06/13/2002

Interoperability

The Future Is Here Using Gateways

 

Bridging the Communications Gap

One such gateway that is widely used in the building automation industry is the FieldServer Bridge from FieldServer Technologies. The basic idea of the FieldServer is that it is a bridge between two or more different devices. These two devices can be using the same protocol or different protocols, or even different communication busses. As the data is fetched from a Server node by the FieldServer, it is stored in a Data Array at a specified location. The data is then accessible by a Client node at any time. The FieldServer acts as a Client and a Server simultaneously.

 

The use of the FieldServer Bridge means that all information available through a device communications port is now accessible by the building automation system. The FieldServer Bridge can also simultaneously accept data from other devices.

By Stephen R. Ferree

 

Building automation systems have evolved over the past 25 years from the mixture of pneumatic controls, relays, sensors, and actuators of the past to the direct digital controls of the present. Many manufacturers had developed their own protocol to enable their devices to communicate with each other. Even unique systems within a building, such as boiler controls, chillers, variable speed drives, fire panels, and security systems, developed their own protocols until the typical building became a tower of babble. In many buildings interoperability means that the front-end controls for the various systems in the building all terminate in the same room.

While protocols such as LonWorks® and BACnet™ have come a long way toward the goal of interoperability, many of the devices and systems desired by today’s building operators and integrators do not utilize these open system protocols to interface to building automation systems.

The various control systems in a plant or building can no longer afford to operate independently. Reduced manpower, increased energy costs, increased security needs, and enhanced personnel demands mean that building systems must work together to provide the optimum environment for the people and equipment within the structure.

There are many reasons for interoperability of building control systems, including:

  • Reduced installation costs.
  • Enhanced energy management.
  • Improvement of safety and security of plant, personnel, and equipment.
  • Plant-wide access to building operation information.
  • Use of existing Ethernet backbone for building operation.
  • Single-seat user interface.

 

How does the integrator get these various devices to be interoperable? It would be nice if all devices used a common communication protocol, but reality is that with the large number of legacy devices worldwide, plus the many different protocols available today, a single common protocol is not usually a choice. Also, for most devices, there is usually only one protocol output available. Thus, even if the integrator does select BACnet as the primary protocol, there will be many individual devices that will use a proprietary protocol – LonWorks, Metasys, Modbus, or something else. The only practical way to bring information from these other devices is via a protocol gateway.

 

A gateway system can seamlessly integrate systems together. For instance, when interfacing a fire panel using a proprietary protocol to a control system using Modbus TCP, the gateway should appear like a fire panel node to any device on the fire network and appear as a Modbus node to any Modbus system. A gateway can link a serial device to other serial systems or to Ethernet.

 

Interoperability is no longer a dream of the future; it is here today. While it is not simply plug and play, it will meet an integrator’s need to share data between devices and enjoy unified control. Using gateways enables the integrator to bring in legacy devices and enable interoperability between diverse systems.

 

Stephen R. Ferree (sferr@fieldserver.com) is vice president of marketing at FieldServer Technologies (www.fieldserver.com), Milpitas, CA.

 

 

 

 

 


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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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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.

 


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.

 

Replace core drilling with Connectrac In-Carpet and On-Floor Wireways, the proven connectivity solution in open interior spaces of all kinds. These elegant low-profile wireways are great for AV / telecom connectivity wherever it’s needed.

 

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


 
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