Protocols. Now matter where you look in the controls industry, it seems like every area is seasoned with enough protocol acronyms to make any newcomer wish for a bland and simple diet. BACnet, Lon Works, Modbus, OPC, SNMP, OBIX, DALI, Open ADR, SedonaC… Agghh!
But as your friend from the future, I, Sarah Connor, have come to assure you that keeping an open mind, (or an open system), is the best possible solution. At the February 2012 Event held at the Georgia Aquarium, Roger Rebennack and Ed Merwin of Honeywell provided a very informative overview of industry protocols, and how Niagara and WEBs-AX provide the tools necessary to leash control over the wild world of protocols. I drank it all in, as they described protocols used in every area of building management. While grasping for a concept to which I could relate, it hit me! They were talking about SOLUTIONS to an environment wrought with many diverse protocols. Now there is a term that I understand! Solution! So think with me a minute as I help you explore a “mixture” of protocols and the “solution” to integrated building control.
At some point in your schooling, I’m sure that you liked science. Think back to your middle school physical science investigation of solutions. Remember that a solution is a mixture. The salt doesn’t undergo a chemical change when it gets mixed with water, but it simply dissolves. Both the water and the salt retain their unique properties, but now they function together as a solution. So what does this have to do with the controls industry protocols? We all know that in order for a solute to dissolve into a solution, it needs to have an appropriate solvent. In a closed system, everything has to talk the same protocol. Choices are limited because, using our analogy, only a specific solvent can be matched with a given protocol. If your building introduces more than one protocol, one for lighting, another for HVAC, another for security, etc., then integrating those systems for a unified control is impossible using a traditional, proprietary approach.
In an open system, there can be interoperability between disparate manufacturers. This is a true SOLUTION. You get the best of all the protocols available, yet you can offer unified user experience regardless of these diverse subsystems. Barriers of inoperability are replaced by truly open communications protocols. And as a result, you can specify controls and devices from multiple sources. Now you can choose the best product to fit the application, regardless of the protocol.
So how does this all happen? The trend toward open systems is here to stay. (Remember that I’ve seen the future of the controls industry! Trust Sarah Connor… it’s all about open systems!) Honeywell offers WEBs-AX, a Niagara-powered suite of enterprise applications for control, energy management, facility management, system integration and security. Through a Java-based integration framework, Niagara enables real-time, two-way control over the Internet. And this is the SOLUTION that makes diverse protocols dissolve into a unified user experience.
Next time, we will investigate more about WEBs-AX, and all that this can offer integrated control of diverse building systems. What are your questions? The experts are ready to help. Please share your comments here so the next issue of the Sarah Connor Control Chronicles will address your specific questions. Do you have a building where this has been a great answer? Do you have a project now where diverse protocols continue to be a problem. Let’s talk about it!
I like this person and what she’s trying to do! Isn’t Sarah originally from Pittsburgh? We look forward to reading more of her chronicles!