Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Increased capacity

Just announced that the demand for BACnet testing in Europe has been growing, and to meet that demand a new tester has just been hired by WSPLab to expand their BACnet capability. This is the first I have heard of a BACnet testing lab having to grow beyond its initial capacity, though it's been clear for a while that both labs have been close to that point.

Automatically testing workstations

Under the topic of testing workstations, going on right now, it was noted that the new BTL workstation tests are predominantly manual, and thus slow and not inexpensive.

Klaus W. put forward an intriguing idea of defining some kind of standardized interface that would allow a machine (future version of BACnet Test Framework, BTF?) to have an operator-like interface into the workstation so that one does not need to have the tester operate mouse and keyboard, and read the displays, to perform the tests. His concept is similar to the automobile testing interface.

European PlugFest in 2010?

In this morning's Executive/Advisory Board meeting (still underway) there was clarification of an item mentioned yesterday -- the possibility of an EU Interoperability Workshop (aka plugfest) in 2010 springtime. Apparently a potential host has been identified and discussions on arrangements are underway with an official announcement to follow if everything works out.

This came as a surprise to me because BIG-EU had earlier decided that having a European plugfest every other year would be sufficient. But if an annual plugfest will have sufficient draw, I am all in favor of it. In the world of BACnet development, two years is a LONG time.

And BIG-EU will continue to hold our plugfest in the spring, opposite BACnet International's autumn plugfest, for maximum participation. At the very least, I'd encourage all manufacturers planning to sell in Europe to attend the plugfest.

Monday, September 28, 2009


A few days ago I was called into a videotaping session, part of the preparations for Alerton's upcoming annual sales meeting. It seemed simple enough, just answer the questions "Why is BACnet great?" and "What does 'Native BACnet' mean?" And yet, the first time went really poorly (in my opinion, though a big feature of the retaping was a completely different lighting setup). The videographer was so happy with the first run he almost didn't record any subsequent "just in case" repeats. He said these would likely be posted on the Alerton website soon.

All of which brought back earlier BACnet-related tapings. I don't have one of an audience with the vice-mayor of Shenzhen, China -- though that was organized so differently from what my hosts expected I may be glad I don't have a copy. We thought I was going to make a presentation, but instead it seemed we made short speeaches to each other via translators, television cameras rolling. And it was aired on Chinese television that evening.

Another occurred a couple of years ago for a conference in the SF Bay Area. This was arranged in advance and done on a quick one-day trip to San Francisco. It was subsequently posted on YouTube. I had to e-mail the filmmaker, Aron Ranen (who is really good at this stuff), for the URL. Hr replied:

...I have cc'd Bob & Kyle Brown.

Part one


Part two


You are on part two...at around five minutes

Live from the BIG-EU WG-T meeting

Hotel meeting rooms pretty much all look alike, wherever you are. (In this case the Hotel Hannong, Strasbourg, France.) And the same is generally true for BIG-EU's Working Group - Technique (Technical) meetings. The interest is obviously not in the setting, as shown here, but instead in the material being discussed, whether it's whether BIG-EU should be approving national requirements, discussions of listing and certification issues and harmonizing BACnet lab operations, or BACnet addenda in public review and the take of committee on material therein. Somehow one day, 9 AM - 4 PM is not enough time.

Next up on the agenda: BIG-EU annual general membership meeting.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Where in the world is BACnet Bill?"

...is a topic suggested by a blog reader here at Alerton. It's not my imagination that I'm traveling more -- my frequent flyer mileage accumulations show it too. So right now I am in Paris, in transit to Strasbourg for the annual meeting of BIG-EU, having been up for 22 hours already and it's at least 4 more before I will reach the hotel.

9/27 Update: Finally got there, of course. A bit of a scenic view from the train station at the airport in Strasbourg, out in the middle of large fields with just a hint of a nearby town. (Blogger is not displaying it correctly. Hm.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(Almost live) from Facility Decisions Conference

The first day of the Facility Decisions conference, co-sponsored by BACnet International, here in Las Vegas has ended. It looks well organized, especially running 8 different tracks concurrently and keeping all on time! Several people remarked this morning that the attendance was pretty good, and that there were some from all across the country.

One interesting thing I had not seen before were the number of side or extra "events' -- the B.I. awards ceremony (congratulations, "Ray" Kolasa!), the ice-cream social, the various drawings and many more things going on around the periphery such as filming 2-1/2 sales spiels by the exhibitors.

I have photos to go with this posting (including ABB's Mike Olson giving his spiel, eventually without the reflective faceplate that showed me in the background!), but my SD card reader seems to have died. Maybe later -- stay tuned.

9/26 Update: Photos at last! A very busy week and it wasn't until some down time in Paris Orly airport that I was able to get them posted. Including the following from the BACnet International booth, with President And McMillan, Marketing Chair Mike Wilson, and office director Natalie Nardone.

Monday, September 21, 2009

We are gonna have us a PLUGFEST!!!

I am in the process of compiling information for the "BACnet Activities in North America" slide for next week's BIG-EU Annual Meeting in Strasbourg. One item that I thought would be of interest is the size of the upcoming BACnet International plugfest. The numbers are not final yet, but it looks like there will be a record 45 teams in attendance, up from last year's record of 29!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

4th public review of ASHRAE Standard 189.1P

The 4th public review of BSR/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1P<, "Design of High-Performance Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings," commenced yesterday, closing November 2nd. At a quick glance it looks like there are a lot of changes; I hope it won't require too many changes to my "Greening to Standards" talk (what standards and guidelines say about how to save energy and money with your BAS -- and collectively they present just about every strategy I've encountered).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

BACnet in China

A few days ago I received an e-mail from an old colleague and friend, Mr. Dr. Xu Zhengyuan, who has just received his PhD from Hongkong Polytechnic University, his area of study being intelligent building integration.

I met him during my visit to Beijing in 2000, to speak about BACnet before the Ministry of Construction's "Committee of Intelligent Building Experts." Talk about stress -- arrive late evening in Beijing thoroughly jetlagged, meet with my translator until 1 AM or so, then on deck at 10 AM to speak before a hall filled with suits.

Later I attended an associated exposition where the Chinese translation of BACnet was unveiled, as seen in this photo (with my host, Mr. Eric Z.G. Liu). This is where I met Mr. Xu, and learned about the BACnet software development he had been doing. We've remained in contact over the years via the occasional e-mail.

Now, PhD in hand, he is interested in doing more with BACnet in China. The first thing that came to mind is the upcoming BACnet Forum Beijing, October 20th, which I passed on to him. (Sadly, a conflict will keep me from attending.)

But the prospects for the forum look good. It is being hosted by the "Intelligent Building Development Centre of Science and Technology Committee" of the former "Ministry of Construction" (now "Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the P.R.C"), and has the direct support of a number of BACnet manufacturers.

Wishing you success with BACnet, Dr. Xu!

A LEED White House?

Word is appearing on many of the LEED/green newsletters that there is going to be an effort to obtain LEED certification for the White House. It seems obvious this will be sought under LEED for Existing [Green] Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Elements include "computerized energy management systems, automatic light sensors that turn off in unoccupied rooms and low-flow water valves," as well as aspects of ongoing materials usage.

This would be a very interesting project to watch!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LEED voting rules change

The USGBC announced a change in its voting rules Tuesday, with the result that the open ballot on LEED for Retail will be restarted under the new rules.

Under the old rules the designated "primary contact" for an organization submitted the organization's one vote, presumably after discussion with interested members of that organization. Under the new rules all full-time employees of member organizations may vote on open LEED ballots, with the organization's vote distributed proportionally among the votes received from its employees.

One can guess at circumstances that might have driven such change, but I'm not certain the end result is necessarily better. I'm reminded of the studies that come out from time to time --usually, I think, preceding an American presidential election when the existence of the Electoral College is regularly questions-- that show that there is no one system of voting that is superior to all others in all situations.

Be that as it may, up for ballot now are: LEED 2009 for Retail: New Construction and LEED 2009 for Retail: Commercial Interiors. These can be seen at www.usgbc.org/leed/retail.

Vote early, vote often.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

B.I. PlugFest 2009 registration extended

I received notice this morning that the registration deadline for the B.I. PlugFest (10/13-15 in Atlanta) has been extended to Friday, Sept. 18. Alerton's world-renowned PlugFest Testing Team (Phil, Jeff and I) have already registered and booked our rooms and flights.

I don't know how many have registered but I wouldn't be too surprised if the numbers were down due to the economy. Still, it would be a pity if it were so. Atlanta is very easy to reach domestically (non-stop even from Seattle!) and internationally, the hotel is extremely close to the airport with a free shuttle, and the rooms are not expensive. (I stayed there one night last fall.)

Not a lot of restaurants close by as I recall, but with a MARTA pass downtown Atlanta is accessible with a half-hour or so train ride.

BACnet Fall Public Reviews are underway

The review started a couple of weeks earlier than I expected (my most recent calendar for these is 2-1/2 years old), but I was notified this morning that the autumn public review of proposed BACnet addenda is now underway.

For those readers unfamiliar with the process of changing or adding to the BACnet standard, the Publication Public Review (PPR) is possibly the last hurdle to clear before the proposed changes become part of the standard. One or more proposed changes, which have been discussed at length and individually approved by the BACnet committee, are incorporated into a "public review addendum" which the voting membership then recommends for PPR. ("Publication Public Review" is the process whereby, if the proposed addendum passes pubic review, it goes automatically to publication and becomes part of the standard.) During PPR the general public is invited to download, review and comment on the proposed addenda. It's a bit of a cumbersome process, but helps ensure that the work of committee is acceptable to the industry and public in general – a point of paramount interest to ASHRAE.

The BACnet addenda will be in 45-day public review, from Sept. 11 to Oct. 26. They can be downloaded from, and comments left at, http://osr.ashrae.org. You do not have to be an ASHRAE member to do this.

So, here's what's up for review this autumn:

Addendum 135.1-2007d: Two new tests (for the Testing Standard 135.1) to test aspects of Change-Of-Value (COV) notification capabilities.

Addendum 135-2008t: Third public review of XML formats for building data for use in: electronic PICS documents, XML EPICS, "as-built" descriptions of a deployed device, descriptions of proprietary objects, properties and datatypes, export formats for workstations and other tools, and web services exchanging complex or constructed data.

Addendum 135-2008u: Second public review of changes related to the use of RejectPDUS, and usage and specification of Abort and Error codes.

Addendum 135-2008w: Second public review of a proposal to add "primitive value" objects (similar to Analog, Binary and Multistate Value objects but representing other datatypes including ChaaracterString).

Addendum 135-2008x: First public review. Fix the criteria for Load Control object's COV notifications, and clarify: Trend Log timestamps, ReadRange use on lists, and the result of using ALL, REQUIRED and OPTIONAL property identifiers.

Addendum 135-2008y: First public review. MS/TP "deployment" wiring. This will hopefully be THE definitive answer on the proper ways to wire an MS/TP network.

Addendum 135-2008z: First public review. A collection of miscellaneous unrelated changes: add Event_Message_Texts property, add UnconfirmedEventNotification to Automate Trend Retrieval BIBBs, modify the MS/TP Receive Node State Machine, add (yet more) Engineering Units, and add duplicate segment detection to the Clause 5 state machines.

Remember, you have until October 26th to review and comment on these.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tests take time

In yesterday's BTL-WG teleconference I was reminded that the working group had provided some input on some proposed tests I'd revised last summer and that I was due to provide some revisions. Digging in, I found I had revised those tests and submitted them July 2nd, just before I left for a series of trips and vacation that had me away for the month. While I was away the working group reviewed them and submitted comments and revision suggestions -- which got lost in my e-mail and apparently automatically deleted when a month old, before I got to it.

Starting in on the first test, I was advised that the test that should have worked on was a proposed BTL-WG replacement for a Standard 135.1 test. Not sure how I'd missed that -- perhaps I was away when it was originally discussed, or perhaps haste to complete before I disappeared for a month. Regardless, looking up the proposed replacement changed everything.

My revision to the original 135.1 test seemed reasonable, small and in scope. I don't know the provenance of the proposed substitute, but it looks like someone tried to funnel in tests for all sorts of possible adaptive behaviors which, while possible, are outside the scope of the BACnet standard. (And probably unlikely, from my experience writing the software for the capability being tested.)

So I've stripped the test down to its core elements, and replicated it with the necessary modifications for a similar capability. Two simple, straightforward tests instead of one massive monster. We'll see what the working group thinks.

And while I've often been frustrated with the slow pace of standards committees, sometimes this is not a bad thing. It's not always enough just to review the tests; we've learned a lot by applying them to actual devices before casting them in concrete.

Which is why many of my change proposal carry the caveat:

"The subject matter of this proposal ( has X has not) been verified by implementation."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New addenda, new tests

One of the joys, if you can call it that, of being on both the BACnet committee and BACnet International's BACnet Testing Labs Working Group (B.I./BTL-WG) is that you'll never run out of work. No work for the BTL-WG? (Not that we've ever seen that since the group was formed almost 10 years ago...) Just write some new proposals for the BACnet committee and pretty soon there will be need for conformance tests for the subject matter of those proposals.

Previewing the agenda for tomorrow's BTL-WG teleconference I see we have reached that point -- not once, but twice!

Late last year the BACnet committee added BACnet over ZigBee wireless capability in Addendum 135q. There was a question about who should write the tests for this capability; the task was finally handed to the BACnet committee's Wireless Networking Working Group (WN-WG) because, after all, they were the experts. Reviewing the agenda it seems they have provided a set of test for the BTL-WG to review and, if approved, to be recommended to the entire BACnet committee for inclusion in the BACnet Testing Standard, ASHRAE 135.1. Not to mention to figure out how to actually implement the tests so that the BTL can perform them.

Roughly about the same time the committee added new means to deal with IP/NAT firewall in Addendum 135o. Interestingly, the author is not proposing new tests for the capability but instead he proposes modifications of existing tests. This will require some study to see if I agree.

Looks like a fun BACnet afternoon ahead.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Add Addendum g - Network Security

I just learned that Addendum 135-2008g, Network Security, has cleared its public review and is on its way to ASHRAE for publication.

Addendum g replaces the existing Clause 25 (Security), which was based on DES and is no longer secure. It includes state-of-the-art digital signatures (SHA-256/HMAC) and encryption (AES).

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Tale of Two Conferences, or what's new in BACnet

Late last week I received calls for help from two folks speaking at conferences in Asia and Europe, both of which start tomorrow. Neither speaker is (currently) active with the BACnet committee but they needed to know what's been added to BACnet lately, what's going on today, and what's coming down the pike. For a short summary of major new additions to BACnet:

Addendum 135-2008j Physical Access Control. This addendum, along with Addendum 135-2004f (Access Door object), adds extensions to support physical access control in BACnet.

Addendum 135-2008k Adding UTF-8, an international character set. The Web and XML have helped foster the use of UTF-8 as a single character set that supports all languages.

Addendum 135-2008l New BACnet Workstations. This addendum adds the Operator Display profile (B-OD) and the Advanced Workstation (B-AWS) to the existing Operator Workstation profile (B-OWS) in BACnet.

These addenda and other "minor" additions may be downloaded from ASHRAE.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Strasbourg is go

I finally booked the trip for the BIG-EU meeting in Strasbourg in a few weeks. The effort to get my wife there on my frequent-flyer miles finally fell through (a temporary result of the Delta/NW merger) this morning. So I went ahead to book.

The corporate travel site gave me flights and connections that were grim at best and improbable at times (35 minutes to make a connection? In O'Hare??). And then it wouldn't guarantee pricing if I did book. So I called our travel office and in short order had decent flights with good connection times, even if I have to change airports in Paris.

I sent the info to my German boss; he lives not far away.

But then I received e-mails from BACnet International; there will be a B.I./BIG-EU Liaison Committee teleconference at 6 AM (my time) Tuesday. Groan...

And also from BIG-EU: sometime between late Sunday night and early Monday morning (my time again) there will also be a BIG-EU Executive Board teleconference. There is a downside to being an American on the board of a European committee.

If only we'd gone camping...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

We'll burn that bridge when we come to it

Finally finished the first draft of my presentation "Greening to Standards: How to save energy and money with your BAS" [per various standards and guidelines] for the upcoming BACnet International/Facility Decisions conference three weeks hence. ALL the technical information of interest is there, divided between the slides and the Notes Pages -- the details that folks will likely want but which are too much for the talk itself are relegated to the latter.

The compilation of strategies and techniques, poring through standard after standard and guideline after guideline, was a surprisingly interesting exercise. I've seen a lot of ad-hoc discussions of "what you can do..." and made lists of them, but until now I wasn't aware that so many of them are already in published literature, if you only knew where to look. And even where they are effectively repeated, there are interesting differences in the details.

But because today was the deadline for submitting the post-conference distribution powerpoints I shipped what I have off to B.I. this afternoon just before heading home for the holiday weekend. I will still be revising the powerpoint itself over the next 2-1/2 weeks, working out the animation, other non-technical aspects and window-dressing, but the important technical content is in the can.

I do have a significant issue to deal with: at my usual speaking rate of about one slide per minute it's overlong, though I expect to be going through this powerpoint's slides faster than usual. But it gets worse: I have to trim this 50-minute talk to 25 minutes for a conference in China in October.

Right now I am not sure how I'm going to do that but to echo somebody's misquote, I just guess we'll burn that bridge when we come to it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"BACnet ... from the outside in"

The first thing I saw in my e-mail this morning was a note from ASHRAE highlighting this column from BACnet International President Andy McMillan, saying "nice BACnet feature." I went to read it... and found myself quoted there!

It must have been something I said in conversation. It's true enough, when I was appointed to become the company's BACnet expert I read the standard beginning to end several times and it did give me headaches for some time, until the various elements began to coalesce. And that is my lead-off in my "BACnet for Developers" course in which I note that that's the wrong order for grasping BACnet -- you are better off starting with Chapter 12.

I thought maybe the quote came from a "Getting Started" paper I wrote a couple of years ago in which maybe the humor missed the mark because it was never published, but no, it is not written that way.

Oh well. Andy's written a good column on the subject of "So, what can we do for [BACnet] outsiders?" I recommend it.