Sunday, November 29, 2009

Conserve energy -- consume more energy?

Following (somewhat) the twists and turns of the so-called "Climategate" fiasco this holiday weekend (being home ill, I had time), which has embroiled climate research facilities in the UK and New Zealand, I'd been trying to decide what this means for our business. After all, one important aspect of building automation systems is to reduce energy usage.

After having concluded it won't affect our business much, I was surprised to read this report on Slashdot. The concluding sentence of the item: "Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett's theory is that conserving energy doesn't reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use." Hm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Smart Grid Interoperability Panel - Governing Board

The runoff election in Category 18 is done and the SGIP Board is announced (which might not mean a lot to most folks, but there was considerable electioneering involved since this group is going to be shaping the future of power distribution in the U.S.):

Category 1 - Appliance and consumer electronics providers: Brian Markwalter,
Consumer Electronics Association

Category 2 - Commercial and Industrial equipment manufacturers and automation vendors: Tariq Samad, Honeywell

Category 3 - Consumers – Residential, Commercial, and Industrial: Todd Rytting,
Panasonic Electric Works Laboratory of America

Category 4 - Electric transportation industry Stakeholders: * open *

Category 5 - Electric utility companies – Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) and Publicly Owned Utilities: George Bjelovuk, American Electric Power

Category 6 - Electric utility companies—Municipal (MUNI): * open *

Category 7 - Electric utility companies—Rural Electric Association (REA): Bob Saint,
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

Category 8 - Electricity and financial market traders (includes aggregators): * open *

Category 9 - Independent power producers: Kenneth Van Meter, Lockheed Martin’s Energy Solutions

Category 10 - Information and communication technologies (ICT) Infrastructure and Service Providers: Matthew Theall, Intel Corporation

Category 11 - Information technology (IT) application developers and integrators: Vint Cerf, Google Inc.

Category 12 - Power equipment manufacturers and vendors: Le Tang, ABB Inc.

Category 13 - Professional societies, users groups, trade associations and industry consortia: Wayne Longcore, Consumers Energy

Category 14 - R&D organizations and academia: Mladen Kezunovic, Texas A&M University

Category 15 - Relevant Federal Government Agencies: Perry Pederson, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

Category 16 - Renewable Power Producers: John Nunneley, SunSpec Alliance

Category 17 - Retail Service Providers: Brent Hodges, Reliant Energy

Category 18 - Standards and specification development organizations (SDOs): John Caskey, National Electrical Manufacturers Assoc. (NEMA)

Category 19 - State and local regulators: Paul Centolella, Public Utility Commission of Ohio

Category 20 - Testing and Certification Vendors: Rik Drummond, Drummond Group Inc.

Category 21 - Transmission operators and Independent System Operators: Jamshid Afnan,
ISO New England Inc.

Category 22 - Venture Capital: * open *

Category 23 - At Large:

   Paul De Martini, Southern California Edison

   John McDonald, GE Energy

   Mark McGranaghan, Electric Power Research Institute

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A week of quiet

Things are pretty quiet, no doubt because folks are away for the (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday later this week. Even my e-mail is relatively quiet, with only one of the various newsletters I receive having come in this week; even the mailing lists, including BACNET-L, are silent.

I'm taking advantage of this to catch up --finished all my expense reports from late September on (9 reports total!)-- because things are going to get very busy on the Smart Grid front next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Grid Interop 2009 wrap-up

Grid Interop 2009 has to go into the record books as the most intensive conference in which I have ever participated, hence the silence since Tuesday. Full of presentations of work done so far, directions forward, and just general discussions of the 15 PAPs (Project Action Plans) that have already been underway but which are now under the aegis of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), formed to implement the Smart Grid per the American Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Yours truly will participate in the Architecture and Standards arena.

During the conference we heard from the candidates for the SGIP Governing Board, 3 "at-large" positions plus one each for the 22 stakeholders -- interest categories such as "appliance and consumer electronics providers" (category 1), "commercial and industrial equipment and automation vendors" (category 2), and "standard and specification development organizations (SDOs)" (category 18. As I was in attendance as ASHRAE's representative and voting member, I cast my vote in category 18 -- but Cat 18 had a tie and so there is a runoff vote underway until Monday.

Congratulations to Dr. Tariq Samad for his election to the Cat 2 slot on the Governing Board.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1st BACnet Middle East Journal published

As the second day of Grid Interop 2009 was getting underway, an e-mail came in announcing the publication of the first issue of the BACnet Middle East Journal. Congratulations to Mr. Sabry An-Naggar, who has been a driving force for BACnet in the Middle East.

Take a look.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Smart Grid Interoperability Panel formed of 3:30 PM MST. It took a LOT of last-minute work, because the bylaws presented on Thursday had a number of flaws, especially regarding the voting for Governing Board members. I was ready to address them during the Q&A session before the vote, but it appeared they had been raised Thursday and Friday, and a new corrected version was posted Saturday. Downloading a copy during the session (after my first question was asked and answered) I saw they had been resolved.

The count was something like 231 organizations represented in today's meeting! It's going to take a lot of work to coordinatge all this, even though we're all working in narrow fields of our own interests (commercial building automation systems have no direct concern regard electrical transmission lines, for example).

The real fun begins tomorrow.

11/17 Update: Over 440 attendees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grid-Interop 2009

Got home late Friday night from the BACnet committee meetings in warm Atlanta, was off to the airport Sunday morning to fly to Denver for Grid-Interop 2009 and the kickoff of the (NIST) Smart Grid Interoperability Panel. Quite a bit chillier here; it's definitely not shirt-sleeve weather.

Looks like an interesting week ahead. One fellow apparently related to the Dept. of Energy was seated nearby on the plane, and the other passenger on the shuttle from the airport was also from Redmond -- a Microsoftie. A subsequent elevator chat with someone else hints that the commercial building controls sector might be under-represented here. I will do what I can.

Friday, November 13, 2009

This one's for Japan

Several years ago the BACnet committee received a request for a new capability from the Institute of Electrical Installation Engineers of Japan (IEIEJ), via the ISO/TC205/WG3 committee. As presented by Mr. Toyoda and Mr. Honda ("a driving force for BACnet" is how they introduced themselves in ISO/TC205/WG3 a long time ago), the overall capability was labeled ExternalModeNotification and was comprised a number of elements, many of which have already been added to the standard (the TrendLogMultiple object is one such case).

The last major piece was discussed by the final session of the Objects & Services Working Group this morning, taking up most of the allocated time. But it was worth it to get it much nearer to publication and the OS-WG voted it up for disposition.

Hopefully it won't be long before we can report to the IEIEJ that this request has been filled.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"MS/TP wiring" addendum to go to publication

While reviewing the status of addenda in publication this autumn, it was announced that Addendum 135-2008y, "Specify Deployment Options for MS/TP," passed public review with only one comment and that one was editorial. Under ASHRAE rules this means that this addendum will go straight to publication.

This addendum is important in its comprehensive approach to wiring MS/TP networks, covering two-wire, two-wire plus ground or shield, and two-wire plus ground and shield wiring. I know some manufacturers of VFDs, which generate a lot of electrical noise, will be pleased with this outcome. Anyone who deploys MS/TP LANs should read this addendum.

When ASHRAE published this addendum (in a few weeks), it will appear here. A draft version was posted on the BACnet website.


The building in which we are meeting has a number of research labs, some with well-known sponsors. Given the concerns over cellphone use, the name of this lab is a little disoncerting.

Up today: the plenary session of ASHRAE/SSPC 135 (aka the BACnet committee), in which we review and approve, reject or send back materials from the various working groups that have been meeting this week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slow going

The committee process is often very slow, and today is an example. The Objects & Services Working Group (OS-WG), under Bernhard Isler's leadership, has been working hard to streamline and accelerate its processing of public review comments for addenda in its purview. This is necessary due to the number of addenda that have been in public review and the number of comments that were submitted.

One helpful measure is to hand members the task of reviewing comments ahead of time and to draft responses for the group to review. Yet for all this, it looks like it will take most of the day to get through due to the debates triggered by the comments. (We will still have Friday for change proposals.)

The addenda before the OS-WG are:

   Addendum 135-2008p: Global Group object (per request from Japan)

   Addendum 135-2008u: error codes

   Addendum 135-2008w: new primitive value objects

   Addendum 135-2008x: mostly clarifications

   Addendum 135-2008z: miscellaneous changes

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IT-WG kickoff

The IT Working Group (as Jim Butler admits, it's "IT" only because we couldn't think of something better, and more dealing with IT folks is in our future) had its kickoff meeting this afternoon. While the other BACnet working groups tend to be pretty much focused on needs here & now, the IT-WG will be taking a longer-term view.

(Hmmm... I don't suppose "B2F-WG", or "BAC[net] to the Future" would be acceptable to the committee that long ago rejected "BACtalk" as being too cheeky, leaving that as a brand name to be picked up by a certain vendor.)

In any event, we had an interesting 2-hour brainstorming session, complete with voting to rank the various projected future issues, very similar to what we we did almost two weeks ago in NIST's "Measurement Science for Net-Zero-Energy Buildings" workshop. Jim will produce a working document from the compiled results and circulate for the next meeting at Winter ASHRAE. It will be an interesting read, I am sure.

Willkommen, Hans!

Looking at the growing list of Followers I was surprised to see that an old friend, Dr. Hans Kranz, had joined. Known in Russia (at least) as "The Godfather of BACnet," Hans was for years a colleague on and German member of ISO/TC205/WG3 ("Building Control System Design"), and instrumental in making BACnet an ISO standard.

As noted here, Hans is the published author of: BACnet Gebäude-Automation 1.4.

His website, under construction, is here.

Update 11/20: Well, well. Hans' work is recognized elsewhere!

Smart Grid WG and Electric Meter

The day's meetings in this conference room (Lighting has the other all day) kicked off with a two-hour meeting of the Smart Grid Working Group. David Holmberg led off with a review of where Smart Grid activities are today, then the working group reviewed Jim Butler's proposal "AC Electric Meter Device Interfaces" (JB-028-4). The direction for this proposal has not been established, whether it will result in a BACnet object or some generalized interface, though Jim is open for input on this.

He raised a question about the datatype to represent energy values; it was believed that Unsigned32 might be disfavored. But a poll of the working group failed to lead to a definitive direction -- most present ultimately voted "not qualified to respond."

It seems we have to look elsewhere for some answers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

MS/TP Working Group discussions

The MS/TP working group considered several issues, including:

1. Auto-addressing MS/TP devices. Craig Gemmill noted that this had been discussed last year, that there is a wish for this kind of capability, but that expectations varied. It was also noted that various protocols have solved this in various ways, and some of the methods were discussed. There are people not active with the BACnet committee working on this, and there may be a proposal for review during the Orlando meeting in January.

2. A proposal from Jim Butler, JB-030, "Minor Corrections to the MS/TP Master USE_TOKEN State Description," with changes to Clause that he believed were editorial in nature. The group agreed and voted the proposal up for review by the entire committee.

BACnet meetings begin

The week-long meeting of the BACnet Committee and its working groups is now underway, per the schedule posted above. The TI-WG has already revised a couple of addenda (revised and new tests) to the BACnet testing standard and sent them up for the entire committee to review and approve for public review this coming spring.

A hearty welcome to Chirag Nanavati from Softdel in Pune, India, who operates the BACnet Testing Lab. I, at least, look forward to hearing more about their testing operations and improvements they see that can be made to the BTL processes.

Update: The key to the working groups in the chart is as follows:

AP - Application Profiles (VFD, VAV, etc.)

IP - Internet Protocol (BACnet over the Internet)

MSTP - BACnet's Master-Slave Token Passing LAN and serial communications

LA - Lighting Applications

NS - Network Security (encryption and authentication)

OS - Objects & Services ("under the hood" stuff in BACnet)

SG - Smart Grid (formerly energy Utilities Integration)

TI - Testing & Interoperation (testing BACnet devices for conformance and interoperability)

WN - Wireless Networking

XML - Extended Markup Language applications in BACnet

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Burying the Alarm Forwarder

A pair of proposals from earlier discussions came up in the afternoon. Cliff Copass' "Alarm Forwarder Object" proposal (CHC-005) holds a lot of promise for supporting small embedded devices able to send alarms, but without the storage for a "large" (whatever that is) list of alarm recipients.

The basic idea is to have an object that can receive a singular alarm from a small device and forward to many, as shown.

This was complemented by Carl Neilson's "Simple Alarm Distribution" proposal (CN-118), which adds the required properties to the Devicew object of these small devices. In a small irony, the Recipient property comes back to life (removed many years ago from the Event Enrollment object by a Carl Neilson proposal titled "Kill the Recipient").

Unfortunately the possibility of an "alarm loop" soon presented itself, either if the Alarm Forwarder object was in in its own list of recipients, or if one Alarm Forwarder forwarded to another, when then forwarded the alarm back to the first. This kicked off a lot of, um, discussion which ran out the time for considering this effort. We'll be seeing it again, reevised.

The big question was: when? 3 days meeting once a year is too little -- it could take years to churcn through this stuff. So we'll be kicking off yet another series of weekly international (Europe & North American) BACnet teleconferences, and trying to tack on 3 days to the week-long spring BACnet meetings.

Grueling times... I remember when a BACnet meeting occupied one (1) whole day.

Alarm Summit II day 3 -- state machines

Yesterday the group wrapped up our review (for this meeting) of the long list of issues from René Kälin's document and this morning started in on other proposals.

One big issue of this meeting centers on the alarm system's detection/notification algorithm state machines, their graphic presentation (which elements are included and which are not) and the inclusion/exclusion of the FAULT state with the state machines. Long and difficult discussions, but they hold the promise of developing an explicitly clear integration of the disparate elements of the flexible BACnet alarm system. Multiple proposal documents will be harmonized per these discussions for subsequent review.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Alarm Summit II day 2

We're into day 2 of the second BACnet Alarm Summit. The Alarm Summits are 3-day meetings of BACnet experts meeting to define, revise and enhance the BACnet alarm system, based on our experience of BACnet alarming from our own systems (those of us representing manufacturers) and of others' devices and systems. We have found some elements were not sufficiently clearly defined in the BACnet standard (such as normal/offnormal - fault transitions), and we would like new capabilities not anticipated by the original standard.

Yesterday we went through an exhaustive document titled "General Alarming Concepts" (RK-004-1) produced by René Kälin, discussing the issues, making initial determinations and deciding the items to be on today's agenda. Already two items are resolved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Plug vs Plug

Anyone who's traveled much overseas will be rather amused by this piece. Euro adapters now live permanently in my travel kit; it looks like the UK adapter might join them for this spring's European BACnet plugfest.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I am out of the office for some Honeywell training, but when I check my e-mail it's clear a meeting of the BACnet committee is about to begin.

A week or two before a meeting there's a flurry of new or revised change proposals being submitted for discussion (hopefully, if there is time for them and there never is for all). Then the working group agendas appear. Finally there is the announcement by the committee chair that material is posted on the BACnet FTP server, usually with a submission deadline (after the deadline, the material is included in a "Meeting Updates" folder).

The last event occurred today. There's a special three-day "summit" of self-selected BACnet experts starting Friday, in advance of the regular meeting of the entire committee Monday through Friday.

Unfortunately, due to the training I will not be flying out to Atlanta tomorrow morning. I had to take a red-eye instead; it will not be a good thing to start the meeting tired.