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.

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