BACnet Goes Global, but is Interoperability in 'Chaos'?

One of the biggest news items surfacing at the Winter Conference was the announcement that BACnet has been adopted as a standard by both the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). "For these two organizations to completely adopt Standard 135 signifies the importance of BACnet to the international engineering community," says A...

02/01/2003


One of the biggest news items surfacing at the Winter Conference was the announcement that BACnet has been adopted as a standard by both the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

"For these two organizations to completely adopt Standard 135 signifies the importance of BACnet to the international engineering community," says ASHRAE President Donald Colliver, Ph.D., P.E. "This recognition shows that BACnet is the authoritative source for building control guidance."

The approval is significant because public projects in Europe are required to follow CEN standards, according to Steve Bushby, chair of the 135 committee. The approval, he says, also gives a market boost to BACnet technology there. In addition, ISO standard status is particularly important in Asian markets. Bushby feels China and Japan are both growth areas for BACnet technology and also that ISO standard status will stimulate that growth.

The announcement elicited various responses. "It's really not about BACnet or LonWorks right now," says Bea Yormark, speaking for Echelon and the LonMark Interoperability Association. "It's whether the system is open or closed."

Steve Nguyen, Echelon's director of corporate marketing, is quick to point out that the two systems still maintain significant differences, but the message his group is communicating to the market is that users are suffering from the "us vs. them" approach. "Rather than focus on differences, as significant as they are, we should be focusing on what an open system is, its tangible benefits to end users, and methods for identifying, specifying and implementing open systems," he says.

But not everybody in the building controls industry thinks that's the most important issue on the table right now.

"Instead of worrying about protocols, worry about artificial intelligence for buildings," says Roy Lynch, president of New Orleans-based Computrols. "The reason for the whole push for interoperability was because vendors simply were not competitive," he says. "But owners want a single vendor. In other words, if they get good service, they want the same guy."

A proponent of web-based control technology, Lynch argues that the best way the industry and associations like ASHRAE can serve users is to build more artificial intelligence so that a building's computer, which already has the data, can notify users to do what's necessary.

"Most building automation systems are too hard to operate. They're not a tool. That's what we're hoping to address with our products—give customers simple and easy control over their buildings," he says.

Lynch is not the only dissenting voice that the industry is not on the right track. "People are bored with the whole BACnet vs. LonWorks battle," says Anto Budiardjo, president of Clasma, Irving, Texas. "But there's still a great deal of confusion. In fact, one of our board members told me he thinks the industry is in chaos."

Formerly with TAC, Budiardjo formed Clasma to help market the building systems industry better. In fact, his company is helping organize a "bootcamp" conference that will deal strictly with training on building integration, including the need for a significant amount of cross-disciplinary training.

"The industry is not well served," says Budiardjo. A big part of the problem, he explains, is that integrators are selling a product with a high-end cost when owners want lower prices. The problem is that no one knows how to explain the technology besides technologists or manufacturers. Furthermore, for the building automation industry to grow, he feels integrators need to not only be able to explain the product, but also be able to educate potential clients who can't install and deliver these kinds of systems themselves.

Visit www.builconn.com for more on the event.





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