12/05/2001

Online Automation

Using standard Internet protocols in building automation

 

Emerging Internet Protocol

The idea of Extensible Markup Language (XML) is just what the building automation industry is looking for. But XML is not made for building automation. Every industry is looking for the same type of protocol. Here are the basic requirements for this protocol:

• It must use the existing Internet protocols to take advantage of all of the existing Internet technology.
• It must be used to communicate high-level data between computers and other embedded devices - not between computers and humans.
• It must be easy in which to set up, view, edit, and develop products.
• It must incorporate the description of generic data for flexible use.
• It must allow for dynamically accepting different and new data formats without committee approval or product updates.

By Mike Donlon

Throughout the building automation "protocol wars" of the last decade, a revolution was taking place in the networking and computing industries. The Internet and its associated protocols became the dominant driving force for technology in the 1990s.

Computers of all different types, with different operating systems from different manufacturers, came together in cyberspace under a unified set of protocols. That is the crowning achievement of the Internet. This type of technical cooperation is unprecedented in history.

Many building automation systems (BAS) do incorporate Internet protocols into different parts of the system. However, BACnet®, LonWorks®, and proprietary protocols still dominate the core infrastructure of the BAS networks. Internet protocols are usually tagged onto the product line as an option, and only in places where it is convenient for the manufacturer.

One reason that BAS equipment manufacturers have not adopted Internet protocols as the core networking standard is cost. Internet protocols, in general, are more sophisticated and require more computing power than is typically available on smaller, inexpensive BAS control products. Historically, networking protocols were the domain of mainframes and business computers, while embedded electronics used serial communications. But in the past year or two, the price of 32-bit controllers, networking chips, and software has allowed true TCP/IP networking to become a realistic and cost-effective solution at the controller level. It is now possible to have 32-bit Internet-capable processors inside of every single BAS controller in a building.

Another reason for the lack of Internet protocol support is that the well-established Internet protocols do not directly address all the needs of a building automation system. They provide great interconnectivity, addressing, and graphical display. They do not specifically dictate how to exchange BAS data (like temperatures or alarms) between BAS components. However, emerging standards address the general need for meaningful component-based interoperability.

TCP stands for the Transmission Control Protocol and IP stands for the Internet Protocol. TCP and IP are actually separate protocols that, when used in conjunction (TCP/IP), provide reliable point-to-point connections. TCP/IP handles all of the error detection, transmissions, addressing, and routing needed to seamlessly carry messages from network to network. But the Internet itself is not a necessary part of the TCP/IP protocol. Local area networks (LANs) can also employ the TCP/IP protocol for short local connections. In this example, TCP/IP is still used even though connections don't leave the local network. Two neighboring devices can "speak" TCP/IP on a single LAN. Global connectivity is just a bonus. In true multi-layered fashion, TCP/IP itself does not specify the format of the connection. This is left up to the application - as it should be. Building automation systems can use TCP/IP today as the underlying connection protocol for building automation. This TCP/IP infrastructure is an absolute must for buildings that want to lay the groundwork for the interoperable devices of the future.

HTTP protocol defines a way that graphical data is transmitted over TCP/IP for display to people using a web browser. It is a complete, well-defined, and widely accepted protocol. All building automation systems can and should offer this type of universally accepted protocol in their systems. It would be remiss in this day and age not to offer some sort of web connectivity to a building automation system.

Mike Donlon is director of Research and Development at New Orleans-based Computrols Inc. (www.computrols.com).

 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

 

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.


Tennant Company is a recognized leader in designing, manufacturing and marketing solutions that help create a cleaner, safer, healthier world. With thousands of satisfied customers already using award winning ec-H2O technology, why not see what you're missing? Test ec-H2O on your soils in your facility. Get a free demo.

 

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