In this time of great change and industry renaissance, it is important to try to identify key harbingers that we must watch to better understand how our IT-connected future may unfold. I am writing this column before BuilConn in Palm Springs on May 16-18, and you will be reading it afterward, so you will have the advantage of hearing the complete messages from the following harbingers.

The harbormaster in Palm Spring is, of course,Anto Budiardjo, the winner of's "Newsmaker and Industry Shaker of the Year" award. The Palm Springs event has provided a home for our industry's harbingers like no assembly has ever done before. This flocking of the industry's forward-thinking folks to a common location is, in fact, an indication that the time is now to begin the renaissance.

A large part of the Palm Springs event is theCisco Connected Roundtable, "Mapping the Future of Building-IT Convergence,"a first-ever event, which is sponsored by Cisco as a by-invitation-only meeting for key stakeholders in the building automation industry. The purpose is to discuss the needs of building owners and the issues regarding the supply of products and services. The context of the roundtable is the increasing adoption of IP-centric systems in building systems. I am very pleased to have been invited to this meeting and will report back to you on the outcome.

Builconn enters the big time

The following is from an interview on the website with Budiardjo about BuilConn.

Budiardjo: Today, we're standing at a very significant watershed of change. This is not only my prediction, but represents the billion-dollar actions of companies, from major traditional players to new IT entrants. This is also being driven by the demands of owners, now inquisitive (and willing to spend money) about how IT can better their buildings.

There is a point when the pressure is so huge that things will change. All of the indication points to that change happening now, and many of the discussions in Palm Springs will define that direction.

Sinclair: How is this going to affect contractors and integrators?

Budiardjo: If I had the answer I would tell you, but the fact is that the future is being shaped by people who will be participating in Palm Springs. One thing I can say is that convergence is going to affect how owners look at buildings very significantly. This is probably the most important facet of what is going on, to understand the change in how owners view their buildings, and for the building industry to prepare to deliver what they need.

Let me share some harbingers' quotes about the show

"The intelligent building has morphed into the intelligent enterprise and is on the way to theWorld Wide grid," saidJack Mc Gowanabout the GridWise™ Expo co-located with BuilConn®.

"A simple way to look at this in terms of a business model and economic returns is to ask whether my device is going to be part of an ecosystem at all, who will be in the value chain, and how will they organize around my asset or vice versa?" askedGlen Allmendinger, president and CEO of Harbor Research, Inc.

"In a nutshell, oBIX will allow integrators to connect control systems, such as access control, with enterprise systems, such as human resources. Therefore, oBIX is much more than just a way to describe points, historical trends and alarms. It is an extensible model that describes other models - a meta-model. oBIX allows control vendors to fully describe their proprietary systems and allow enterprises to discover non-standard data and invent new applications for it," saidAaron Hansenof Tridium, Inc.

"The delivery of data and physicality of a ‘point' complicate things enough; but it really starts getting interesting when enterprise facility management systems incorporate data sources from outside the HVAC/control system," saidKeith Gipson, CTO and cofounder of Impact Facility Solutions, when asked, "What is the point? [of the event]."

"A key event for LONMARK is BuilConn, in Palm Springs May 16-18, 2006. Of significant interest at this event is the strong role that Cisco Systems is playing, bringing with them IT vendors, integrators, and building owners," saidEarl Gray, chairman of the LonMark® Americas board of directors.

Let me close with a comment from Anto that I feel provides a summation to what is happening: "First of all, they will see the magnitude of the trend and force behind convergence and IP. If you see a big wave coming, you can decide to run or jump on a surfboard; if you don't see it coming, you'd be swimming for survival before long."