Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meetings' end

Yesterday (Tuesday) I attended the meeting of the "U.S. Technical Advisory Group" to ISO Technical Committee 205 (aka ISO/TC 205/US TAG). As usual it had fewer technical issues than procedural and other -- including where the U.S. delegation will host the annual meeting of ISO/TC 205 in 2011. Will it be Tempe? Boston? Bar Harbor? Chicago? Scottsdale? Some other place? Exotic and easy-to-get-to just don't seem to fit together. We'll decide later; it will be hard to top our last U.S. meeting in Key West.

Today (Wednesday) it was all Smart Grid stuff -- a regular Building-to-Grid (B2G) teleconference this morning followed by a 4-hout B2G Summit event this afternoon. Would have been better if I'd not been "Sleepless in Orlando" last night, but I made it through to the end and am now almost ready to get some sleep (I hope) and set off homewards at 5 AM, local time.

With a few BACnet work items needing my attention.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Final session

The BACnet committee wrapped up its business today with approval of various addenda for public review this spring (tentatively March 28th to May 10th). These are as follows:

Addenda to Standard 135-2008 (BACnet):

Addendum i, 4th public review: lighting extensions (Lighting Output object, breaker-stripped status in AO & BO objects)

Addendum z, 2nd public review: misc. changes (MS/TP state machine changes, Clause 5 Transaction State Machine changes)

Addendum ab, 1st public review: new MS/TP baud rates 57.6k & 115k and change supported rate requirements

Addendum ac, 1st public review: defining specified and unspecified dates and times

Addendum to Standard 135.1-2007 (Testing BACnet):

Addendum h, 1st public review: changes to several tests

The Official Provisioner of the BACnet Committee[TM]

What would we do without Steve Karg, LA-WG convener, open-source BACnet developer (with his own Vendor ID, #260), Internet access-point provider and provisioner of pretzels, crackers, cookies, candy and now coffee and doughnuts for BACnet committee meetings...?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

B.I./BIG-EU Liaison

The Liaison Committee, between BACnet International (B.I.) and the BAC Interest Group - Europe (BIG-EU) had our annual face-to-face meeting today during the ASHRAE winter conference. B.I. reported that the BTL Lab is now ISO accredited -- a big step, fully 10 years after the BACnet Testing Labs Working Group was formed to develop conformance and interoperability testing for BACnet devices! As noted, this now puts the two testing labs on an equal footing, thereby introducing competition between the labs but also necessary cooperation through round-robin testing. (There was mention of a possible third lab, but it's too early to say more.) Then we posed outside for a photo.

Afterwards Andy McMillan and Frank Schubert signed a letter of cooperation.

With the letter signed, sealed and delivered, Frank then showed Andy some of the internals of the BACnet Test Framework (BTF) testing tool.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Addenda going to publication

Shortly before we reached the "Addenda Status Reports" item in the agenda, the committee chairman received a report that the 8 addenda recommended earlier for publication had just been approved by ASHRAE. These are:

Addendum h: A set of miscellaneous changes.

Addendum k: UTF-8 support. (This is one outcome of a very old debate.)

Addendum n: Support devices with slow (BACnet) Backup&Restore sequences.

Addendum t: XML data formats.

Addendum u: New Error, Abort and Reject codes.

Addendum w: Simple Value Objects (such as Character String Objects, Date objects, etc., hard work by David Fisher).

Addendum x: Clarifications to the Standard.

Addendum y: MS/TP LAN deployment options (great work by Cliff Copass).

These will appear on the ASHRAE site sometime in the near future.

Elevator Working Group (EL-WG) formed

The BACnet Elevator Working Group (EL-WG) was officially formed a few minutes ago during the plenary session of the BACnet Committee, ASHRAE/SSPC 135, to develop extensions to BACnet to integrate elevators in building automation systems.

There were at least three purposes seen for this integration: to convey elevator alarms over the BACnet building (or metropolitan) networks, to permit operators to monitor elevator operation as needed, and to acquire energy usage from the elevator for (U.S.) Smart Grid purposes.

The EL-WG will meet for a half-hour to an hour during the quarterly face-to-face meetings of the BACnet committee but it is expected that the members present are likely to be BACnet and not elevator experts, so the focus will likely be on the BACnet structure and BACnet services (information conveyance) portions of the proposal.

Plenary session

The plenary session of the BACnet committee opened this morning, with the usual wireless network/file-sharing setup explanations (finally, after years of trying, it all just works), explanation of our voting procedures, introductions, traditional Saturday evening group dinner plans, approval of minutes, and liaison reports. The list of liaison reports changes with the membership -- with the retirement of René Quirighetti we no longer will have reports from the European standards group CEN/TC247, for example. On the other hand, with the establishment of the Smart Grid groups we will now have reports from the likes of the Energy Information Standards (EIS) Alliance's Commercial Buildings group -- headed up by none other than former BACneteer John Ruiz.

Following that, Noriaka Fijiwara presented a short form of the work of the Green University of Tokyo Project and the development of the Facility Information Access Protocol to the entire session.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Working Group meetings underway

Two days of BACnet working group meetings are now done. The Lighting Applications group met for a full day, considering alternative approaches to some issues before them. Concurrently the BTL working group plowed through a lot of material before it.

The next day the Objects & Services went through a fair amount of material related to the "Alarming Summit," extending BACnet's alarm capabilities. Life-Safety and Security met for a half day, Testing & Interoperation for almost a couple of hours (starting late but ending on time -- members were too exhausted mentally by 5 PM; it IS hard work).

The XML working group received a team from the Green University of Tokyo Project (GUTP). Noriaka Fujiwara (who I'd met at the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel kickoff meeting last November) gave a presentation on the "Facility Information Access Protocol" (FIAP) they have been developing. This protocol is presented as a complement to BACnet, oriented towards database accesses -- and there was much interest from and discussion by the XML-WG.

BTL Lab is now ISO Accredited

At the end of the BTL-WG meeting Thursday the new BTL Lab Manager, Duffy O'Craven, announced that Wednesday at noon he was advised that BACnet International's BACnet Testing Lab (in Mumbai, India) had acquired ISO Accreditation.

This means that from this point on devices that pass BTL testing can be certified. That's the good news – I am also advised that the (one?) certification body, WSPCert in Stuttgart, Germany, has some kind of online application process, but it is all in German, which may be difficult for North American companies. I am sure BACnet International and BIG-EU will soon be discussing how to resolve this.

BACnet Restaurant

The ASHRAE conference headquarters hotel for the Orlando meeting just starting, the Rosen Shingle Creek, is rather isolated and a $20-30 cab ride (round trip) to "restaurant row." With very few of the BACnet committee having arrived, and most of them in other hotels because this one sold out so quickly, I decided to walk over to the adjoining steak house.

Waiting for dinner to arrive I looked around a bit and to my surprise I saw an Alerton Microset on the wall. (Wherever I go I'm usually curious to see whose controls are installed, but it's not always so obvious.) Inquiring about the history of the restaurant, I determined that "A Land Remembered" had to be a BACnet restaurant.

Oh, and the food was good too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Preparing for BACnet committee meetings

The word went out today that the online folders have agendas and documents for the upcoming BACnet meetings. It will be a busy time ahead, with the BACnet Testing Lab working group meeting Thursday, the BACnet committee and its working groups Thursday through Monday, and various other of my committees through Wednesday. At least this year our winter meeting is in Orlando, not Chicago!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Smart Grid takes over -- for now

Very little of my time has been allocated to BACnet lately, except for teleconferences from which there is little to report; the Smart Grid has taken over.

I've become a Honeywell representative on NIST's Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) and on its Smart Grid Architecture Committee (SGAC), working with its building-to-grid (B2G) working group (or more accurately just watching right now), and two "Priority Action Plan" (PAP) working groups: PAP09, "Standard DR Signals," and PAP10, "Standard Energy Usage Information."

If that weren't enough, I'm on the Commercial Buildings group of the Energy Information Standards Alliance (EIS Alliance, or just "The Alliance"), which is also involved with the SGIP. And that has just taken up the better part of two days as I tackled the task of producing a couple of background documents for a larger set that will start defining the "buildings sector" of the Smart Grid.

(All of which sounds big & important, but it's not. It was mostly "turning the crank" on material from last week's Alliance kick-off meeting, though the crank would have been much easier to turn had I been there instead of trying to understand the meeting through their speakerphone.)

But my winter "week of BACnet meetings" starts a week from today. And last night I booked my flights for the BACnet Interest Group - Europe (BIG-EU) meeting in Paris in just over three weeks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Basic BACnet: Object Types 1 - I/O objects

With all the Smart Grid activities I've been assigned to these days, it's a little hard to keep up with the BACnet world and keep this blog moving. Last Thursday, for example, I had a Smart Grid teleconference that overrode the BACnet Testing Labs call. (I remarked on the possibility of overload to a coworker last week and his less-than-sympathetic response was "It's all committees and you thrive on that!" Thanks, Larry.)

Anyway, the next item on the Basic BACnet agenda is to describe the various BACnet object types, which is not always easy without going into details, But the details are beyond the scope of "Basic BACnet" so I'll give it a try.

The first problem is categorization. The BACnet standard does not do this, so I have had to invent my own. And I've done it like this:

ANALOG Objects:

There are three objects in this category: Analog Input, Analog Output and Analog Value. We looked at the Analog Input in the previous post in this series; it represents a physical input, typically a sensor -- and don't forget that it provides not only the sensor value but additional information including Units.

The Analog Output is the counterpart, it controls some kind of linear output control (or "semi-linear" -- perhaps a value can only be set from 0% to 100% in 0.5% increments).

The third object in the ANALOG set is the Analog Value object. This is a rather peculiar object: although it seems intended to represent storage or control values (you would likely set a thermostat's temperature setpoint in one of these, for example) it can also be used to represent a sensor input or control output. There is not much reason to use an Analog Value for a sensor input, but there may be reason to use one for a control output: it does not require the implementation of a "Priority Array", unlike the Analog Output object -- but the Priority Array is a topic for a future technical post. Let's just note that it requires additional memory to implement.

BINARY Objects:

There are, um, analogs to the Analog object but restricted to binary values (think on/off). There are the Binary Input (is the switch on or off?), the Binary Output (order the relay to be open/closed) and the Binary Value object (again, an input, lightweight output or for storage).


The final set of I/O objects, the Multi-state Objects is a little more difficult to explain. The easiest is the Multi-state Output, which may be best modeled by the common fan-speed switch: Off, Low and High (or Off, Low, Medium and High). It has a limited and predetermined number of "states," of which it is always in one of the set. The Multi-state Input operates similarly; whatever the source of the input it is placed into one of a predetermined set of a categories. And finally, the Multi-state Value is similar to its Analog and Binary equivalents -- either input, lightweight output, or storage.

I should note that it is possible to have BACnet-readable text strings that describe each of the states in Multi-state objects.

Next up: System objects

Thursday, January 7, 2010

BACnet's for elevators too

Well, maybe not internally because of the life-safety issues that lead elevator manufacturers to use proprietary protocols that are (I am told) kept quite secret. Nevertheless, there is a wish to integrate them with the building automation system, mostly to pass information out much to the BAS. To that end I started working a while back with Dr. Albert So, an expert in the elevator industry.

This work was initiated by the City of Hong Kong, which uses BACnet in its buildings and wants to monitor their many thousands of elevators (the definition of which incorporates lifts and escalators). A concept demonstration project set up by Dr. So, and the Hong Kong University, using Schindler and Fujitec lifts, was succesful.

So I took Dr. So's proposal and massaged it into BACnet form, learning a lot I never knew about elevators along the way. Creating the necessary objects (Building, Room, Elevator Group, Lift and Escalator) was relatively straightforward but the volume and possible rapidly-changing collection of data that could be required, plus the critical importance of accurate time on certain data, required new concepts and services that could be useful elsewhere in building automation systems.

The resulting proposal has been reviewed in the Objects & Services working group and discussion on the presentation of the objects is ongoing. But we also realized that we need to have this material reviewed by the elevator manufacturers themselves, so Dr. So proposed a summit where the two of us could present the work so far to interested companies.

We held that summit two days ago, and the interest level seems quite high, with folks coming from Japan and Europe to attend. (One couldn't make his connection from Frankfurt due to snow and sent his apologies.) In fact, during the presentation and after the meeting several changes to the elevator-specific objects were suggested.

The materials from the meeting have been distributed to the members and will be forwarded to other elevator companies not present.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New BTL Lab manager announced

Catching up on my e-mail this morning I learned that the new BTL lab manager has been announced: Duffy O'Craven!

Duffy has been a participant on the BACnet committee over many years.