Mission: Control

June 7, 2004
Interoperability Takes a Giant Step Forward
Reflecting its new name as a truly global organization, the San Jose, CA-based LonMark International – formerly known as the LonMark Interoperability Association – is recognized worldwide as a leading developer and proponent of open systems for use in building, industrial, transportation, and residential/utility automation. LonMark membership is extended to any person, firm, or corporation engaged in the development, distribution, or marketing of open, multi-vendor control systems utilizing ANSI/EIA/CEA 709.1 and related standards.Buildings magazine recently spoke with Barry Haaser, LonMark executive director, about two industry “hot” buttons: open systems and XML.Buildings: In moving ahead with interoperability in the building industry, do you have specific recommendations for building owners and facilities managers?Haaser: If they are committed to open systems, these professionals should take a very close look at what type of open system they’re interested in adopting. There are a variety of open system flavors available in the marketplace; unfortunately, some are thinly veiled proprietary systems that are marketed as open systems. Others, however, are completely open. From a LonMark standpoint, we define an open system as containing the following attributes:All devices and controllers in a system must be open and, therefore, interchangeable or replaceable.One should be able to choose from a selection of tools (network installation, configuration, and maintenance).There should be an open selection of connectivity devices, like routers and gateways, in connecting from all networks into Ethernet or IP.There must be multiple integrators that can support the system. This eliminates long-term maintenance contracts, and ensures the flexibility to change integrators in the future.Finally, the management interface should be open, meaning it should also provide an open component to support Web services, such as open XML.These attributes are the key components of an open system. The benefits are that any element of a system can be updated or upgraded from multiple vendors, which ultimately lowers costs due to the multiple sources of supply.Buildings: And the potential of XML and Web services technology?Haaser: From our perspective, there is great potential. We’ve been very active in the initiative sponsored by the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA), called oBIX™ (Open Building Information Xchange). The idea behind oBIX is to define guidelines for how Web services can be used within a building to connect disparate systems together, but more importantly, to move data from something as simple as a sensor or device up through the enterprise into an application where it can be used in a meaningful way. There’s an overwhelming amount of data contained within buildings; unfortunately, very little of it is used in a way that really helps improve the overall efficiency of a building. We think oBIX can do that. What we’re not inventing is yet another protocol; rather, we’re trying to solve some inherent problems within buildings.Recently, governance of oBIX has been transferred to a technical committee at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), [a global, non-profit consortium that focuses on the development and adoption of e-business standards]. It was the universal belief of group participants that standards and guidelines for XML and Web services need to be created in IT-oriented standards – not building-specific. Building controls leaders in the marketplace all believe this is the right direction in which to move.Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

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