As I start into my seventh calendar year of editor/owner of AutomatedBuildings.com, and my fifth calendar year of writing this column for ES, I am proud of the several hundreds of industry articles we have published on my website and have reflected on in this column.

All these articles and interviews, which originally seemed a little like "future watch," have become the new reality shaping our industry. When we started our online magazine, we did not know that the Internet would have such a profound effect on all our lives. I could not even imagine the new reality of having an online IP phone service, or that owning software would become unfashionable and would be replaced with hosted Web-based solutions.

The networking of everything, open protocols, and defining the path to convergence has dominated this column's content and our website, and I see no change for the future.

In December 2004, the most read article on Automated Building.com was Web Services - A New BACnet Standard. A close second was ZigBee or Not ZigBee. This indicates a strong interest in networking and convergences from our readers.

I have extracted key comments from our January articles and interviews to provide you some insight in the constant change you can expect for 2005.

From the article, A Protocol Solution, OEMs can choose from many communications technologies. However, for product designers, this choice of technologies introduces risk and cost when trying to address the different protocol options. Interchangeable modules remove this risk in a cost-effective way. At the top of the list of contemporary protocol choices are BACnet and LonWorks, with protocols such as Metasys N2 and Modbus RTU as perennial favorite ‘legacy' protocols. ZigBee is emerging as an exciting wireless protocol that seems poised to take off in 2005/2006 if it can hit critical mass."

From another an article by Anto Budiardjo titled, 2005: The Year Of XML? I have pulled these points: "The subject of XML has been one of the hottest topics in the building systems arena in the past couple of years. While I, and others, have written much about this in the trade media, many are still asking and wondering of its impact to the field of buildings: ‘Is it being used today?' ‘Are products available today?' ‘Will it be used widely?" And, perhaps the most interesting, "Where is it? I can't see it!"

The XML Symposium (www.xml-symposium.com) at the AHR Expo/ASHRAE Winter meeting in Orlando on February 9 will focus on communicating how this technology will affect the HVAC industry. The breadth of applications covered will extend beyond real-time connectivity of control systems and into the use of XML in the design and maintenance of HVAC systems.

BuilConn in Dallas (www.builconn.com), March 21-24, on the other hand, will focus on device and networked connectivity in all aspects of building systems and its convergence with IT. Over the four days, in up to five multiple tracks, attendees will get an in-depth perspective on vendor's progress with using XML technologies in their products; I expect several vendors to be launching or announcing XML-based products at this time.

Extracted from four separate January interviews, these comments provide further insight:

Aaron Hansen, senior software engineer with Tridium: "We hope to have an official public review of the Sys service underway by BuilConn in March, where we also intend to be demonstrating oBIX connectivity. If the public review goes smoothly, we could be submitting our work for approval by the entire OASIS community in the first half of this year. I expect history and alarms to make public review later in 2005."

Barry Haaser, executive director of LonMark International: "LonMark International is organizing the Building Open Systems Seminar program to provide members of the commercial buildings industry with consistent information on specifying, deploying and maintaining open systems (www.buildingopensystems.com)."

Jack McGowan, CEM, vice president of Energy Control, Inc.: "Fantastic, we saw nearly 50% growth and found ourselves working to create interoperability with technologies that we would have never thought likely."

William Sandoval, business development manager, Digital Systems, Philips Lighting Electronics/Advance Transformer: "I think that Zigbee has great potential for the future. The benefits are numerous for endusers, building owners, consultants, maintenance personnel, and installers. The applications are also endless."

Add to the above the rest of the articles from our January issue:

Would You Like Fries With That? Automation Takes a Bite Out of Food Service Industry; Automating Large Building Security Using Robotics; Lessons Offered By New York Subway Digital Signage Network; Online Time Management Improving Profitability; Productivity With A Web Solution; and A New Bee In Our Industry: The Zigbee Alliance For Wireless Networking.

I think you will agree that the only thing constant for 2005 is change. ES