The wireless storm that blew out of the windy city at this year's AHR Expo is forming connectivity clouds on our horizons.

Is this a change in the weather? I am not sure. A change in our industry? Absolutely. The excitement that was in Chicago is spreading across the country, following the crowd to BuilConn in Palm Springs.


Consider the article in AutomatedBuildings.com's March issue written by this year's AHR Expo Innovation Winner titled, "Wireless! Building Automation Unwired." John Edler and Weilin Wang of Kiyon Inc. state the following (www.automatedbuildings.com/news/mar06/articles/kiyon/060227054717kiyon.htm):

"Using one wireless backbone for several systems can reduce engineering, construction, commissioning, and operating cost over the entire life of the building.

"Wireless technology has been shown to be a cost-effective solution for building control systems, enabling wireless mobility for building personnel, and bridging several networks for interoperability for these devices to communicate over the same network.

"The majority of network topologies and protocols in use around the world today utilize a TCP/IP protocol. With a TCP/IP wireless network, many applications like VoIP, video, and BACnet®/IP can be readily supported using the same network infrastructure. Protocols like BACnet/MSTP and LONWorks® can be encapsulated in IP packets and transported over the same network."

Siemens created a storm recently within the connectivity atmosphere with its press release published prior to AHR Expo, "Siemens: Introduces First Wireless Building Automation System."

In a further e-mail discussion, LeBlanc stated, "SBT is committed to leadership in wireless and MEMS (tiny micro-electromechanical systems) and is positioned as a master integrator - DDC, fire, security, and energy services with linkage to enterprise systems, exploring strategic alliances for other building systems."

A February interview on the AutomatedBuildings.com website with Bob Metcalfe, chairman and interim CEO for Ember Corporation, who is also a high-tech venture capitalist at Polaris Venture, provides clarity regarding the clouds on the horizon.

"ZigBee is a wireless, standards-based radio technology that 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," he said. Metcalf is no stranger to the industry. In 1973, he invented Ethernet at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. In 1979, he founded 3Com Corporation and took it public in 1984. Recently, Ember and STMicroelectronics formed a partnership to boost the ZigBee Market.

"Ember's EM260 ZigBee co-processor will soon be available from ST mostly for their OEM customers and from Ember for everyone else's. For example, Siemens, Hitachi, and Andover Controls are all developing control systems based on our technology. Our central offer to these customers is to put the EM260 next to existing microcontrollers and connect them up with the standard serial interface. We are offering an open-source programming interface to the Ember ZigBee Serial Protocol (EZSP). Code running on application microcontrollers designed for building controls can use EZSP to talk to their EM260s and thereby become ZigBee-enabled," Metcalf added.


Are you now feeling a little in the clouds and disconnected with the future?

Catch up by attending Anto Budiardjo's BuilConn event, May 16-18 in Palm Springs, CA.

From the very first BuilConn in 2003, the event's vision has been to connect people with each other so that devices and systems can be better connected. The name BuilConn is no accident; it's about building connectivity (as with this column, it uses "building" both as a verb and a noun).

The supporters of BuilConn are evolving to be a veritable list of connectivity-centric companies and organizations: LonMark®, BACnet, oBIX, OASIS, OPC, ZigBee, and CABA to name a few, and commercial support from Cisco, Tridium, Gridlogix, Lantronix, Cimetrics, and many others. It's also not an accident that BuilConn is co-located with events that also focus on connectivity: M2M in generic devices and GridWise Expo for the smart grid.

The challenge at BuilConn this year is to establish the value of building information systems. We have the technology, we have the infrastructure, we have the attention of the buildings and IT industries, we have the demand from corporations who own buildings, and now we have a way to measure the value of connectivity.

It is time to turn connectivity into new business opportunities. Visit www.builconn.com for more information. ES