On the surface, BACnet® might appear to be all about products and technology. A casual review of Google search results on BACnet certainly supports that view. Glancing at the first few pages of results suggests that most of what is published on BACnet focuses on its technical underpinnings, the system integration that it enables, or the products that support it. And, as an engineer at heart (and a long time ago by trade), I am enthused about the technology, the products, and the integration. But, BACnet is about much more than that. BACnet is about creating opportunities for a broad range of users and suppliers to build value for their organizations by doing business in new ways.

The initial motivation for developing BACnet was more business-oriented than technical. It was driven by key users who wanted to give multiple suppliers the opportunity to competitively bid on projects, even when those projects had to be integrated with previously installed systems. While this required the development of a technical standard, the technology itself was not the point. Giving users and suppliers the opportunity to do business differently was the goal - and with the nearly universal adoption of BACnet by controls suppliers, it is becoming a reality.

Beyond the opportunities for expanded competitive bidding though, BACnet is creating many other opportunities for users and suppliers who are willing to listen when opportunity knocks. One interesting area of opportunity is supplier “co-opetition.” Widespread adoption of BACnet allows competing controls suppliers to jointly develop products and/or OEM products with each other. This allows each participant to offer customers more product options while reducing development costs. The net result is higher value for users and better margins for suppliers.

Avenues For Users And Entrepreneurs

User-supplier alliances are another new opportunity. Users typically obtain building automation-related systems, tools, and services from multiple suppliers. These necessarily interact in a variety of ways that could be optimized if BACnet devices, Web services, and object models were leveraged as an integration platform. With the continued development of BACnet Web services, users will have the opportunity to bring together their specific suppliers to do just that. As these suppliers work to meet the needs of their common customers, they will likely find that cross-supplier innovation does indeed create larger value propositions. Alliance participants will gain immediate benefits, and the whole industry will benefit over time.

BACnet’s inherent support for device integration, functional integration, and application integration also creates exciting opportunities in the area of entrepreneurship. BACnet lowers the barriers to entry in our industry because it facilitates the integration of specialized products with systems from many suppliers. It allows anyone with expertise in sensor technology, actuator design, visualization software, data mining tools, system diagnostics, or other relevant domains to embed their expertise in a product and readily enter the market. New entrants do not have to provide a complete solution as long as they incorporate a BACnet interface. These specialized hardware, software, and service products will offer users more price/performance options and will provide business growth opportunities for the people and companies who create them.

Beyond Tech Talk

BACnet is frequently viewed as a topic of interest primarily to engineers and system integrators. This view has a strong basis in history, as the development of BACnet was largely a technical effort. However, times have changed. The technology continues to evolve and BACnet capabilities continue to expand, but BACnet is no longer only a technical issue. Much like the adoption of PCs and Ethernet created new business opportunities in computing, BACnet’s widespread adoption, coupled with the growing impact of IT, is creating new business opportunities in our industry: business opportunities that could change the game for innovative users and suppliers. This is also a dynamic time in our industry where energy costs and green initiatives are reducing the barriers to change in many organizations. So, if building value is one of your goals and you are hearing BACnet opportunities knock, I would say to you, “Carpe diem!” BACnet.