Building Integration through oBIX

Feb. 7, 2006
Read through this Q&A about oBIX, an industry-wide initiative

What is oBIX?
oBIX (Open Building Information Xchange) is an industry-wide initiative to define XML- and Web services-based mechanisms for building control systems. oBIX will instrument the control systems for the enterprise.

What are building control systems?
Building controls include all the smart systems embedded in buildings, systems that have traditionally been obscured by proprietary control standards and arcane details. Examples of building control systems include: heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC); elevators; laboratory equipment; life-safety systems; access control; intruder detection; AV event management; CCTV monitoring; and many others.

oBIX also extends to non-control system sensing, providing real-time access to sensors including environmental sensing, electrical panels, and power meters, as well as other utility meters - anything that measures or monitors the physical space in a facility.

Why is oBIX important?
When control systems are instrumented using an IT standard like Web services, the largest asset of the enterprise - its facilities - are enabled to be fully available to business management.

How does oBIX relate to control protocols such as LonMark® and BACnet®?
While many debate the strengths and weaknesses of LonMark and BACnet, it is clear that neither one was designed for the Internet. Both appeared on the scene in the early- to mid-1990s when the significance of the Internet to buildings was not as profound as it is today. oBIX is working with both groups to enable oBIX to be the vehicle that can take their systems to the TCP/IP layer in a consistent manner, a vehicle that can also be integrated with legacy/proprietary systems as well as future “native” TCP/IP control systems.

Is oBIX useful for systems integration?
Yes, [it’s useful] for integration of systems and the ability for systems to provide relevant data to enterprise systems that many corporations now have.

What is the relevance of buildings and HVAC to the enterprise?
Enterprise systems are making a huge impact on corporations and other types of non-profit organizations including business financial systems, CRM (customer relationship management), human resources, and supply chain management. Companies like SAP, Oracle, and IBM, as well as consulting groups such as EDS, are providing integration services to make organizations very efficient. Buildings and facilities are now a significant area for organizations to include in such enterprise systems; corporations now appreciate that the effectiveness of their facilities can make a huge difference to their bottom line.

There is currently no easy way for IT departments - whose responsibility it is to make all this happen - to integrate their systems with the systems that run, manage, and monitor their buildings and facilities. What’s important to note is that this has to be done on the IT department’s terms using their language, rules, standards, and tools; XML and Web services have been created specifically to solve this kind of problem. oBIX is an initiative to use these technologies for building systems.

What are some examples of how buildings and enterprises need to be connected?
Campus scheduling is a clear example. A system that can reserve a meeting room can automatically schedule the environmental, lighting, and security systems to adjust themselves on the basis of knowing when the room will be in use, and all of this information is tied into the corporate scheduling, telephone conferencing, AV resources, and so on.

Information for this column was excerpted from the OASIS Open Building Information Xchange (oBIX) Technical Committee website. More information is available at (

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