technology-based communitiesHow does your product or service connect to everything in our online world, and which “connection communities” are part of it?

We now expect to see and control everything from our smart phones or tablets. This social and technological phenomenon of connection has greatly changed the expectations of all products. It has left us as an industry scrambling to understand what connection communities we want to be part of, and also how will we get our real-time data to the information cloud and return reactions back to our devices and services?

Every year a greater portion of our hard equipment becomes soft; the soft part only exists virtually. Everything from interface with other devices to initial setup? Interaction? Energy performance? Maintaining performance? This has all become the soft virtual part of the product or service’s interaction with connection communities.

ASHRAE recognized that connection was paramount via their efforts in open standards several years ago with BACnet®. The connected device evolution has been phenomenal, evolving to today’s bring your own device (BYOD) as the standard personal interface.

The traditional connection communities of our industry (such as BACnet, LonMark®, Niagara, EnOcean, et al.) now need to merge their data and conform to presentation and interaction standards that have been developed by the all-encompassing connection communities such as Apple, Google/Android, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.

The rapid development of apps by the all-encompassing BYOD connection communities has shown how these devices will be connected to the cloud’s ability to store, analyze, provide function and further cloud connections, and then return an interaction.

In an attempt to open dialog, AHR Expo and I have put together an education session in Theater C on January 29th, from 2-3:30 p.m. titled, “Why We Need to be Part of Several Connection Communities: An Educational Overview.”

Over the last several years, organizations and groups have been extremely successful in connecting our industry with standards. I invite you to join us to learn about existing connection communities, and educate yourself to the advantages of being part of various communities.

Andy McMillan, president of BACnet International, shares some insight on the topic. “We have just scratched the surface of a vision for connected communities. It’s a broad topic that’s worthy of deeper discussion, especially seeing as how ubiquitous social media is enabling more connection options than ever before. Join me and others at the AHR show in January as we continue to explore the meaning and implications of connected communities.”

I am extremely pleased at the response we have gotten from the industry. We now have several interviews and columns at my website ( that help define our connection communities. I hope this will create an interest in attending our session, so you can better understand why you want to be part of several connection communities. It is also obvious that our traditional connection communities must become part of the evolving all-encompassing BYOD communities.

I have extracted from several connection communities’ interviews on the web site some overview and shared thoughts.


BACnet International Community

The more engaged the building community is, from engineers and architects to facility managers and owners, the faster standards and solutions will evolve to meet their needs.

Sinclair: What is the status of the BACnet International community?

Michael R. Wilson, business development manager, OEMCtrl, and marketing committee chair, BACnet International: The BACnet International community is a mature, thriving organization. The BACnet protocol started evolving in 1986 and BACnet International was technically formed when BACnet Interest Group North America (BIG-NA) and the more global BACnet Manufacturers Association (BMA) consolidated in 2006 to establish a new, formal test lab for global standard product testing and certification. Today, ASHRAE has issued over 600 BACnet Vendor IDs, and BACnet International has over 80 member/sponsor companies that are a “who’s who” of global controls manufacturers. BACnet International also has a rapidly growing individual member community with about 7,700 participants.

Sinclair: Do you see a new connection community emerging?

Wilson: I sure hope so. The more engaged the building community is, from engineers and architects to facility managers and owners, the faster standards and solutions will evolve to meet their needs.


EnOcean Alliance community

The EnOcean Alliance has matured to a leading player in the industry. Going forward, the objective of the Alliance is to promote its solutions to system integrators, property owners, and managers who are looking for cost-effective ways to control and monitor their buildings.

Sinclair: Recently, the EnOcean Alliance welcomed its 300th member. What are the reasons for this rapid growth in only four years since the Alliance was founded?

Graham Martin, EnOcean Alliance: There is a global increasing awareness and necessity of the need to save energy in buildings, which account for 40% of our total energy use. Wireless switch and sensor technology provides the ideal answer to retrofits of existing buildings and new builds alike. The fact that the EnOcean Alliance is the only wireless technology capable of batteryless operation and is therefore completely maintenance-free (combined with the large eco-system of over 1,000 interoperable products) has made us the number one choice for building automation and smart homes.

Sinclair: Barry, tell us about OpenADR 2.0 and the Connection Community.

Barry Haaser, managing director, OpenADR Alliance: The OpenADR community is relatively young. Founded two years ago, the group has grown to nearly 80 companies. It reflects a broad cross section of the ecosystem for automated demand response.

Sinclair: Remind us again, what is automated demand response?

Haaser: Automated demand response allows electricity providers and system operators to communicate demand response event and price information using the Internet. The OpenADR standard was created to help utilities implement new approaches to shifting electricity load by sending an automated message to the building requesting participation in a load event or indicating a change in the price of electricity. This will have a profound impact on building energy efficiency as the management system are now able to work with real-time data to establish their strategies.


Niagara Community events like the Niagara Summit and the Niagara Forum encourage participation of third-party companies using Niagara, and the attendance has grown year after year.

Sinclair: What is the Niagara Community and how did it get started?

B. Scott Muench, vice president, marketing and business development, J2 Innovations: Over a decade ago, Tridium set out to change the BAS industry from proprietary product lines to open, multi-vendor solutions. Along the way a magical thing happened: the core technology known as the Niagara Framework enabled more than new products, it gave birth to the Niagara Community. At first, SIs rallied around the technology and then the popularity spread to the OEMs. Four years later, when Niagara AX was launched, new complementary offerings were created by community organizations (not just Tridium). Community events like the Niagara Summit and the Niagara Forum encouraged participation of third-party companies using Niagara, and the attendance grew year after year.


LonMark International Empowering Intelligent Energy Solutions

Sinclair: Tell us about the LonMark Connection Community.

Barry Haaser, executive director, LonMark International: The LonMark community has been supporting the world of interoperable control systems for nearly 20 years. Founded in 1994, LonMark International is well known for enabling open, interoperable solutions based on LonWorks technology.


The S4 Group

The Connection Community is member directed, member moderated, very agile, and can frequently morph itself to meet the needs of its membership.

Sinclair: What do connection communities mean to The S4 Group?

Steve Jones, managing partner, The S4 Group, Inc.:  Let’s talk about traditional industry associations, trade groups, etc., first. These traditional communities differentiate themselves through technology, communication strategies, and the membership experience. These communities sustain themselves through membership dues and volunteer resources. The community administration sets the rules and standards for the industry to follow within the community. The very fact that the association makes the rules ensures that it becomes a closed community, so that it begins to look very proprietary even if its mission is to promote open and interoperable systems.

Sinclair: OK, but what makes connection communities different?

Jones: Connection communities can do everything that these traditional communities have been doing, but they go a very important step farther. They empower every member to be an active participant and to drive the direction of the Connection Community. In effect, the Connection Community is member directed, member moderated, very agile, and can frequently morph itself to meet the needs of its membership.

It has become clear that connection communities begat connection communities, and many new products and services are built based on these communities. These products and services only exist because of the communities that support them.

Our connection communities’ evolution is in its early days, but we must evolve rapidly and in an open manner, because the cloud-based online BYOD environment that we are now part of is evolving with or without us. ES