One Small Step...

Awhile back on this page, I mentioned that growing up, I wanted to be an architect. But another loftier profession, both figuratively and literally, I aspired to was astronaut. Today, I'm grounded firmly on Earth (although many will debate that claim), but NASA and the space program still intrigue me.

02/01/2004


Awhile back on this page, I mentioned that growing up, I wanted to be an architect. But another loftier profession, both figuratively and literally, I aspired to was astronaut. Today, I'm grounded firmly on Earth (although many will debate that claim), but NASA and the space program still intrigue me. Its most recent achievement—landing the Mars explorers Spirit and Opportunity —fascinates me, but not because we actually have vehicles cruising the martian landscape. What's amazing is that NASA officials, millions of miles away, somehow were able to get a malfunctioning Spirit back online and operating. The mind-boggling effort that had to be involved in remotely fixing Spirit's problems gave me pause to reflect on all the controls technologies I saw and heard about at the recent AHR Expo and various sessions at the ASHRAE Winter Meeting, and what's truly possible with remote web-based building control. For example, the folks at Automated Logic had a neat demo showing how building operators can take advantage of data that's ripe for picking. In the demo, ALC's John Miner dialed up the website of California Independent System Operator ( caiso.com ). As a customer service, the ISO, which provides power for much of California and other western states, offers downloadable XML data detailing real-time peak-demand charging information. While this information in and of itself is invaluable, Miner claims its potential is even greater. "Right now ISO offers notification services via phones and pagers, but the XML information could easily be automated and directed to a web-enabled BAS that could automatically tell a facility to divert power or switch off the grid [to on-site power]," said Miner. "We're really close."

Of course, Miner admitted, it took a great deal of research to discover this service. But, he added, XML and the web will allow such automated flows of information to become commonplace. Indeed, talk of XML was the buzz of the expo. The Continental Automated Buildings Assn. even put together a day-long symposium on the subject that drew well over 150 people.

For more on XML, as well as other coverage from the conference, check out our new website "communities," highlighted in Technicolor on the nav bar at www.csemag.com . In a nutshell, we hope these areas of the site will serve as clearinghouses for all kinds of information relating specifically to each engineering discipline. This will include weekly news from our content partner Lexis-Nexis, original stories, white papers (currently including one on integrating BAS and building enterprise applications), case studies and more.

But a final note on the subject of innovation, space and astronauts: I'd like to express my remembrance and gratitude for those who have risked their lives in the advance of science and exploration, most notably the crew of Columbia 7 , whose deaths a year ago reminded us that such advances often come at a great price. May they be at peace and home among the stars.





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