. He has an MBA from Simon Fraser University and a diploma of technology in electronic engineering.

THE ADVANCED USER
H. Michael Newman manages the energy-management-and-control system at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. The system extends to some 150 major buildings, includes equipment and communication protocols from more than 10 suppliers, and incorporates several thousand field devices and hundreds of thousands of sensors, actuators, and data points.

Following are the questions and the responses they elicited.

1. In this age of universal graphical user interfaces (GUI), is there any reason to continue using a BAS manufacturer’s graphics instead of Web-browser-type operator interfaces?

“In general, no,” the survey’s designer participant, Valentine A. Lehr, PE, FASHRAE, a senior partner of New York-based Lehr Consultants International and a member of HPAC Engineering‘s Editorial Advisory Board, said.“There is no reason for the manufacturer’s graphics.”

The survey’s advanced-user participant, H. Michael Newman, manager of the Utilities Computer Section at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., agreed: “If by ‘manufacturer’s graphics’ you mean a client GUI application used for the run-time operation of a BAS that must be installed and maintained on every potential workstation, as opposed to an application used for BAS setup, configuration, or commissioning, then the answer clearly is no. The software tools available to GUI designers for BAS, such as JavaScript and other scripting languages, supplement HTML (HyperText Markup Language) display technology to permit controls, such as buttons, scroll bars, sliders, and other user-input devices, to be displayed and actuated, thus, allowing operators to interact with the BAS through a Web browser with nearly the same look and feel of traditional client GUI.”

One should not be so quick to dismiss the value of manufacturers’ graphics, the survey’s manufacturer participant, Tom Zaban, P.Eng., vice president of sales and marketing for Reliable Controls Corp., said.

“Just because browser-based technology is ubiquitous does not mean that content (i.e., graphics) no longer is needed …, Zaban said. “The more people go online, the higher their expectation for quality information becomes.”

As the survey’s controls-integrator participant, Brian Dutt, vice president of sales and marketing for Delta Controls Inc., explained: “Manufacturers often create higher-quality interfaces for use with their products. It is quite simple for a manufacturer to create additional properties and functionality within their controllers that go beyond those defined by open standards. This added functionality … is available to the end user only when utilizing the manufacturer’s software interface.”

One could argue, Zaban said, that: “Theoretically, there are enough image assets on the Web to make any manufacturer’s library redundant …, and maybe in time that could become true, but good luck. Try putting that into practice today. You would have to cope with the lack of images and the inconsistency in colour, texture, camera angle, and resolution — all necessary to deliver a professional-looking end product. I would expect for the time you would spend piecing together a functional public-domain library you could hire a team of pimply faced kids to make a new library from scratch and do it cheaper with a better result. Then, you will need the animations. Forget it — game over.

“There is an intimate tie-in to each manufacturer’s product and the behavior of any animation of modest complexity,” Zaban continued. “The frames of the animation are ‘coded’ to behave according to the bits set within the object, which, in turn, are based on values/states measured and/or calculated by the controller or derived by direct operator input. There is no consistent standard in the industry describing that relationship that I am aware of. … The nature of animations is just too creative to nail down to a standard that would cover a wide variety of cases.”

Summary. There seems to be agreement among the survey participants that the industry is moving toward browser-based graphics. Because such graphics require special objects and support features developed by direct digital control (DDC) system manufacturers, the creation of generic graphics is seen as expensive.

2. Is there a good reason not to consider using multiple vendors’ products in a single system?

“There are several reasons to avoid mixing and matching, although the technical barriers essentially have been eliminated in recent years through the development and widespread adoption of standard networking protocols …,” advanced user Newman, who chaired the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ BACnet committee from 1987 to 2000, said. “The most significant impediment would be the need to become proficient with the configuration, programming, commissioning, operation, and maintenance of equipment from different manufacturers. This involves training, documentation, the need to have spare parts for each system, and so on.”

That does more than increase cost, controls integrator Dutt said.

“Developing intimate knowledge of a single manufacturer’s product is spread across multiple individuals within a value-added reseller’s (VAR’s) technical team,” Dutt said. “If the VAR chooses to support multiple manufacturers, it typically will develop knowledge specialists for each product family. This increases the risk to the organization should the specialist choose to leave the organization. It also causes risk to the service and support of the project longer term.”

Varying perspectives of usefulness of increasingly common practices

In the absence of operation-and-maintenance personnel with the requisite level of knowledge and skill, “You would need to be sure that you have the necessary support from the different suppliers to avoid finger-pointing in the event the systems don’t cooperate as expected and required,” Newman said.

Summary. Despite improved capabilities for developing multivendor networks, the survey participants urge caution.

3. Is it practical to remove GUI development from a controls contract and employ someone who specializes in developing GUI using standard server-based tools?

“Yes, that is the preferred approach …,” designer Lehr said. “We are using it on larger projects.”

Controls integrator Dutt sees it as practical only in situations in which an owner is seeking competitive bids.

“If the owner is happy with the current solution they have, then it is better to leave the interface and controls to be supplied from a single vendor,” Dutt said. “In my experience, most building managers are looking to work with controls contractors they can trust to do a good job.”

Manufacturer Zaban said he can think of only one case in which it would be practical: “A university has multiple vendors supplying various automation systems to its campus. The contracts call for basic graphics to be created and commissioned. Then, after the job is done, the university retains a different company that re-uses the graphic annotations of the base contract, but slides in a completely new graphic and gussies things up using the tools of that specific vendor so that the final graphics are very consistent with all of the previously completed buildings on campus. The university gets the value it wanted in the graphic (a relatively intuitive collection of dynamic data on one screen), but tosses out the base image because it is not worth the money and time fighting the original contractor because they used the wrong shade of gray.”

The tools used to create the content of interactive Web-accessible displays are almost entirely manufacturer-specific, advanced user Newman said.

“Some suppliers use commonly available software, such as Microsoft Visio, (Lonworks) to develop their system graphics, while others use entirely proprietary applications,” Newman said. “Even if the format of the graphic is ‘standard,’ the display of real-time data, archival trend data, or other database information requires manufacturer-specific ‘callback’ routines to collect the data and present it to the server. If, as is common, the graphic is stored in a proprietary format, it is the job of the manufacturer’s server to interpret the graphic file, render it into Web-displayable form, and ship it to the browser. All of this is not to say that there are not contractors who are competent with vendor XYZ’s GUI-development tools. If your server is from XYZ, you certainly do have the option of hiring a third-party contractor to develop or extend the GUI.”

Summary. The survey participants have mixed opinions as to whether it is preferable to have the manufacturer supplying the controls for a project also provide the graphics because proprietary display-development tools will have to be employed no matter how a graphical interface is procured. The opinion appears to be that there is rough equivalency among the capabilities of various manufacturers’ graphics software.

4. How far down into control-system architecture should designers push to replace specialized HVAC control components with more-standard general-purpose IT products?

“There is some argument to say the marketplace should determine this issue,” designer Lehr said. “However, in response to the question, if pushed, it should be down to the router (Ethernet) level.”

Because of current building practices, replacing specialized HVAC components with more-standard general-purpose IT products is practical only to the building-controller level, controls integrator Dutt said.

“Most application controllers are required to be commissioned before the end of a project,” Dutt explained. “This makes it difficult to cost-effectively deploy IT-based controls at the application level. If the owner of the project is a stakeholder in the IT-based solution, then it is possible, but it will take a significant amount of effort to ensure the design survives the construction phase. Currently, it is cost-effective to deploy IT networks to the building-controller level, as this network typically can be installed during construction and can be used during system commissioning.”

Manufacturer Zaban believes: “We’re already ‘all the way down’ from an architecture perspective. … Most designers just don’t know it yet.

“Now that we have a decent standard open protocol — ‘decent’ meaning well-defined, popular, and, most importantly, extensible — we can go ahead and write BIM (building information modelling) algorithms that would fully specify all aspects of building controls,” Zaban explained. “That means controller profile, network, sequence, interoperability, database, alarm, commissioning, wiring, documentation, service information, and even part numbers.”

A BIM BAS model is a “pet project” Zaban said he has been “threatening to do … just to shake up the industry a bit. …

Varying perspectives of usefulness of increasingly common practices

“It would represent the Holy Grail of DDC implementation …,” Zaban said. “It also would put a lot of frustrated consultants out of their misery because it would minimize their exposure to the technology. … The means already is there; you don’t need to ‘push’ any further. … We have general programmable controllers that can be applied to highly specialized applications, and the protocol provides deep integration into IT models.”

Summary. It appears there are no restrictions as to where a BAS network can be connected to a larger building or campus IT network. Indeed, on some projects, a stand-alone BAS network is connected to an IT network for local- and remote-operator oversight, while on others, components down to terminal-unit controllers are connected directly to a standard IT network. How a BAS network is configured in association with an IT network largely is determined by physical access, bandwidth, and network integrity/responsibility.

5. Should designers promote Web-enabled access for multiple buildings?

“Yes, this is an excellent approach …,” designer Lehr said. “The only limitation is reluctance to add cost.”

In the building-management industry, an increasing number of people are being asked to do more with less, manufacturer Zaban said.

“For example, one health-care manager I know who is doing a great job at tracking his facilities’ energy performance is facing a significant expansion of the hospital, but there is no budget to hire additional resources to keep up with the additional paperwork,” Zaban said. “Another property manager I know who is responsible for several large properties in downtown Vancouver is happy his company is growing. But they just acquired a new significant property downtown, and he does not have additional staff to delegate fuel purchases, energy tracking, and comfort-tracking reports to.”

The bottom line, Zaban continued, is that, “Property managers must become more efficient and organized to cope with their expanding workload, and we need to be there to help them.”

That may not necessarily be through a Web-accessible control system (WACS), controls integrator Dutt said.

“The designer should first understand the true needs of the building owner and then, based on his past experience, make a recommendation that will suit that particular situation,” Dutt said. “While most facilities can easily justify a WACS, there may be situations in which individual platforms and operators make business sense.”

Advanced user Newman sounded a word of caution regarding Web-enabled access for multiple buildings: “If the GUI servers are from different manufacturers, the operator will end up being in different operational environments for each system. That means the operator will have to learn different ways of performing the same function on each of the systems. The steps to access and change a temperature set point, for example, may be very different from one system to the next. Still, having to maintain only one operating system and browser at each operator site is a big advantage over the old days.”

Summary. The survey participants seem to agree that multiple-building access is a reasonable expectation, although it must serve a basic need and employ a common interface platform to be truly useful.

CONCLUSION

The responses of the four experts surveyed for this article indicate that the future of BAS lies in building-system components with on-board digital controls integrated into WACS with standard network connections. There are differences, however, about how open or selective the platforms used to integrate building-system components will be. Whatever developments occur, the buildings industry generally seems to have embraced standards employed in IT networks to the point multi-manufacturer digital control networks can be supported. What happens next, as one of the survey’s participants noted, is a matter for the market to determine.

The question of operator interfaces continues to vex many in the industry. That problem may be solved with building-system components with not only on-board controls, but on-board graphics, trends, and other features that can be integrated into standard Web front ends. If, however, data required for day-to-day operations need to be stored in servers, then, as another of the survey’s participants pointed out, the different operational features and environments could make such networks unmanageable.

In any case, the march toward standardization appears more robust than ever. Not long ago, building-automation graphical interfaces employed almost no Web-browser techniques and technologies; now, Web approaches are the basis of many such packages. How close we are to a complete convergence of BAS and IT is difficult to tell, but it is not too much of a stretch to say that when the convergence is complete, there may be nothing to distinguish one from the other.

10 Key Features in a Home Automation System

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

The ability to manage your home’s electronic systems from one main control system can make your household run smoother, feel better and save energy.

The trick is to find a system that will meet all the demands of your household, now and in the future. Most systems can be tailored by a custom electronics professional to provide all the benefits you desire, but there are some key features that will make his job easier and your interaction with your system more enjoyable.

In no order of importance, here’s our top 10 key features:-

1. Interoperability
The beauty of an automation system is its ability to tie diverse electronic devices together so they can perform as one unified system. Getting these devices to work cohesively can be simple or complex, depending on the “openness” of the automation system. The more open a system is, the easier it will be for the lights, thermostats, audio/video equipment, security devices, motorized shades and other electronics to communicate with each other. A good example of interoperability is having the lights turn off, the thermostats set back when you press a “goodbye” button on a keypad or when a motion sensor notices that you have exited a room.

To support interoperability between multiple electronic devices, manufacturers of home automation systems often form connectivity partnerships with other manufacturers. Automation products should be able to communicate seamlessly with a wide variety of other systems—from architectural lighting and irrigation, to multiroom audio.

Another way automation manufacturers are fostering interoperability is through adherence to technology standards. For example embedded Zigbee wireless control technology into automation products so those products can network easily with other Zigbee-enabled products.

The more connectivity of different devices that occurs between different partners and manufacturer components linking different communication standards has to be adopted, with more choices that need to be made.  “It allows designers/installers to select the best suite products for their clients.”

2. Remote Access
Automation is all about being able to control things in your home, and part of that is being able to change the settings quickly and easily if your plans change. More often than not, plans change when you’re not at home, so being able to communicate those changes with your home automation system remotely is one of the most revered features of an automation system. Remote access capabilities allow you to monitor your home’s environment and alter the settings of the lights, thermostats and other gear if necessary all from your laptop, mobile phone or iTouch. David Slade of Davmark believes that remote monitoring facility should be incorporated as part of the core offering and be provide free of charge from any service caharge. “Why should you pay to access your automation system when you’re already paying for broadband access?” Proive a gateway to link uo to the outside world!

Remote access also allows your installer to tweak your system without having to make a house call, which is always cheaper and more convenient.

3. Expandability
The way you live in your home five years from now will probably be much different than the way you live in your home today. Moreover, technology will continue to evolve, introducing a completely new generation of products to the marketplace. In the future, you may also want to add new rooms—like a recently finished basement or an addition off the back—to your automation network. Or, you may simply want to start out with just a few features when you first put in your system then add new capabilities later as you have the money. For these reasons, it’s important that a home automation system can be easily expanded both vertically to incorporate additional products and horizontally to support additional rooms.

Manufacturers can support vertical and horizontal expandability by designing their systems to speak a common network language, like IP (Internet Protocol), and by offering wireless retrofittable products that can communicate with a home’s existing network of wired products.

4. Upgradeability
Those touchscreens and black boxes may look impressive, but it’s what you don’t see that holds the true power of an automation system. Software is the driving force of an automation system. The more sophisticated that software is, the more the system can do. As technology changes, so must the software. Before you buy any system, be sure the manufacturer (or your installer) will be able to unlock and download software updates automatically.

5. Variety of Interfaces
There are a number of different ways you can control the electronic systems in your home: by pressing the buttons of a handheld remote or wall-mounted keypad, by touching colorful icons on a portable touchpanel or by sliding your finger across your iTouch. Depending on your family dynamic, budget and preferences, you might like to utilize a variety of different controllers (most people do, says David Slade), so make sure the automation manufacturer offers a wide selection of interfaces.

6. Time-Tested
No one, except for serious early-adopters, likes to be the guinea pig, so choose an automation system with a proven track record. Same goes for the person who installs the system into your home. Look for an installer who’s been installing the same systems for a number of years,” suggests David Slade. You should be able to gather some historical background about manufacturers and installers from their company websites.

7. Strong Dealer Network
“You can have great equipment, but you’ll need a highly trained and certified installer in order to get your money’s worth. It’s a no brainier real” says David Slade. Good home automation manufacturers go above and beyond to create a strong brand and support network, by offering continual education and training and by supporting multiple dealers in a single geographic area. For consumers, having more than one dealer to choose from is important. When more than one dealer carries a particular product in your area, pricing is more competitive and should one dealer go out of business, there’s someone else you can call to pick up the pieces.

8. Commitment to Energy-Savings
One of the hottest topics in the consumer media is energy conservation. Automation systems can help save energy by turning off electronics devices automatically, and some do this better than others. Be sure to check out the energy-saving features of a system before you buy.

9. Layer of Protection
Everyone always wonders what happens to an automated house when the power goes out. Does the system forget how to operate the lights when power is restored? If an automation system has the appropriate back-up protection, you won’t have to worry about that.

10. Can-do Attitude
This goes both for the designer, installer and the manufacturer. Automation is only beneficial and practical if it fits your lifestyle. Since everyone’s lifestyle is different, the manufacturer should provide its installers with the tools to customize the system to your specific needs. If there’s something that you want your system to do and your installer says it’s impossible, either he or the manufacturer has failed you. Keep looking.

Building an Agile Organization with IIT

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Agility are essential to establishing and sustaining an organisation’s competitive position.

Agile organisations have the processes and structures that enable them to know what is going on both internally and externally, as well as to provide the mechanisms needed to act quickly on that knowledge. Although some view technology as the main way to attain that state, evidence indicates that enterprises can best achieve agility by following basic management principles, using imagination to see an organization in a different light and having a willingness to adjust or change as needed, based on circumstances.

Being agile requires capabilities that are shaped by designing and managing and technology enablers jointly. That can be achieved through the steps in the three distinct yet related areas outlined below.

Learn to sense and respond.

• Establish relationships with customers, suppliers, partners and the public in order to always know what’s happening around you.

• Create structures and processes to understand the information you receive and how to act on it.

• Facilitate learning from various processes based on recurrent sense-and-respond cycles to support the collection, distribution, analysis and interpretation of data associated with business processes and the generation of response alternatives.

• Assess how business technology investments are handled in your firm’s strategic planning and budgeting activities in order to prepare for future spending and to avoid past pitfalls.

Emphasize improvement and innovation.

• Follow, listen to your customers and improve existing capabilities to constantly foster innovation instead of only being opportunistic.

• Focus on creating innovative processes through new technologies, services and strategies; generate “next” practices; and focus on fine-tuning your current operations.

• Combine improvement and innovation initiatives to constantly reposition yourself regardless of turbulence in the market.

• Examine the initiatives that are currently under way to ensure that they advance your organization and don’t just maintain it.

Distribute and coordinate authority.

• Adopt radically different forms of governance and translate your mission and objectives into information that can be easily interpreted by constituents.

• Replace traditional command and control approaches with mechanisms that facilitate coordination within and across locales, providing individuals, groups and units the autonomy to improvise and act on local knowledge, while orchestrating coherent behavior across the firm.

• Supplement processes with personal accountability and align them with the appropriate supporting business networks and information architecture.

All the above can be assisted with the implementation and adoption of an IIT building enterprise company strategy.

Smart Buildings, Intelligent Enterprise – IIT

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

How smart are your buildings?

Smart enough to assist you in making critical business decisions at the enterprise level?

The world of building control automation has certainly come a long way in recent years. During the past several years, building control automation has been a key component in helping you manage lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), safety and security, and access control in your facilities. The development of open communication standards like BACnet and LonWorks, and the advent of Web-based technology most recently has taken this investment a step further, allowing data drawn from these disparate systems to be consolidated and accessible from any Internet connection.

Without a doubt, this has laid the groundwork for developing what the industry has termed smart buildings. But in order to truly leverage the advantages produced by smart buildings, the next step needs to be taken in the form of making this data an active part of your business enterprise.

Many believe this step involves the convergence of building control automation with enterprise IT (information technology) systems. The idea is taking data mined from your smart building portfolio and integrating it with such systems as accounting, or ERP (enterprise resource planning), or business intelligence applications. For example, perhaps your enterprise accounting application could tap into realtime figures from an energy management system in your buildings, allowing you to see the true cost impact of energy expenses across your entire business.

The possibilities are many, as this data can assist in developing and benchmarking sustainability initiatives within facilities, comparing and contrasting design and construction methods employed, or even helping negotiate with energy suppliers on rates (per the example above).

The convergence of building automation with enterprise IT is an objective that will continue to substantiate your investment in building control automation for years to come. In a recently published reports, analysts describe this process as using the networking and computing infrastructure of your enterprise as an integral part of your building control automation infrastructure.

As opposed to the typical model of having the components of building control being entirely self-contained, integrating them with enterprise IT allows field devices to be networked on the same Ethernet or IP (Internet protocol) backbone as your IT systems and hardware. In the same manner, software used to manage building control would operate on the same computing platform as key enterprise applications.

This, holds numerous benefits, namely in the form of cost reduction. By re-using existing networking and computing resources owners reduce the need for multiple technology infrastructures—one at the enterprise level and one at the building control level. This subsequently leads to a reduction in staff required to manage multiple infrastructures.

By in large, though, this pure level of integration between building automation and IT is not occurring with great regularity. This is due in large part to the lack of alignment between facilities management and corporate IT groups within many large corporate owner organizations.

While many corporate owners have yet to achieve this pure integration, they are turning towards third-party services that facilitate communication between their building automation level and their enterprise level.

Current Options
Ron Zimmer, president and CEO, CABA (Continental Automated Buildings Assn.), www.caba.org, Ottawa, Ont., sees a myriad of factors impeding widespread convergence of IT and building control automation. In particular, is the fact many owner/operators do not see the full lifecycle value of mining data tapped from building control systems.

Yet the biggest deterrent he sees is the fact many owners/operators do not possess the in-house expertise to review the data and make the best decisions. In most cases, the person at the building control level does not have access to enterprise data and/or does not possess the authority to make a decision with regards to that level. This has created an opportunity for third-party companies to provide a bit of assistance.

Davmark provides a service to owners in which the company connects to existing building automation systems—primarily energy management—and, using BACnet as an information model, mines data over a WAN (wide area network) to a large database. Within that database Davmark runs a series of algorithms, based on mechanical, electrical, and energy consuming systems, in order to show owners savings on energy, maintenance, operations, regulatory issues, and comfort in what it calls an ongoing commissioning fashion. The company says it can connect with building control systems from all the leading providers.

“By connecting to these systems and running this fault diagnostic detection and optimization technology, we can find basically 15% or more in hard energy savings,” says David Slade, Director of Davmark Group. “That 15% is 15% of the HVAC energy-spend for the building. We can save that money without capital investment.”

Many top universities, including Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, University of Florida, and Michigan State, as users of similar systems. In addition, this technology is in use at many prominent government buildings and life science facilities across the country.

“Our original vision was to have the system bring the information up to the enterprise, but what we found was that most customers cannot execute on that data,” says David. “Instead it’s a process where our own energy and mechanical engineers look at data and compare it to enterprise data in order to make recommendations to the owner on certain issues.”

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), www.northcarolina.edu, Chapel Hill, N.C., made a similar investment during 2006 using the EnNET framework from GridLogix, www.gridlogix.com, St. Louis, Mo., and installation services from Cyrus Technologies Inc., www.cyrustechnologies.com, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. According to GridLogix, UNC required all control systems used within its 140 buildings on campus be integrated with its existing IT network. All disparate building control systems were to be consolidated into a single Web-based user interface with the inherent data communicated to the enterprise.

According to GridLogix, this technology, which leverages XML (extensible markup language) and Web services, aligns directly with converging automation and IT. Property managers are able to connect accounting systems to building management systems to determine energy consumption and develop procedures for cost allocation and control. Building owners can connect asset management systems to building management systems in order to automatically generate work orders, and perform dispatching activities, among other tasks.

Laying the Groundwork
Enterprise processes information and technology can certainly envision the benefit of integrating building control automation with corporate IT systems.

“Davmark don’t really see it being used in the accounting system. More likely for us would be to use (building control data) in some sort of data warehouse or business intelligence system so that analytics could be performed on the data for various uses,” says David Slade. “I can see that sort of data being useful in a variety of ways; trending, future design, sustainability initiatives (LEED / BREEAM), etc.”

Achieving that level of integration would weigh heavily on how the automation systems are set up. Ton says, “Depending upon the database structures used in the building monitoring systems I could see it being ODBC connections, or if need be some sort of XML integration using middleware or other integration tools.”

Davmark are still in the primary stages of developing its core building automation strategy it offers. Engaged in the development, construction, acquisition, management, and ownership of commercial real estate which can be adopted for any large project in such sectors as healthcare, retail, office, and industrial.

Given this growing nationwide presence, David recently implemented technology that allows it to tap into building information from many disparate systems across its multiple locations. Technology, integrates building control systems across multiple properties and makes key data available via the Web.

David says one of the goals is to develop a set of standards, not only for building controls, but also for the technology within the building from an IT perspective. This includes the type of connectivity each building requires, how data is being tied together, and how that same data is brought back to central spot. These standards in place will make the process described earlier by Ton more realistic, as the enterprise systems would be drawing on accurate and consistent data.

“From the property management perspective, our value to the organization is to be able to develop benchmarks in how we do what we do, (examine) our operating costs locally, regionally, and nationally and be able to translate that into usable data,”

“As we develop properties, we can take that information and get it into the hands of our leasing and development clients, so that as we structure deals, not only for development of properties, but also for the leasing of properties, they will have some good solid market info when it comes to operating expenses and cost to do business.”

This technology integration will play a major role as the company continues to successfully develop, build, lease, and operate facilities.

“A lot of times IT gets tucked into the backoffice supporting the accounting system, but this is a prime opportunity for IT to jump in and be a part of the business.”

“This is where the business of development and construction meets up with IT and where the two technologies start to come together.”  •

From TV to the Web to Your Phone

Thursday, June 4th, 2009


A football game is delivered to an iPhone with the SlingPlayer.

TECHNOLOGY evangelists and television aficionados want all their TV on the Web, and they are tired of waiting for Internet companies and content owners to make it happen.

 

J. Carrier/Bloomberg News

Charles Ergen is chairman of EchoStar, which owns Sling Media and its technologies.


The Slingbox Pro-HD, top, and the Sling-Loaded ViP 922, above, a digital video recorder that Dish Network will offer as a set-top box.

But such an entertainment nirvana already exists — at least for owners of a silver and black gadget called the Slingbox.

For the last five years, this device, which looks like it was plucked from the set of a “Star Trek” movie, has allowed users to pipe all their existing cable and satellite channels onto the Internet and over to any computer or cellphone.

Nevertheless, Sling Media, the five-year-old Silicon Valley company that makes the Slingbox, has been easy to overlook. Sling’s stand-alone hardware products, which start at $180 and plug into televisions, have been largely confined to the homes of a few hundred thousand technology geeks who love the cutting edge and don’t mind braving the dust devils behind their entertainment centers to get there.

Sling was acquired in 2007 by EchoStar, the satellite TV firm that then split into two public companies: the consumer TV business Dish Networks, and the Echostar Corporation, which owns Sling and is entirely devoted to developing and licensing digital equipment for the television industry. Under its new owner, Sling is about to become a lot more prominent. Now the question is whether EchoStar’s stewardship will propel Sling into most American homes, or just relegate it to the wayside on the road to convergence of TV and the Internet.

The first real test for the new Sling will come this summer, when Dish plans to offer a set-top box embedded with Sling’s features to its 14 million subscribers across the country. Called the SlingLoaded HD DVR ViP 922, it will be offered to subscribers for $199.

Part of EchoStar’s plan is to then license Sling technology to other satellite and cable TV operators and consumer electronics companies. The idea of “place shifting” or “Slinging” shows to any device, the company hopes, will become a standard trick performed by most high-end cable boxes.

But first EchoStar needs to find other TV companies that like the idea of Sling as much as it does. That could be a challenge.

Many television networks and cable operators are currently engaged in competing efforts to send their programming directly to their own Web sites and to online video hubs like Hulu.com. They are also building technology to identify online the customers who currently pay for television, so they can make available to them programs from paid-cable networks like HBO and the Discovery Channel online as well.

“There seems to be a couple of other ways of doing the same thing as Sling without a hardware-based approach,” said Richard Greenfield, an analyst at Pali Research. “Sling has not yet been proven to be something that is a must-have for a wide audience.”

Sling executives say their technology gives consumers everything they want and offers cable and satellite companies a way to hang on to their paying customers. Consumers can see the same channels on the Web or on their phones, in the same order that they have grown accustomed to on their own home televisions. If they also own a DVR like a TiVo, they can also see all the programs they have saved. (The company complements that selection with old episodes of programs on Sling.com, a site similar to Hulu.)

And cable operators can extend the reach of their traditional programming lineups and prevent their users from flocking to Web video sites, which have fewer and less valuable ads.

Sling also offers cable and satellite companies an easy way to get television to a variety of mobile devices without having to develop specific video services for each. Sling recently released a $29.99 application for the Apple iPhone, for example, although AT&T insisted that it work only over WiFi, and not over the carrier’s 3G network. AT&T said it feared that Sling’s streaming video could hog its bandwidth and lead to dropped calls.

But network congestion may be the least of EchoStar’s problems. In selling the Sling concept to other television and satellite companies, EchoStar will likely run headlong into something even more formidable: longstanding industry grudges.

The chairman of both EchoStar and Dish Network is Charles W. Ergen, the satellite television pioneer who has had business skirmishes with companies like Viacom, Liberty Media, AT&T and Sirius XM. (Mr. Ergen declined to comment for this article.)

In the television business, memories can be long. To some cable and TV executives, the idea of licensing Sling, even if they covet the technology, might feel a little like climbing into bed with a fierce competitor.

“He’s got a hard slog in the U.S. If you are an overseas cable operator and you don’t compete with Dish, maybe there is an opportunity,” said John C. Malone, chairman of Liberty Media and a major shareholder of DirecTV, in a brief interview last week at a tech conference.

Echostar seems to understand such sentiment. Mr. Ergen, besides being chairman of both Dish and EchoStar, is a major shareholder in the two. But Echostar executives emphasize that they are now separate companies.

“It’s probably our biggest obstacle: the politics of common ownership,” said Mark W. Jackson, president of an EchoStar division. “We believe that if we build the best product, they will decide to do business with us. That’s what we are trying to prove to everyone.”

The future of Sling and its Internet vision probably depend on it.

British Gas launches integrated service to cut business energy consumption

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

 

British Gas has launched an energy management service aimed at its business customers that is believed to be unique in the market that will reduce their energy costs by at least 10 percent.

The service, Energy360, is being delivered through British Gas Business (BGB), which is marketing it as a new perspective on energy management and the first on the market to offer its customers a truly integrated energy service, from supply to solution and management.

Energy360 is aimed at businesses and has been designed to achieve three main objectives – cost savings, meeting legal and regulatory obligations, and delivering against corporate social responsibility requirements.

The service offers a range of solutions including smart metering, automatic monitoring and targeting (aM&T) of energy consumption data, the availability of building management systems, including energy efficient boilers, lighting and HVAC equipment  – through British Gas Business’s’ recent acquisition of Building Management System Integrators (BMSi) – and energy certificates.

“As the global energy crunch continues to bite, we are exploring new ways of helping customers reduce their energy consumption,” commented Badar Khan, Managing Director of British Gas Business. “Our new energy services include building control technologies, automated monitoring and targeting and smart metering which will help businesses track energy consumption and optimize the operation of energy intensive systems such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting.”

Clients of Energy360, through BMSi, include British airport company BAA and the high street pharmacy chain Boots.

‘Smart’ appliances empower users to save money

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

<em>Chris Hermann,<br /> Senior Vice President,<br /> Energy Delivery, LG&E</em>
Chris Hermann,
Senior Vice President,
Energy Delivery, LG&

Six months into Louisville Gas & Electric Company’s (LG&E) pilot program that uses smart meters, smart or demand response appliances, and a tiered-pricing program, results reveal participants are choosing money saving options.

The program tests the use of “smart” appliances to help offset energy costs when higher prices are implemented during peak usage times, generally from 3-8 p.m.

Pilot participants were a select group of GE employees living in the LG&E Louisville market. They were provided with a suite of GE smart appliances – or demand response appliances – to replace their standard appliances. In most cases, this included a refrigerator, range, microwave, dish washer and laundry pair. In addition, LG&E installed a programmable HVAC thermostat in the participants’ homes, as well as a smart utility meter.

The smart appliances receive a signal from the utility company’s smart meter which alerts the appliances, and the participants, when peak electrical usage and rates are in effect. In the pilot program, the signal word “eco” comes up on the display screen. The appliances are programmed to avoid energy usage during that time or to operate on a lower wattage; however, participants can choose to override the program.

“This pilot program gives us the opportunity to incorporate our customers’ feedback on how to manage the very critical issue of peak energy demand and supply,” said Chris Hermann, senior vice president, Energy Delivery at LG&E. “We believe we are learning a lot from this pilot about how to accomplish our objectives. This will result in managing our energy better and reducing the need to construct more power generation facilities – which is better for us, our customers and the environment.”

Some of the examples of savings are that the refrigerator delays the defrost cycle from occurring during peak hours and goes into energy saving mode, microwave ovens power down slightly by reducing wattage used when operated during peak hours, and the ”smart” dishwasher and laundry can delay starting the cycle to off peak times.

Notably interaction with the dishwasher and laundry appliances has been noted as the most challenging by the participants.

Home automation network (HAN)

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

A basic overview of HAN architecture for AMI

The push for more consumer involvement in smart grid initiatives is slowly becoming more evident as companies and utilities attempt to grasp the overall impact of government mandated deployments of the smart meter. Understanding what the consumer needs and wants is quickly rising in importance with the goals and objectives of the energy industry.

There are various views and opinions as to how the US federal and state mandate translates to practical solutions. Primary as a viable solution is the deployment of smart meter technology. But not all smart meters are the same, hence the need for a more encompassing option. The complicated field of metering with its canopy of applicable hardware and software results in making intelligent decisions a difficult and rocky road for AMI proponents. Some have focused instead on defining what a smart meter is or isn’t. The resulting business models may or may not be implementable as technology changes the landscape or costly if human behavior fails to adjust to and embrace the deployed solution.

One thing is certain, that a smart meter without interaction from the occupants would diminish the gain in energy use reduction and jeopardize the utilities’ attempts at conservation and global warming compliance.

If the solution isn’t found through meter deployments, then it stands to reason that involving the consumer via technology and education makes sound business and good social sense.

This brings us to the need for a home automation network (HAN) – either a simple system or a complex one. Many envision the HAN with the smart meter as the center or focal point for data gathering and exchanging. The smart meter is the gateway through which the rest of the world garners information about the occupant’s electricity consumption. Others would rather have an independent gateway within the premise that is more controlled by the occupants with privileges allocated to the utilities or an AMI service company. The meter then would be just another peripheral device in the network that links the local network with the outside utilities. The internal home gateway would restrict and determine what information is available to external sources. The former is more in line with what the utilities are implementing while the latter favors the telecom, cable, and IT industry approach, which focuses on broadband home networks and less on low power mesh.

Planning a HAN in an uncertain market that is constantly changing and evolving can be daunting to any individual or company considering AMI deployments. Most seek simple solutions that require very little capital or are constrained to limited HAN implementation. Deploying programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs) is one way of semi-automating the home environment for demand response. Using in-home displays that link the external meter to a remote handheld or tabletop unit is another. Whatever the technology used, these early approaches to consumer involvement demonstrate a growing awareness for HAN planning and consideration.

Critical to planning any future HAN system is the communications architecture being considered. The current emphasis on mesh radio technology and the availability of completely different mesh protocols (ZigBee, Z-Wave, OpenRF, and so on) within each of these radio systems creates both opportunity and potential disaster when considering HAN development and deployment. Other networked communications architectures include power line modems, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RS485 – all which add layers of complexity to deploying HAN technology. Coupled to this melee of competing options is the dearth of home networked products that provide meaningful and practical demand response solutions.

Making the right choice of communications backbone may well be defined in the legacy system requirements, the data requirements, the environment in which the HAN is located and how the HAN is to be used by the occupants. Cost and ease of deployment/implementation along with the level of after sales support required are considerations that impact a successful planned launch. Whatever choice is made, the decision to go with one or the other could also limit the availability of peripheral devices that can operate within that chosen communications architecture and by default the functions and features available to the consumer. So choosing wisely is paramount.

The correct solution to determining a HAN configuration is the “backwards” approach. Simply put, deciding what end result the network must accomplish and then determining which technology is best suited to do this. In most instances, a cost analysis report or a business case based on reliable information would suffice in evaluating the technology being considered. In other situations where the technology is not proven or the decision makers are not knowledgeable, a trial or test site may be necessary to familiarize everyone with the option.

As mentioned earlier, the market forces driving HAN development and deployment are directly related to the industry and its perspective of market need. Other drivers such as political and global issues also impact consumer anxiety and perception within the market. Hence developing a strategy for HAN architecture must take into consideration those drivers.

A typical HAN may consist of the following basic functional components:

  1. Node controller/gateway/central controller. A node controller is common within mesh networks for maintaining the communications link and exchanges necessary within the protocol. It may or may not be the gateway. The gateway, on the other hand, is the portal through which multiple conflicting protocols link and talk seamlessly. A central controller can be all three plus a data manger/data logger. It manages the network from a user perspective (such as a home computer or a home media server which can act as the controller).
  2. Peripheral devices. The fingers and hands of the HAN are seen in the sensor devices that gather information or provide levels of control. Such devices, such as a PCT, provide a measure of remote command and control to the premise HVAC system. Internal to these devices is the communications backbone which links the devices to the central element of the network.
  3. Software. There are myriad functions that must be accomplished for a HAN to successfully fulfill its intended design. For example, the mesh protocol software manages the mesh network communications within a low power radio configuration. At the gateway, the different protocols must be translated correctly and the data sent to the correct recipient. Throughout the network, some form of security must be employed – whether through software encryption or access denial methodologies. There is a large amount of embedded code within the peripherals that program the tasks associated with those devices. These command and control codes must be incorporated into a central controller which provides remote interaction with the sensing devices.

External to the HAN is the smart meter which may be the gateway to the utility. The smart meter may also just be a peripheral if the HAN has its own dedicated gateway. A smart meter that is very basic or uses wired access may need a HAN that incorporates a gateway. Shifting the gateway away from the meter may be a better cost solution or a strategic decision based on any number of factors. When deciding on the HAN to meter interfacing, these type decisions need to be considered.

HAN basic

A basic HAN (wired and/or wireless)

Intelligent Building (IB)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

The term “Intelligent Building” (IB) has become a very popular description covering almost all new commercial and residential buildings in major cities worldwide. In the general sense, IB relates to buildings that contain high-speed local area networks, protocols, fiber optics, multimedia environments and even satellite conferencing. It is generally believed that all modern IBs in the world possess advanced information technologies (ITs). The trend is for most building service systems to be integrated into an IT environment, which is an essential tool for an IB. IBs utilize advanced information, control and mechatronic technologies as well as employ smart structure and modern management theories. But IBs should encompass more than that; Davmark and our IIT solutions promote a true and comprehensive picture of IBs.

The definition of IB varies in different regions. Generally, an intelligent building is designed and constructed based on an appropriate selection of quality environment modules to meet users’ requirements by matching the appropriate building facilities to achieve long-termed building value. The definition includes two dimensions — the needs of the building developer/owner/occupants and the enabling technologies. The integration of these two dimensions will generate measurable long-termed building values such as productivity, market value, energy conservation, environmental friendliness and high working efficiency.

Flash Creators Reveal App for Saving Money on Energy

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Greenbox_capture_1Greenbox, a startup founded by the creators of Flash, announced the roll-out of its power consumption monitoring application today.

Installed along with networked electrical meters to a limited number of homes by Oklahoma Gas and Electric, the new trial is Greenbox’s first move into a market that’s quickly become crowded with competitors like Tendril, Agilewaves, and DIY Kyoto.

All these applications allow their users to see how much energy they’re using and, if they want to, reduce it.

“We believe we can make specific [energy-saving] recommendations based on your situation that are far more valuable than any of the general tips on websites.” said Matt Smith, the chief marketer for Greenbox.

Regardless of which application consumers end up using — they all provide similar functionality — the concept makes sense for consumers. But what’s in it for utilities?

Peakload

The shrinking gap between how much power utilities can produce and how much Americans will consume is driving the old-line industry to try to drive down demand for the product they sell.

As can be seen in the embedded chart, based on data provided by Peggy Suggs, an analyst at the Edison Electric Institute, the amount of slack in the nation’s electrical grid is shrinking. Without breathing room, the risk of blackouts increases and expensive (and dirty) backup power plants called “peakers” have to be fired up more often.

Electric companies could just build more power plants, but the permitting process is difficult and high-commodity prices are making construction increasingly expensive.

That’s led many utilities to turn to energy efficiency, which is sometimes called “the fifth fuel”. Most of the programs, though, remain in the trial stage. To make use of Greenbox or its competitors, utilities have to install some kind of smart meter for your household.
These meters can run up to $100, which multiplies out to many millions of dollars over a utility’s area of service.

Greenbox_capture_2

This cost has slowed adoption. As a result, demand-response programs only reduced peak-load by 27 gigawatts in 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s not much, considering that more than 4,000 gigawatts  of power were produced by those other four fuels.

Once the meters are in place, a big key to getting “demand response”
programs to work is introducing a variable rate structure in which consumers are charged more for energy during peak times and less in the off-hours. In Oklahoma, they’re calling that variable system the Smart
Power TOU.

Greenbox_capture_3

The utilities figure that consumers will respond rationally to this price signal and cut their usage during the period by eliminating it or shifting it to a cheaper time.

But perhaps it’s the irrational drive of competition that could push consumers to save energy. Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril, another energy monitoring startup, said that his company has found that people who know how much electricity the Joneses consume try to keep up by driving their usage down.

“The most potent driver of change is beating your neighbors,” Tuck told Wired.com.

These applications are the beginnings of the new world Clive Thompson described about a year ago in which energy conservation isn’t just visible, it’s a public point of pride (or shame).

“Imagine if your daily consumption were part of your Facebook page — and broadcast to your friends by RSS feed,” he wrote. “You’d work harder to conserve so you don’t look like a jackass in front of your peers.”

For now, though, energy monitoring services are probably a year or two away from your desktop.

“From what the meter manufacturers say, the volumes will ramp up next year,” Greenbox’s Smith said. “That’s going to work out pretty good for us. If it was happening right now at this moment, we’d feel a little bit behind. We’re not quite ready.”

Images. 1, 3, 4: Screenshots from Greenbox. 2. Chart from EEI Data.

50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected together right now!

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

From the home, to the car, to your health, consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology are growing, and they’re slowly, but surely, changing the way we live.

There are more than 50 billion machines worldwide that can be connected using M2M (machine-to-machine) communications. From robots in manufacturing plants to trucks transporting fresh produce to refrigerators in consumer kitchens, billions of machines have data that’s just waiting to be tapped.

With such large market potential, the number of ways people and companies are using M2M today and the number of ways they will likely use M2M in the future is vast. Yet, in the current marketplace, much of the dialogue on how M2M can be applied focuses on commercial applications: how fleet managers use telematics solutions for fuel efficiency, how big-box retailers use RFID (radio frequency identification) to manage inventory levels, and how manufacturers can create new revenue streams with smart services, among others.

But of the billions of machines in the world today, some undoubtedly belong to the consumer, not the enterprise, leaving many asking: Where does the everyday Joe Smith of the world fit into the (M2M) system integration equation?

The answer to that question is tied to how M2M is impacting everyday life: It is in our home alarms it’s in our cars, and it’s even being used to monitor our vital signs.

Machine-to-machine technology is at the forefront of a “silent revolution,” a subtle, but influential transformation in which people, devices, and systems are becoming more connected.

And nowhere is this revolution happening more “silently” than among everyday consumers. It’s not so much that the technology isn’t available (because it is), or that it doesn’t work (because it does). The reason this revolution is happening “silently” is most people don’t even know it’s happening and sometimes don’t even know it’s there.

Unlike many of today’s commercial markets, the conversations with consumers about M2M products and services rarely broach the technological ins and outs of the solution. In fact, it’s probably unusual if consumers even know they are using M2M. Simply put, consumers don’t want to know how the technology works they simply want to know what it can do and that the technology will deliver on its promise.

And as such, system integration has unassumingly manipulated its way into consumers’ homes, cars, and even medical devices, taking advantage of the progress made in analogous areas in the commercial market.

“Consumer applications are a maturation of other solutions that have been put in place previously for the enterprise space. (The solutions) have proven that the technology does work,” says Dean Fledderjohn, general manager, Kyocera Wireless Corp., www.kyocera-wireless.com/m2m-business, San Diego, Calif.

IN THE HOME
When it comes to consumer applications of machine-to-machine technology, one of the areas technology providers are successfully penetrating is the home. M2M is making its mark in home-centric applications such as automated home technology systems and consumer energy-management solutions, but according to Peter Fowler, president, Cinterion Wireless Modules North America, www.cinterion.com, Issaquah, Wash., alarms have become the gateway into the North American home for M2M.

He believes this technology brings an ease-of-use factor to home security. With cellular M2M becoming more widely adopted for many of today’s new residential security alarms, installations are much easier to do.

“Rather than having to go in the old way and cut a hole in the wall and fish out a telephone line that would make an emergency call, now (installers) can simply activate a SIM (subscriber identity module) and have the customer live within a few hours of them agreeing that they want their home monitored,” explains Fowler.

An added bonus of using cellular is extra reliability. Since the alarm is not connected to a wired phone line, burglars cannot disable the alarm by simply cutting the telephone connection.

In addition, M2M has done more than improve on existing security technologies it has also helped bring security alarms to a new level, giving consumers unprecedented control of their security settings.

“What consumers want is the ability to be notified, to be proactively engaged, and to change the setting on their security systems,” explains Brent Barrs, vice president North American sales, Enfora Inc., www.enfora.com, Richardson, Texas. “They desire to (have the ability) to log in and check the status of the various sensors associated with the system.”

According to Barrs, the days are gone when consumers settle for notifications from a call center. “They don’t want to wait to receive that phone call from the call center alarming them that (an alarm went off) at the house. They like the ability to also receive realtime SMS (short-message service) notifications and email notifications, and consumers are very savvy (since) they have the portable devices that allow them to be comfortable with checking and changing these systems.”

One company providing this level of control to consumers is Alarm.com, www.alarm.com, Tysons Center, Va. Using communication modules from Enfora and sensors and security panels from GE Security Inc., www.gesecurity.com, Bradenton, Fla., Alarm.com offers a wide array of remote monitoring and control capabilities that extend its consumer security offerings into what could more accurately be described as home awareness systems in which security is just one facet of the solution.

“(In the past), most people had residential security systems that were useful only when the systems were turned on, in an armed state,” explains Mary Knebel, vice president of marketing, Alarm.com. Because most people don’t arm their security systems on a daily basis, Knebel adds, the system only delivers value once or twice a month when the homeowner arms the system.

Alarm.com’s solutions combine traditional security alarm capabilities with remote monitoring and control capabilities. Sensors installed throughout a home allow a number of different events, including the opening and closing of doors and windows and whether or not children arrive home from school on time, to be monitored. Homeowners can also use the system to remotely control their homes through a Web interface, performing tasks such as adjusting the temperature of their HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems.

“Alarm.com enables the consumer to know what is (occurring) on the property even if the security alarm is in a disarmed state, giving value on a daily basis versus just once or twice a month,” explains Knebel.

Interest in these types of systems is gaining momentum. According to Knebel, when the company entered the market at the end of 2003, Alarm.com worked with only a handful of dealers. Now, she says Alarm.com has a network of more than 900 dealers.

Alarm.com’s solutions are an extension of what many classify as automated home technology systems, an area previously relegated to only the very wealthy.

“Compared to five years ago, (automated home technology) has grown quite dramatically,” says Bob Gohn, vice president of marketing, Ember Corp., www.ember.com, Boston, Mass. “The home automation systems that were traditionally reserved for the rich and famous … have really come down in price and have gotten more popular,” he adds.

Gohn points out this trend doesn’t mean that each and every home will have a home automation system, but he does see home automation moving downstream from the top 0.1% of homes to a wider base.

Analysts echo Gohn’s observations. According to a new report from ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, Oyster Bay, N.Y., shipments of automated home technology systems are expected to increase to four million by 2013, up from the 237,000 shipped in 2007.

POWER MANAGEMENT
While security systems are the gateway to North American homes, that’s not the case in Europe and other parts of the world. “(Home security) alarms is a growing business in Europe, but it’s more focused on businesses,” says Fowler. “Alarms that are being developed by U.S. companies like Honeywell (are) being sold in Dubai and Europe, but the focus in those markets tends to be on commercial buildings more so than homes.”

So, how is M2M entering homes abroad? Through intelligent metering, Fowler says.

With government regulation pushing widespread adoption of AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) in Europe, and other parts of the world such as Canada, intelligent meters are becoming more commonplace, and as a result, M2M has entered the home in much larger numbers throughout regions with more pervasive intelligent metering.

In North America, where intelligent metering is gaining traction, but has yet to be government mandated on a large scale, only 16% of all M2M connections are home centric, according to ABI Research. In comparison, that figure rises to 43% for Europe, and for regions like Scandinavia and Italy, where regulatory-inspired smart-metering projects began some years ago, the percentage of home-based M2M connections stands at more than 65%.

Traditionally, smart metering solutions were installed with the intention of helping utilities improve their operations, but with the advent of AMI, or the two-way communication between the home and the utility, smart metering is now part of energy-management consumer applications. And the proliferation of AMI infrastructure couldn’t come at a better time.

“All of our ears are greatly attuned to the idea of managing energy or controlling energy and minimizing costs,” says Gohn.

With an AMI infrastructure in place, consumers can use in-home displays to monitor their realtime energy use, receive information on pricing during peak events, and adjust energy consumption levels in response.

“AMI … now allows the consumer to have the information and to have the ability to opt in to various control mechanisms so that they can modulate their use,” explains Gohn. He adds one of the opt-in programs that consumers can agree to participate is one in which energy loads are controlled by the utility. For example, a homeowner gives the utility permission to raise the setting on the home’s HVAC system by several degrees during a peak event, thereby reducing the energy consumption for that home.

Gohn points out, “That’s really where the most exciting penetration for this technology will be in the homes because it won’t be just (in) the top 1% or 2% of homes it’s going to be rolled out for entire regions.”

IN THE CAR
Like the home, the consumer vehicle has garnered a lot of attention from the M2M community. Some of the most notable consumer-focused automotive M2M applications involve auto insurance, vehicle-tracking as part of loan terms for borrowers with bad credit and after-market service.

What these three applications have in common is their impact on the consumer wallet. “With (consumers) in particular, it’s all about the wallet. The wallet is on everyone’s mind right now,” explains Kyocera’s Fledderjohn.

With PAYD (pay-as-you-drive) insurance, consumers save money on their auto insurance if they drive less. For consumers with bad credit, agreeing to have a vehicle tracking device may be the only way to obtain a car loan with a reasonable interest rate. And when it comes to fuel prices, anything that helps ensure the fuel efficiency of a car—such as telematics offerings that catch potential mileage-impacting mechanical problems—is appealing to the consumer.

Using M2M to improve vehicle performance has been prevalent in commercial markets for quite some time, but as drivers continue to feel the pinch at the pump, these applications certainly captured consumer attention.

“It started out with fleets, but the individual consumers are obviously worried about the same things because they’re (also experiencing) the higher costs of fuel,” says Shawn Aleman, vice president business development, Xirgo Technologies LLC, www.xirgotech.com, Camarillo, Calif.

In the North American vehicle telematics market, OnStar has led the pack, dominating consumer marketshare for telematics offerings in the U.S. According to OnStar, it had 2.5 million subscribers at the end of 2003, and the company expects to have more than 5.8 million subscribers by the end of this year. If OnStar meets the projection, it will have experienced a 130% increase in its subscriber base during a five-year period.

“What was really successful in the U.S. was the business model,” says Ralf Hug, vice president product management and marketing, Airbiquity, www.airbiquity.com, Seattle, Wash., regarding OnStar’s success in the U.S. market. He points out carmakers in this market decided to put this equipment in as many vehicles as possible, while in comparison Europe chose to only offer it as an option.

While the telematics market continues to gain significant marketshare, there are still some cost factors that have to be sorted out in order to meet consumers’ expectations. Aleman explains, “The end customer is not concerned much about the technology rather than overall cost of ownership. … The hardware costs have come down quite a bit during the last couple years. But I don’t think the network costs (of communicating vehicle data) have come down as much. The recurring cost is what I believe is preventing a lot of consumers from adopting the technology.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH
Another area in which M2M has made significant inroads into the consumer world is healthcare. According to a report released earlier this year from ON World, www.onworld.com, San Diego, Calif., the use of wireless sensor networks—one of the key enabling technologies for M2M solutions—is growing within the healthcare industry, and the technology could save the healthcare industry $25 billion in 2012 by reducing hospitalizations and extending independent living for seniors.

Analysts say two of the most promising WSN (wireless sensor networking) healthcare solutions are AAL (ambient assisted living) and BSNs (body sensor networks), both of which are used directly by consumers.

AAL solutions give the elderly the ability to live independently longer. Using a network of sensors placed throughout the person’s home, caregivers and family members can remotely monitor the activity (and inactivity) of the person throughout the day to ensure his or her safety and well-being.

CMI (Community Management Initiative Inc.), www.simplyhome-cmi.com, Green Bay, Wis., is one company that provides AAL solutions. Its SimplyHome offering, which is based on technology from Alarm.com, uses a network of sensors, including motion detectors, door/window contacts, and a panic pendant, to keep caregivers informed on what’s happening in an elderly person’s home.

The system is directly shipped to the consumer, and the company says customers can set up the system in 20 minutes. Wireless sensors are placed throughout the home, and they communicate to a central base station that’s either placed on a counter or mounted to the wall. The base station then sends the information wirelessly to a central processing center.

The caregiver manages the “rules” for the system, such as the times of the day the front door should not be opened, through the Web. If the event occurs, an email or text message is sent to a designated contact person.

BSNs, on the other hand, are based on wearable or implantable devices that can sense vital signs such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, or blood glucose levels. In the past, when a patient suffered from a heart attack or other abnormal occurrence, healthcare providers had to depend on symptoms conveyed by the patient and/or results from tests conducted after the fact in order to prescribe the right treatment.

BSNs give nurses and doctors the ability to access near-realtime data on vital signs, such as abnormal fluctuations in heart rate or blood glucose levels, as the event is happening or immediately following the event. In turn, consumers can better manage their own health and possibly reduce hospitalizations and doctor visits.

Moreover, remote healthcare monitoring solutions can also mean dollar savings for the consumer. Enfora’s Barrs calls attention to the example of glucose monitoring.

Unlike in the past when patients took glucose readings, but didn’t necessarily pass that data on to their doctor or other healthcare organization, with M2M-enabled devices, “those measurements are transmitted to a datacenter in realtime,” explains Barrs. He adds, “The benefits are Medicare, Medicaid, and other organizations steeply discount diabetic drugs and other types of precautionary pharmaceuticals from the standpoint that they are hoping they’re eliminating a hospital visit by taking precautionary care with the patients.”

Without these M2M-enabled medical devices, healthcare organizations simply had no way to confirm the patient was following the prescribed treatment plan.

“By having this availability to pass this data and have statistical information to them in realtime, they have the ability to continue discounting (prescriptions for) those folks that are managing their conditions by taking the discounted drugs and by taking those readings in a timely manner,” explains Barrs.

While BSNs and other remote monitoring technologies are far from being pervasive tools in today’s healthcare industry, interest is definitely growing.

According to Medtronic Inc., www.medtronic.com, Minneapolis, Minn., a provider of remote cardiac monitoring solutions, the number of consumers using its technology has grown significantly during the past several years. The company says today nearly 290,000 patients and 2,600 clinics use its remote monitoring technology, compared to the 50,000 patients and 550 clinics that were using the technology three years ago.

Moreover, Enfora is observing significant growth in M2M applications for the healthcare industry. According to Barrs, Enfora believes the volume of rollouts it will ship for healthcare applications in 2009 will likely match the number of those it will ship for security applications, which is currently Enfora’s top consumer M2M market.

INNOVATION TO COME
So, what can everyday Joe Smith expect from the M2M industry in the coming years? While the answer is not cut and dry, the possibilities are certainly endless.

Greg Jones, vice president marketing and business development, Sensorlogic, www.sensorlogic.com, Addison, Texas, says the consumer market is ready for M2M. Now, it’s just a matter of educating the SMBs (small-to-midsize businesses) and entrepreneurs that serve the consumer market that M2M technology is available at a reasonable price point.

“Our biggest issue right now is that people don’t know it’s possible (to get these consumer applications to market),” he explains. “We have, as an industry, a marketing challenge to get the word out that this stuff is doable. A lot of people are doing it today. It can be done cost effectively. And you can actually launch products fairly quickly.”

Jones adds, “As consumer apps start to really roll into the market, that’s also going to help raise market awareness about what might be possible. So, it could potentially (create) a snowball effect.”

Integration

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Integration – “a combination of parts or objects that work together well”

This is our commitment to our customers – to provide an automation system that works well, to do this we take the best components and put them together is such a way that they do.

They work to reduce the cost of operation of buildings. They do this by being simple and easy to use.

Currently it is estimated that 70% of buildings in the UK have a  “Building Management System” – of this 70% very few are being used effectively, and most are only applied to the boiler system.

A system that is not being used effectively is contributing to the cost of operating a building – its contributing to climate change – not helping to protect the climate – not helping reduce costs.

Where systems are not being used effectively they might as well not be there at all.

They are not being used effectively because most are impossible to use on a day to day basis, having plantroom based unfriendly feature starved screens, and having no control of other services in a building, such as air conditioning, or lighting.

An automation system brings control out of the plantroom and puts it on the desktops of those who need it, at low cost. It brings control of services down to an individual room – optimising each room space as a single entity, controlling air conditioning, heating, lighting level, solar shading and interacting with room occupants if required.

Only in this way can air conditioning be inhibited from operation when a window is open, lighting maintained at constant lux levels, individual radiators switched off automatically and solar shading operated to prevent unwanted heat gains.

This is automation in action – the old “BMS” is so rooted in the plantroom, so unfriendly, so inflexible, and so impossible to provide a sensible Return on Investment.