Your "Building Automation" columnist has been asked to moderate a "panel discussion on XML related HVAC industry initiatives and views." The full symposium program and details can be found online at www.xml-symposium.com. The panel is going to deal with the "status and position" of LonMark®, BACnet®, and oBIX with respect to XML.

If you are wondering what this alphabetic soup could possibly mean let me try to explain. Our industry runs on annoying acronyms, and the movers and shakers of our industry have seen fit to bestow on us with yet two more. Please do not glaze over just yet, as both are simple and powerful in concept and we have some very capable folks working out the complex details.

XML is Extensible Markup Language

So why are we having an XML Symposium?

XML is widely used by the IT community. Considered by many as the most important enabling technology for the future of integrated and intelligent buildings, XML brings to fruition the convergence of building systems and the IT infrastructure. These IT-based technologies are drastically changing the buildings industry as they enable cooperation between disparate approaches to open systems, a vital issue within the industry.

"As possibly the ultimate integration mechanism for buildings, XML will revolutionize the buildings industry," said Ron Zimmer, CABA president and CEO. "This symposium will provide the HVAC professional with ample XML and Web services education and a practical expectation of their adoption rate within the industry."

The capable folk, who have been working hard under the direction of chairman Paul Ehrlich to bring this exciting new technology to us, tell me there are a few more details to work out to make this simple concept very useful for our industry.

The next important new acronym is oBIX

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Paul Erlich in the December issue of AutomatedBuildings.com.

Sinclair: What is oBIX?

Ehrlich: oBIX stands for open building information exchange, and it is an industry-wide initiative to define XML- and Web services-based mechanisms to present building systems-related information on TCP/IP networks such as the Internet.

Sinclair: Why is oBIX important?

Ehrlich: The IT industry is adopting XML and Web services as a critical technology for connectivity on the Internet as well as on corporate networks. Many significant industries that desire to leverage the Internet are also adopting XML and Web services as a platform for exchanging information. While the decision of adopting XML/seb Services is a no-brainer, doing so without defining schemas and other cooperation standards does little to enable integration and interoperation in the building industry. oBIX is working to define such a mechanism specifically for the building systems industry.

Sinclair: To what extent will this impact the HVAC industry?

Ehrlich: XML and oBIX will have a very significant effect on HVAC, especially in how HVAC systems are integrated with other systems, into the rest of the building systems, and more importantly with the enterprise systems. Without oBIX, these tasks are difficult to do. With oBIX and assuming the proliferation of XML, these tasks become very easy. Integrators will be able to create richer cross-systems and cross discipline websites to satisfy users' needs.

Sinclair: How can I be involved with oBIX?

Ehrlich: Visit the oBIX website (www.obix.org) and join the bulletin board for discussions on oBIX. To be more involved, join one of the task groups. Contact information is provided on the website.

While I am talking about very capable folk, let me identify a few of the many that have dedicated large portions of time to bring this enabling technology to us. The CABA XML/Web services committee consists of Paul Ehrlich, chairman; Ron Zimmer, host of www.caba.org; Aaron Hanson, data model; John Pitcher, services; Peter Manolescue, security; Anno Scholten, network; and Anto Budiardjo, marketing.

Please join me in giving these two separate efforts your full support. XML is a protocol about raw data. It does not concern its self with display attributes, so a piece of XML information would simply say that a temperature is 72°F. It will be up to the recipient to decide what to do with that data. This makes XML ideally suitable for machine-to-machine communication, whereas HTML suits machine-to-human interfaces. While the two are related in subject matter, the symposium is not an oBIX event. oBIX is but a participant, as is LonMark, BMA, etc. ES