The largest ever AHR Expo 2006 in Chicago was a kaleidoscope of change, powered by the windy city itself. The energy and feeling of the transition into a new era was everywhere. Industry synergy abounded and the feeling of all the pieces fitting together was never greater. When I returned from this event, I wrote down 10 observations that I formulated at the show, which I call "My 10 Takeaways from AHR Expo, Chicago," and which appear on the website (

In this column, I will summarize from this review and from others' comments about the changes we saw in Chicago.

"BACnet® International, a powerful global community, was formed. Just before the opening of the show, members of two organizations, the BACnet Manufacturers Association (BMA) and the BACnet Interest Group of North America (BIG-NA), voted to consolidate and rename their collective assembly, and BACnet International was born. All the hard work of achieving a consensus standard has come to fruition. The energy - no, the synergy - in the BACnet International booth was amazing with the sense of industry cooperation combined with the demonstration of a myriad of connected manufacturers' products. As each of these manufacturers innovate with new BACnet products and services, they add to the strength, the reach, plus the cost-effectiveness, of their international community. Another feather in the BACnet International cap was the support by the major control companies of their international standard.

Wireless will win. There were a lot of real wireless products at this year's Expo. The discussion was hot and concerned how wireless would dominate the last 300 ft, adding thousands of points of intelligence to our systems. It was interesting to see that the structure cabling folks support wireless, as it increases the need to have a structured backbone to accept all this new data that will be wirelessly collected.

In addition, ZigBee addresses the unique needs of remote monitoring, control, and sensor network applications. It will play an increasing role in enabling embedded networks for building automation. ZigBee is not just low-power radio standards (802.15.4), but also wireless mesh radio protocol stack standards.

Soft control of hard equipment is the future of new construction. Why are hard equipment manufacturers and control companies merging? Two major reasons: First the new major construction business is not in North America but in India, China, Dubai, and other offshore locations. Projects will be looking for complete solutions to HVAC comfort needs that include soft intelligent control of hard equipment, such as chillers, air-handling systems, terminal units, etc. Reason number two is that hard equipment becomes more powerful and cost-effective with soft controls.

Other takeaways discussed in the review include:

  • Honeywell keeps Tridium's Niagara path from field to enterprise open.
  • Retrofits will dominate the North American market.
  • LonMark® leads in re-educating our industry, but we all must invest in education.
  • Cisco and other IT giants are studying the players of our industry.
  • Quarter-baked thinking, coupled with traditional marketing, is eroding our markets.
  • CABA provides the catalyst and glue to help bind our industry.
  • The AHR Expo provides the annual melting pot for our converging community.

In an interview on, Anto Budiardjo shares these thoughts.

Sinclair: What was your impression of AHR in Chicago this year?

Budiardjo: The pre-show anticipation was high, but the reality was even more interesting, especially regarding the road to convergence. I met up with and spoke to around a hundred people, and it was a very accepted notion that convergence, Ethernet, and IP are things that are happening now.

Sinclair: Many were asking, "Why is Cisco interested in building automation?"

Budiardjo: Yes, that was a dominant question being asked: Why is Cisco sponsoring BuilConn in such a major way, what are their motives? The quick answer is a $25-billion worldwide opportunity. What's behind that is Cisco's desire to partner with the industry and understand how it can participate and contribute to this emerging IP-centric market. Cisco feels that BuilConn is an ideal way that they can enter this market.

The Building Intelligence Tour on Wednesday was a great success, with over 100 folks showing up for this full-day event. Kudos to both Paul Ehrlich and CABA plus a special thanks to all who volunteered their time and resources to bring this tour of intelligence to Chicago.

The AHR exposition is a true melting pot for our industry, which is converging in several different ways and several different directions simultaneously.

If you were unable to attend, put this on your "must be there" list for 2007 in Dallas and 2008 in New York City.