Friday, May 28, 2010

On to BACnet and Landscaping

Returned home late last night from the ConnectivityWeek Smart Grid meetings, thanks to a delayed flight out of the old San Jose airport. (Which was a horror to wait around in --I remember it as a colorful, bustling, pleasant little airport back in the 80s-- but 9/11 security took over the central mall and now the place is about to be torn down; most of the businesses and all of the murals are gone. So bleak.)

Top of my to-do list now are a couple of BACnet whitepapers I've volunteered to write for Alerton. A nice break before the Smart Grid and energy-efficiency whirlwinds start up again.

Oh, and LEED too; I saw a news item this week about "LEED for Landscapes" and thought that's what I need: A house deep in the tall woods of the Pacific Northwet (where moss grows on all sides of trees, and not only on trees but on just about everything else) is a really bad place to try to keep a grass lawn. But it turns out to be something called a Sustainable Sites Initiative (PDF) and not LEED. Still, it could be an interesting read.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


To the surprise of my Honeywell colleagues, who think of me as being "good at this" (participating in endless and interminable committee meetings, patient through all the slow steps forward and the frequent reversals wiping out hours of progress), I confessed afterwards to having reached burnout a half-hour or so before the end of the Smart Grid PAP10 meeting.

It's nothing new but there are some situations more likely to produce it than others, and yesterday's was the worst: a room of 50-odd bright minds with highly varied perspectives trying to wordsmith a document, with every statement made at a microphone after announcing one's name and affiliation for the benefit of those in teleconference. Just a decision over a single word can easily burn up 10 minutes or more.

There has to be a better way.

But today is a new day, final day of meetings, and the B2G DEWG (Building-to-Grid Domain Expert Working Group) meeting lies ahead.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

Following yesterday's panel session it's now solid meetings until the end, only 23-1/2 hours from now (but who's counting). The fun topic for today is PAP10 (Priority Action Plan 10), defining "Standard Energy Usage Information" -- it packed the room.

"Making Energy Dollars Visible"

Having some spare time yesterday I made a last-minute decision to sit in on the panel session with the above title. It was not exactly what I expected, though if I'd dug up the description in the rather extensive programs guide I would have known this beforehand. Nevertheless, the time was far from wasted; I heard many elements of a recent energy-related class affirmed over and over -- this was good material being presented and I was glad to have been there.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Broadband and the Smart Grid

One of the interesting elements of this conference is hearing from other players in the Smart Grid development (most of my time is normally spent with other "buildings" folks). This morning's session opened with a panel discussion with panelists from the DOE, FCC, and GE -- definitely outside the "buildings" space.

Also interesting in this conference is learning about the FCC's
National Broadband Plan (PDF), in particular Chapter 12, "Energy and the Environment," mentioned yesterday and again today. The whole thing is a short 300-odd page read (less than half the size of the BACnet standard). Something for the flight home, perhaps.


On the road again... this week it is to the
ConnectivityWeek conference and and NIST's Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) meetings in Santa Clara, CA. It looks like an interesting week of Smart Grid and energy-efficiency sessions ahead (with a half-dozen or so intrepid BACneteers present). The SGIP has grown trememndously from the kickoff meeting last November, up from 400+ organizations to 528, and from 440 or so individuals (present) to 1600 members today.

Yesterday, the first day of the meeting, closed with a most memorable address from one of our members, Vint Cerf -- if the name is familiar, he's a father of the Internet. We learned much about designing systems to be flexible going forward, just the way the Internet Protocol became.

(And that 32-bit IPv4 address that's becoming a problem as address space runs out? Well, as he said, the underlying Internet as we know it was only an experiment -- one that never came to an end.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Internal meeting

Away at meetings this week at our division headquarters in Minneapolis. First time I have spent any significant time here. Interesting to meet old (and newer) colleagues face-to-face for the first time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Meeting's end

We wrapped up our week of meetings right at noon today, having reached a pretty impressive goal -- we cut through the backlog of change proposals!

Or at least those change proposals aimed at the BACnet standard itself. Dave Robin put the proposals aimed at the BACnet testing standard on the back burner -- in part because of the makeup of the voting membership we need to address those differently somehow. Our General Interest and especially our User voting members are not likely to care about the particulars of BACnet conformance tests, though the Manufacturer members definitely will!

For my part I was happy to see some of the residue of a decade-old debate over character sets swept away. Some of the issues might not be yet be finally settled but while researching the history of one of my old proposals I found two that were "on hold" that should now be put away, one listed as "accepted" (but after a public review it was replaced by something else), and I could advise the committee that the proposal that triggered the research could also be retired. They agreed, and it was done.

All in all, a successful meeting. And it left me with just enough mental energy after a long drive south to finish a draft of an article for the upcoming first issue of the BACnet International Journal, followed by this blog entry. Tomorrow I head for home.

Smart Grid in action?

Found on Internet:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Committee dinner

It's a very old tradition in the BACnet committee to go out one evening for a no-host dinner together, usually the night before the plenary session begins (spring and fall meetings), or the evening of the Saturday plenary (winter and summer). It's a good opportunity to leave the day's battles behind, to relax and chat.

But this time the plenary is running for a day and a half and our chairman decided to hold it the evening between the two days -- tonight. The committee recently began to complain about always returning to the India Palace in the spring meetings, even though the food is good, not expensive, and it's a bit of a quiet atmosphere. So last year we went somewhere else that was apparently pretty noisy (maybe being effectively deaf the whole time is why I don't remember it), so folks were really happy to return to the India Palace.

But I learned that it can be dangerous to hand your camera to another BACneteer. You never know what you're going to find on it afterwards...

Plowing on through

Busy day today as the plenary session got underway! Committee chair Dave Robin reversed the usual practice of starting with the involved proposals and pushing out the low-hanging fruit at the end. So today we started with the "easy" or quick proposals to reduce the size of the backlog of change proposals.

He led off with a VERY easy one I had drafted last year when a discussion on the BACNET-L mailing list last year revealed that the datatype of array element zero was nowhere defined in the standard! It was pretty obvious that it had to be Unsigned, and we don't think anyone has implemented it any other way, but such things are best not left to chance. So my proposal merely added, in the approriate place in the standard (Clause 12, p.129), the sentence "The datatype of array element 0 shall be Unsigned."

We polished off a number of relatively simple ones: Bernhard's examples of context-tagging with a context number greater than 14 (I posted earlier about BACnet tagging rules, but an example is a Very Good Thing to help implementers get it right.

We polished off one short, well-done but ultimately troublesome one ("What BACnet Is" was the title, I think) by referring it to the BACnet International and, at my request, the BIG-EU Marketing organizations. Thanks, David!

Then another of my proposals came up. I've already exercised my "taunting rights" reserved these past 13 years (so I won't name it), ever since the committee took a nice, clean little service I'd drafted for a specific purpose and festooned it with a lot of general application capability that nobody ever used. I admit that the new, further extensions I had reluctantly taken would have some useful application (albeit limited) -- but it appears nobody has ever used the service for anything but its original applications. So, that proposal is dead.

Another of mine came out of an observation by BIG-EU's Testing and Conformance Group that the Loop object's behavior when "out of service" was not as completely specified as, say, the Analog Output object. Cut, paste, edit and it was there. Passed. Note to my BIG-EU colleagues: Mission accomplished.

Frank's first proposal, to state the requirement for the DM-DDB-A BIBB (initiates "Who-Is") to be supported by BACnet Advanced Application Controllers because it is actually required, sailed on through with change or question. Good job, Frank!

Then we started getting into more potentially troublesome proposals.

Carl drafted one on the fly to strike the unused ReadPropertyConditional service. Rather than push this on towards a public review addendum we held it back for review in the summer meeting next month so that more folks will have an opportunity to weigh in on it. (Consider this fair warning.)

And there was more -- much more. We'll be back at it tomorrow morning for the last session of the meeting, ending at noon.

Bad humor

Over lunch today our small group had a few "ideas" for me. I've got the BAC Cave, now I need a BAC Car, with a signaling BAC Light, etc.

And I think it was Howard who suggested that the "BAC Man" already has his sidekick, current BACnet chairman Dave Robin. It took Carl a while to "get it," but perhaps he was still reeling from the cartoon that wound up on the meeting FTP server this morning, mixed in with all our meeting documents:

The picture is incorrect. Several of us got the word that today was "red shirt" day but Carl didn't. Or perhaps he was being contrary again. ( ;^)}

(Fortunately blogspot doesn't support audio, else I'd have to post the Honeywell Anthem also.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gotta learn to keep my mouth shut

I think it was my fault: I recall making the fateful declaration, a long time ago, that date and time values representing actual times such as the time an alarm was issued (e.g. 3:23:52.01 on Thursday 4/01/2010), should not contain "wildcard" or pattern-matching values (e.g. 3:nn:nn.nn on Thursdays in April, any day of month, any year). And in fact a little research shows it was just about 10 years ago when I first submitted a proposal to make this concept part of the standard.

What seemed so simple at first became complex, and languished while more critical changes went ahead, but the proposal finally went to public review this spring, and it drew a lot of comments that required a LOT of debate in today's Objects & Services Working Group meeting. One comment alone, titled "Relax definition for single date by allowing day of week to be unspecified," required an hour and a half of serious and lengthy discussion.

In the process we digressed into a number of other time-related issues, such as when the BACnet standard is calling for the use of "local time" as opposed to "UTC time" (f.k.a. Greenwich Mean Time). The answer seems obvious and I have never seen an implementation that did anything differently from what we would expect. But the rule is stated nowhere in the standard, so I initiated the process for getting this into the standard for all time and e-mailed the requisite paperwork to ASHRAE during the meeting. ASHRAE responded in short order with the response form for submitting tpo the committee, I approved it, and our Chair will hopefully have it by now (he was unaware it was coming), and perhaps we can approve in the the plenary session tomorrow of Friday.

But after we finished reviewing, and deciding on the responses to, the public review comments we were finally able to start on new material before the day ended.

Tomorrow we kick off the first day of a day and a half of the plenary session, where the formal official business of the committee is executed.

But I almost feel guilty for the effort I caused a decade ago, when it might have been simpler to just allow implementations to represent actual times with pattern-matching values where elements of the time (hundredths of a second, seconds, etc.) are not known or the implementer didn't want to calculate them (day of week)

Mayhbe I just gotta learn to keep my mouth shut.

Update: Just to give credit where credit is due, I believe Coleman took over this proposal a couple of years ago and got it to passage.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 2 (or is that 3?)

For those of us in the BTL-WG meeting Sunday and still here, this was Day 3 of the Spring Meeting. For almost everyone else it was Day 2. Featuring meetings of the IT-WG (integrating BACnet more into the IT system administrators' world), the IP-WG (IPv6 and other discussions), the Smart Grid-WG (mostly wrap-up and review from yesterday), the Elevator working group (saving the jokes on that one until later, but I did come away with a few work items), and Objects & Services WG focusing on the Alarm Summit work.

And all that was just the conference room I was in all day (pictured). The Lighting folks continued their meeting from yesterday; this evening Christoph mentioned the difficulty of writing up the minutes of the 7 hours of Lighting Control meetings while it is still all fresh. (It took me an hour just to write up the half-hour Elevator Group meeting!) The rough equivalent of my ISO technical committee meetings usually takes me two or three days, though I delve deep into the recordings of the meetings to be sure I miss nothing.

In the meantime, no rest for the weary. Smart-Grid-related e-mails continued to pour in, plus a difficult request for a signed approval from the BIG-EU officeresulting in a quick course in editing PDFs, overlaying a signature, securing the entire document and e-mailing it back, since they were one short of signing authorities due to business travel. (No timely access to printer & scanner-to-PDF was available -- and Britta, you're welcome!)

The full day tomorrow is devoted to Objects & Services WG material. We'll see what Bernhard has lined up for us.

And to our Japanese colleagues whose business here is done: safe travels home on the morrow!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Better late than...

A couple of our guys, Bernhard and René, are unavoidably late for the meetings. Scheduled to arrive Sunday, they were held back in Europe at least until today by the volcanish ash. Unfortunately one was to lead a working group meeting this morning that ended early because he was absent.

But their loss was others' gain because the BACnet Smart Grid working group was able to make good use of the two-hour slot that opened up -- albeit to the detriment of the Testing and Interoperation working group, half the membership of which shifted to the Smart Grid meeting.

Hopefully our missing colleagues will have made it here today and we can get back to the planned schedule tomorrow.

Update 5/11: They made it! Arrived pretty late last night, but they are here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Device Profile discussions

The BTL-WG met today and plowed through most of our agenda items. Among our discussions was a response to a clarification request about the applicability of Device Profiles that were changed some time after they were created (as the BACnet Smart Sensor and BACnet Smart Actuator did recently). Three possible responses discussed by the group were:

- Use the profile associated with the device's claimed ProtocolRevision.

- Mandate the use of the new profile from this point going forward, regardless of the device's claimed Protocol Revision. (This would not apply retroactively to devices already tested and listed.)

- Starting sometime in the future and going forward, establish (increasing) minimum Protocol Revisions that will be accepted by the lab.

I am sure discussions on these will continue; I could not say that any decisions made today are necessarily final. But a broader discussion on the third point should perhaps be conducted, say, on the BACNET-L e-mail list.

Shifting gears

The week of BACnet committee meetings has kicked off here in Germantown MD with a meeting of the BACnet Testing Labs working group. We're reviewing a number of proposed tests for various BACnet capabilities.

But it's a little hard to shift gears from last week's energy class. Looking around this building I see an awful lot of lights on, quite bright, due to the presence of our small group on an "off" day (not to mention the lights in the light wells). It's a pity they don't have a lower-intensity lighting mode, and occupancy detectors at least in the very brightly-lit restrooms.

Break is over. Meeting resumes...

Update: Wrong on (almost) all counts. The building has occupancy detectors; there was just activity I couldn't see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

BACnet Boilers

I didn't expect to have anything to add to the blog this week since I'm tied up all week in the energy class, but during todays's session on boilers our instructor mentioned something about boilers with BACnet controls. I hadn't heard of any such before so I went searching... and sure enough. They're there. One doesn't have a Vendor ID and it looks like they might be using somebody else's gateway module, but I found at least one with a Vendor ID and BACnet integrated into controls.

Step by step...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Energy Efficiency class

This week I'm away at an intensive class in commercial building energy efficiency. I was rather amused during introductions when the instructor said, "If I'd known you were going to be here I'd have had you help out!"

LOL, well, perhaps I could have in the short period where he discussed ASHRAE standards and green-building rating systems (LEED et al), but the rest of the day was a very deep dive into the details of areas that have left my head aching and areas I had not much anticipated. Financial, for example. But that's all part of the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) test prep this class centers on.

Still, I was intrigued when he noted that knowledge of ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 135 (aka BACnet) was a good idea for when one sits for the CEM exam. I will have to look into this. And acquire a few more ASHRAE standards for my bookshelf (or rather hard drive, since I prefer the more portable PDF versions.)

But that's for later. It's only day one and my head aches already. The rest of the week doesn't look like it's going to lighten up -- and a day and a half after this class ends the BACnet spring meetings begin.

Now if only I could resolve what could be the correct answer for tonight's homework assignment item #7...