A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the bi-annual Tridium Niagara Summit. This year’s event in Las Vegas had over 1,200 attendees and has become one of the best events in the industry for networking and learning about what is new and changing in controls, BAS, and integration. In addition to attending I also was asked to present as part of a panel on Open Systems. Unfortunately, I missed the call to organize the panel and my co-panelists decided it would be best to have an informal session — kind of like four old friends sitting having a beer. One thing turned into another and the panel proceeded without slides or script, but complete with tall tables and a chilled six-pack of beer.

It was good to be part of this panel with three associates who have vast industry experience and have been so involved in numerous efforts related to open systems including BACnet®, LonTalk®, and XML standards such as OBIX. Ken Sinclair has often used his position as editor of the Automated Buildings website (and as the previous author of this column) to promote the use of open systems, often pushing for openness well beyond what is available in the industry today. John Petze has been active in this area in his roles with Andover, Tridium, and Cisco. He is currently with Sky Foundry, and their tool SkySpark provides that ability to analyze building automation data and provide system analytics. Our final panelist was Anno Scholten, who has had leadership roles in both established and startup companies. Recently, he has been involved in the challenges of connecting BAS for automated demand response.

While what the panel had to say was of moderate interest, what was much more intriguing was the questions, comments, and concerns raised by the audience. Here are some of the general issues raised:


How can owners get ready access to data for functions such as energy analysis, analytics, and decisionmaking?

Building owners are still confused about what is really open and what isn’t. For example, how do owners get access to tools, programming, and setup?

Ongoing challenges in working cooperatively with information technology (IT) and in meeting their standards for data, security, and connectivity.

Challenges in data identification, location, and accuracy as this information is extracted and used for new applications beyond controls. For example, automated demand response requires the ability to both control setpoints and operating modes and also to get feedback.

The ongoing challenge with legacy systems and the difficult decisions about replacing them or attempting to do data translations with gateways. This is exacerbated by the fact that some new installations have open protocol support “value engineered” out and are delivered as proprietary.

All in all, it was a great session. The focus has clearly shifted from the more tactical issues of providing an open protocol to the much more challenging issues of open data management as building systems continue to become part of the IT world. The session also pointed out that we still have a ways to go before we can truly consider our industry to be open. ES