Monday, June 28, 2010

Agenda's End: Full Stop

For the first time since I've been on the BACnet committee, we actually reached the end of our plenary session agenda -- and not only did we get there a half-hour before planned adjournment at noon, we did so having had two hours less than usual in the Saturday plenary session (the extra time was given to the Objects & Services working group so they could reduce their backlog). Kudos to chairman Dave Robin!

One of the major steps was the vote for Addendum 135-2010af to undergo publication public review. This addendum proposes major improvements and extensions to the BACnet system of issuing and handling alarms. This 135-page document is the end product of almost three years' effort by a number of BACneteers with innumerable e-mails, several 3-day meetings in advance of the BACnet committee's 4-1/2 day meetings (talk about mental exhaustion), one several-day meeting in Chicago (which I could not attend because I was in Frankfurt... and after, while I was unable to return to the U.S. because of the volcano, several were likewise unable to return to Europe), and more "Alarm Summit" teleconferences than anyone but their convener, Bernhard Isler, can count.

It was a very successful BACnet meeting!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BACnet and IT

Today's working group meeting room was a little bit undersized; those who didn't arrive early didn't get a place at the table. I suspect this was in part interest in a new topic: how to integrate BACnet into IT systems.

A group of folks have been looking into the issue and today's meeting was a presentation of their findings thus far. They propose to marry BACnet with various Internet protocols, the key element being to preserve the existing BACnet objects & services model though the underlying transport protocols all change. From the ensuing discussion it's clear the road ahead is going to be an interesting one.

Busy day for the BACnet committee

Yesterday was a very busy day for the BACnet committee, and despite the fact that the plenary session ran only 6 hours instead of the customary 8, in order to give the Objects & Services Working Group more meeting time, we plowed through a LOT of the proposed changes before us. It seems we might be beginning to break through the backlog that's plagued us for years.

After the usual hours-long preliminaries of network configuration (we now share documents via WiFi), introductions, voting rules, liaison reports from other industry areas and organizations around the world, working group reports and more, we started in on the proposed addenda already voted up from the working groups in advance of this meeting.

Although we approved a number of addenda for public review (7 by my notes), they still have to pass some more hurdles before they go for public review this fall so I'll just give a brief summary of what's (probably) coming:

- Clarifying the use of Dates and Times (I have mentioned this before). Like so many things in BACnet, what seemed like a simple task turned out to be exceedingly complex, defining 10 new terms in the glossary and revising an 11th, and 12 pages of proposed changes to the standard. Very little of this changes anything, at least in terms of the committee's intent for implementations, but it should make our intent clearer to BACnet implementers not involved with the committee.

- An addendum with a number of miscellaneous changes. Some of these changes are clarifications; for example, somebody recently discovered that the standard failed to mention explicitly that the variable reflecting the size of an array has a datatype of "Unsigned" (integer). It seems obvious and every implementer so far has figured that out, but this will make it explicit. But there are also more significant changes that should lead to certain performance improvements.

- An addendum with a few miscellaneous changes, mostly clarifications and minor additions to BACnet's physical access control objects.

- Four addenda revising existing conformance tests or adding new ones. This is the leading edge of a LOT of work done over the past decade by BACnet International's BACnet Testing Labs Working Group, BIG-EU's Testing Conformance Task Group, and the committee's Testing and Interoperation Working Group. These groups have reviewed the existing tests in ASHRAE Standard 135.1, "Method of Test for Conformance to BACnet," revised a number, and drafted many news ones. Plus they have applied the experience of the testing labs (B.I.'s BTL and BIG-EU's WSPLab) with the existing, revised and proposed new tests. The end result will be a major extension of the testing standard in the near future.

But as the television pitchman says, "But wait, there's more!" Today is dedicated to working group meetings, but we have a half-day plenary session tomorrow in which we expect to approve more material for public review.

A reminder to the BACneteers here in Albuquerque reading this blog posting: you should really be reading RK-005-15 (Meeting Updates/Plenary folder) instead -- you will not have time in the meeting tomorrow to read this 136-page tome from the Alarm Summit. Read it today, and bring your comments for discussion tomorrow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Plugfest dates

At the end of today's meeting we discussed the dates for the upcoming North American BACnet plugfest. Apparently BACnet International is getting close to announcing the dates. Lots of speculation, but somebody said something about the week of September 13th. If that is the case, Carl and I hope it can wrap up on the 16th (Thursday) so we have time to fly back to the West Coast (we're guessing it will be in Atlanta) and spend a day at home before flying out to Switzerland on the 18th for the BIG-EU meetings starting the 20th.

This might affect some of our colleagues from Europe also.

If not then, if it's not the 1st or 3rd week of November, or December (highly unlikely) then I probably won't go, though I am sure Alerton will have a team there regardless.

Today's WSJ on travel

You know you're traveling when stories such as this and this and this catch your eye, all in today's WSJ. (Hotels & Twitter, volcano & other travel disruptions, and a new low for airline fees.)

If I have a complaint with a hotel I prefer to make it directly so #1 isn't likely to affect me. It's rare because I spend little time in the room so why do I need a view, although it's nice? But it's odd too -- this is the second of two recent stays at a Hyatt and this time I definitely received better treatment -- including a room with a "panoramic view"; the only one this side of the hall. I don't remember when I previously stayed at a Hyatt though I did get membership in their program in 2003; I don't think I've earned any status with them. Mostly I stay in Hilton chain hotels (mostly week-long stays in the Hampton Inn next to the BACnet committee's spring meetings), though I'm going to burn a surprising percentage of years of HHonor points next month for a two-night stay in my hometown.

I'd never considered before what is in travel insurance plans. If I were flying on my own dime to Europe these days I would consider it. When Honeywell is paying, they call the shots.

But the airlines charging fees (that people are buying, says the article) to use preferred security lanes and boarding first; that could backfire hard. The airlines are trying to keep their elites flying with them after elite status is earned, instead of earning elite on a second airline later in the year. But with these fees, you're better off in two elite programs. Or in a program where there are no such fees.

It was a hard-fought meeting...

Blood drive in the lounge. This is the reality.

Meetings begin

The summer week-chock-full-0'-meetings begins in an hour, here in Albuquerque, leading off with the BACnet Testing Labs Working Group Meeting. A little bit amusing that I still don't don't where it will be, other than here in the Hyatt Regency. A missive from the BTL Manager, Duffy O'Craven late last evening indicated it would be in one of the "Enchantment" rooms on the second floor of the hotel (confusingly there is also an "Enchantment" room in the Convention Center, the nearest building in this photo), but whether we will be identified as "BACnet International", "BACnet Testing Labs", "BTL-WG" or simply "Generic Un-Repeating Organization" is not yet known.

But I see too that the BACnet Committee's working group schedule is growing, with the Lighting Applications working group also meeting in Enchantment. May you find success today, guys!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It looks like BACnet committee chairman Dave Robin has been working overtime, judging by an e-mail to the committee receved almost 11 PM (his time) last night, to announce that the FTP site now had the agenda for the impending meeting, files (change proposals) and the latest "Document Status Summary" (the document by which we track the status of BACnet change proposals from submission to wherever they end up.

He also announced the reorganization of the FTP site, cleaning up the directories where the proposals were stored and purging old files. From experience just attempting to maintain the site I can say this was a very time-consuming task. Hopefully this will make it easier going forward.

It was interesting to look into the Photos directory. Several directories of photos of meetings from 2004 to 2006 (what happened then?), a zip file containing photos from a ride that IEIEJ liaison Takeji Toyoda and I took on the "Spirit of Washington" dinner train here in the Seattle area (sadly, the train is now gone) and more, including this group photo from our meeting in New York City in 2008. I think this is our first and only group photo, with members from Italy, Switzerland, the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, and a few Americans.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Addenda for Albuquerque

We're now less than a week away from the summer ASHRAE meetings in Albuquerque and, according to the "Document Status Summary" just circulated to the working group conveners for review and correction, there are 10 addenda on the table for action during the meeting.

Up for final approval by ASHRAE for publication are:
Addendum 135g, BACnet Network Security
Addendum 135p, Global Group object (per request from Japan)
Addendum 135g, Miscellaneous changes
Addendum 135.1d, COV test changes

For review by the committee for public review are:
Addendum 135aa, WriteGroup service and Channel object (lighting control)
Addendum 135.1e, BACnet/IP test revisions
Addendum 135.1f, Miscellaneous tests
Addendum 135.1g, COV test
Addendum 135.1h, Updating tests

In work:
Addendum 135i, Lighting control, PPR4 comments being processed
Addendum 135ab, Additional MS/TP baud rates, on hold research on timing changes

Monday, June 14, 2010

BACnet: The Next Generation

About the time of the previous posting, I received a missive from a BACnet colleague, friend and founder of the BACnet Interest Group - Middle East, Mr. Sabry An-Naggar.

It appears his son has completed three of a five years' course of study in Mechatronics. I was not familiar with the term but it's right there on Wikipedia: "Mechatronics is the synergistic combination of Mechanical engineering, Electronic engineering, Computer engineering, Control engineering, and Systems Design engineering to create, design, and manufacture useful products." (Hm. Sounds exactly like Beth's course of study!)

His son (an Egyptian national) would like to work a summer internship in the U.S. and my assistance in finding him an internship with a controls company is being sought. Naturally, I have a preference that his son works with Alerton BACnet systems but it's only fair to let others know while my request wends its way to Alerton dealers. If you are interested, please let me know.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

That's my girl!

Little to report on this week as I've been writing a BACnet white paper and away for a couple of days to participate in an EIS Alliance meeting -- but a few e-mail exchanges gave me an opportunity to make an introduction.

Some of you know my eldest daughter Beth has her MSME; her interest through school and beyond was in energy- efficient vehicles. Recently, though, she changed jobs and is now in an area close to one of mine: she's working with energy-efficiency for residential buildings, whereas my interest is in energy-efficiency for commercial buildings.

A couple of weeks ago, during the Smart Grid meetings in Santa Clara CA, I had dinner with her and her husband (they live in the area). Days later I received the following note in an e-mail from Beth:

Anyways, I was meaning to write you and tell you. When I got back up to Davis the next day, I was casually mentioning to a co-worker what a nice (but short) visit we had, and explained why you were in town. I mentioned the conference and your work with BACnet, and his eyes went big. The owner of my company got up from his office (we have a REALLY small building... it's an old house, really), and his eyes were big as saucers too. They went on about how hard you guys worked on it, how cleverly you navigated all sorts of resources and requirements, and they were surprised I'm related to BACnet Bill! Small world ASHRAE has. :-)

Yes, Beth, it's a small world. And if you start showing up at ASHRAE conferences now, it will look very small to you. (;^}

Friday, June 4, 2010

Society and System Architecture

This morning I received an e-mail about whether BACnet describes its system architecture the way Alerton and apparently some others do, at four levels: Management, Integration, Field Controller, and sensors and actuators. My initial response was simply no, noting that the last two terms only really appear in profiles representing device communication capabilities.

But I couldn't leave it at that; there was an observation made long time ago, I think back in the 90s when we were developing some capabilities requested by Japan, that building automation systems seemed to reflect society in an odd way. It's not perfect and probably a somewhat dated observation now, but still amusing.

In America, where BACnet was taking off in a big way, systems were peer-to-peer: Everybody talks to everybody.

In Europe they were stratified; you talked only at your own level, and with your superiors and subordinates. (Sometimes the stratification was required because different protocols, languages, were used at different levels.)

But it was Japan's request that triggered the revelation: there the building automation systems seemed to be separated into "silosof communication" -- one silo for HVAC, one for lighting and so on -- with the ONLY communications between silos being conducted through the guys at the "top" of the silos, talling amongst themselves. (Please note, I am not that familiar with Japanese society.) We'd been asked to develop such a mechanism; it wasn't until we grasped this concept that we could move forward.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Addendum l for Dummies"

That wasn't even my working title for the first BACnet paper, though it's a whole lot better than what I had when working on the first draft (and it's not the title at the head of the page now).

But the core of what I have now can be taken in two very different directions - so naturally, after discussing it with our folks here, the decision was made that it will go in both!

(And one or the other could become yet another chapter in the "BACnet for Dummies" I am not working on.)