Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Out of Office

No cute message this time, though I could almost echo the previous out of office message. I just learned that I am going to be more disconnected than I expected for the next 5 days. There is some cellphone and data coverage in the town I'm headed to, but not in the parts of town where I plan on being. At least the hotels offer free Internet.

ASHRAE Smart Grid committee deadline

From chairman Steve Bushby:

ASHRAE has extended the deadline until August 3 for interested parties to apply for membership on Standard Project Committee 201P, Facility Smart Grid Information. This extension is in response to a number of last minute questions and some apparent confusion about the scope of the proposed standard and the application process. This standard will define an information model to enable control systems and end use devices found in commercial and institutional buildings, industrial facilities, and single- and multi-family homes to interact with a future Smart Grid.

ASHRAE membership is not a requirement and there are no application fees. The application process is used to ensure that the voting membership of the committee meets ANSI requirements for a balanced representation of interests. ASHRAE encourages all interested parties including energy service providers, and users and manufacturers of building and industrial control systems, residential appliances, and consumer electronics to submit an application following the instructions attached to this message.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The Smart Grid activities threaten to overwhelm everything else. Three hours today on the weekly North American Energy Standards Board "PAP10" teleconference alone, Building 2 Grid, e-mails with documents from and about the Energy Information Standards Alliance, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, the current formation of ASHRAE committee SPC 201, "Facility Smart Grid Information Model," and more.

At least the BACnet world is fairly quiet right now.

Although I did accept a request yesterday morning to edit a document produced by BIG-EU. Their English is quite excellent but they wanted a native-speaker to look it over because it will be used by BACnet International too. Funny though that we kept running into to same traps with the term "accreditation" and related concepts that they tell me that they wrestle with in German.

Took more time than I had intended, but it's off to them for another round tomorrow, before I leave for yet another short vacation -- 5 days away.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Whew! (Autumn BACnet Plugfest dates)

While looking up links for the previous posting I saw that BACnet International has without fanfare posted the dates for this year's plugfest, cleverly titled "Where the Pieces Come Together": November 16th to 18th)

I assume the dates may still be tentative, as well as the location somewhere in Atlanta, but they fit into the BACnet fall meeting and event schedule for both North America and Europe, not to mention the Smart Grid meeting schedules.

And the dates even work with my schedule, though it looks like I'll be spending two weeks on the East coast.

Thanks, Natalie!

Standards, and more standards

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from .” --attributed to Prof. Andrew S. Tanenbaum (author of MINIX, the source of much open-source code I ported to my old CP/M machine, the first such to be a registered Internet site, back in the days of store-and-forward bang-path-routing, but I digress).

There are many, and last week I acquired and reviewed two more. ANSI/GBI 01-2010, "Green Building Assessment Protocol for Commercial Buildings," was developed by the Green Building Institute under ANSI rules and published in April. Among its many provisions it shows a number of ways in which a commercial building automation system can be used to save energy and money. This, of course, is the subject of my talk "Energy Standards and Energy Efficiency" and GBI 01 will provide more material for the next time I deliver it, at Facility Decisions Conference in early October, in the BACnet International tracks. So I'll have to work this one in somehow.

Draft ISO Standard 50001 (ISO/DIS 5001), "Energy management systems - Requirements with guidance for use" just completed an official public review, but I was given a copy to review regardless. This is a very different kettle of fish and will require further study to see how it fits in my areas of work. It seems to cross many other areas and documents including IPMVP (International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol, which is referenced and blogged on the Efficiency Valuation Organization's blog along with useful links.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Return to Atlanta

The long-awaited (well, for three weeks now) announcement of the kickoff meeting of ASHRAE/SPC 201 finally came out yesterday morning. My concern that it might overlap with my vacation plans over the July/August weekend was for nothing; it will be at the end of August.

I'm sure a noon starting time is good for folks on the East coast, and maybe in the Midwest, so they can fly in in the morning, stay one night, and fly home the following afternoon. Those of us out West won't have it so easy -- but then again the meeting in Albuquerque was convenient for us. So it's okay; I can sleep in in the morning. IF I can sleep in. It will be helpful for West-coasters who get jetlagged by a three-hour shift, though.

But the good news is that I will FINALLY get to see ASHRAE headquarters, and their new building to boot. I've been to Atlanta more times than I can count, but I've always relied on MARTA to get around and ASHRAE is some distance away -- and not convenient to get to by bus. But this trip I will have a car.

The folks at ASHRAE say traffic in Atlanta is pretty bad. Could it be worse than Seattle's parking lot freeways? From 1996 until 2001 Kathy and I took a weekly evening foreign-language class in Seattle itself, just 10 miles to the west. But we quit when the ever-worsening trip got up to an hour on average, peaking at almost two hours. Who knows what it's like now, 9 years later?

So. Three upcoming trips to Atlanta:

- SPC 201 kickoff meeting (will there be more?),

- Plugfest, which I expect will be in Atlanta, and

- BACnet Committee fall interim meeting at Georgia Tech.

Hm. Follower Pam (over there on the right) seems to be connected to things Atlanta and some of her links could be promising: "Fred's Beer Page," for example, and "Everything Midtown Atlanta," but "The Single Gal's Guide" I think I'll pass up. I'm not single and I'm not a gal.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Well, that was sure a mess!

If the previous posting seemed a bit confused and rambling last night and today, well, it was. Sometimes when posting I just put down a lot of material, then start sorting and cutting. I hadn't even got all the material down when interrupted last night, and somehow it got posted.

I discovered it today, but for some reason I can't access my blogger account from work anymore so it had to wait until I got home.

The posting should make a bit more sense now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


July 20th, 1969, was a big day in history. The U.S. "won" the space race (set off by the launch of Sputnik or Спутник) on 4 October 1957, by landing men on the moon. I remember the fear with which my father brought us out in the evening to the driveway to observe its passage overhead, and the "missile gap" [and other "gaps"] that drove the American technological advancement of the 60s and 70s.

Which reminds me again of Steve Karg's license plate:

(It's too bad Washington State doesn't have such great plates, but then they also want a LOT of money for vanity plates.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Something new in lighting

The group campout in the previous post was the 4th annual such, held in various locations. But this year I've noticed a change in camp lighting. Three years ago it was all "fire": other than flashlights the lanterns were all white gas or propane. We still had our early-60s traditional Coleman white-gas single-mantle lamps that I've always loved (indestructible, or nearly so) and hated (fragile mantles, sometimes hard-starting).

One of those died that year so the next year we took an LED lantern. I hated it; uneven light pattern and sharp bluish light that hurt my eyes. Not as nice but handier and sturdier than the two-lamp fluorescent lantern bought many years ago. (I liked the latter because I was never comfortable having fire in the tent.) The LED lantern has finally found its place beneath the tent ceiling where the objectionable elements aren't a problem and the fluorescent is used elsewhere.

But this year I noted that across the camp there were only two "fire" lanterns: my white-gas Coleman and chef Drew's propane, hooked up to his large propane kitchen tank. Everyone else had battery-powered fluorescent lamps, and they weren't all cold white lamps anymore; some had a pleasant orange tint to them. And they were no longer put up carefully out of reach of little fingers that could get burned. Some were strewn across the ground to illuminate paths or areas. (I will have to look into the safety of this.)

And all the flashlights were LEDs.

Creating useful illumination by the simple (if inefficient) means of heating materials until they're so hot they glow... it could well be that the generation that will grow up thinking that to be odd is already among us.

"Home again, home again / jiggity-jog"

(When I was growing up my family always ended our trips with that quote as soon as we parked in the driveway. Sometimes we still do.)

The time away was nice and (or although) as expected, nearest cellphone signal was almost twenty miles away. There might have been an Internet kiosk somewhere closer but I didn't go looking. I'd planned to be "absent" and loaded the car up with bikes & boats, among other distractions.

And but for the heat the Oregon State park was a pleasant place to be away for a group camp-out, where the only mechanically-vented buildings were the restroom and shower buildings (with, oh joy: heated showers!.) At least I assume they were mechanically ventilated; the lack of the usual odors implied they were, though the daily and thorough scrubdowns no doubt helped. And there was something mechanical, sounding rather old and wheezy and not like a pump, running 24/7 in a locked room in the building.

Naturally that got me thinking about energy efficiency and the place didn't look very energy-efficient. Then again, energy-efficiency was probably not a concern when these buildings were built. The park was trying though: I noticed that all the lamps were CFLs. I am sure this gave them considerable savings over the incandescents because, along with the presumed ventilator, all the lighting was turned on 24/7 -- outside as well as in. No time switch, photocell, or BACnet controls with astronomical time clock functionality.

But as too often happens, things didn't work out quite as well as planned intended. Yes, there were yellow covers over the exterior CFLs, presumably an intended replacement for the old yellow incandescent bug-lamps that didn't emit the shorter wavelengths attracting bugs at night. But these covers weren't doing the job; the lamps drew lots of bugs at night. Some of inevitably found their way into the restrooms when the outside doors were left open, and covered everything around the lights inside. I wouldn't be surprised if CFLs leak quite a bit of UV through their phosphors; my guess is that the covers weren't filter near-UV/UV though they made the light look yellow to a human eye.

There were provisions for lights that didn't run 24/7, specifically individual switches in the shower stalls. They might have done better with timers or even PIR occupancy detection, though, because folks often just left the lights on.

And whatever the sources of heat for the showers, a visit to the beach revealed that they probably didn't include solar. Near the end of a bright, hot late afternoon at the beach, the rinsing showers at the beach were ice-cold. But again, at the time the place was built whatever source and tank they used might have been the lowest-cost, lowest-maintenance solution.

I think it would be a fun project to see how much long-term energy savings could be implemented in such a facility. Of course I would have to visit often, from spring to autumn, and always on Fridays.

I could then add to my "Crater Lake" album.

And yes, the water really is that blue!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Out of Office

"Hi. I am out of the office and will be far, far away from Internet, cellphone signal, Pony Express and other such distractions until Monday, July 19th. I will attend to your e-mail upon my return."

'Struth! No Internet at the campground, and the nearest T-Mobile cellphone signal is 10 to 20 miles away, according to their website. Y'all are on your own until then. Be good now.


There has not been much else to report on because I've been busy writing an article about the activities of BIG-EU over the past couple of years (and believe me, this group has been busy!), and the muse just wasn't with me. But I got it sent off this afternoon, finally.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Public Review changes

At the end of the BIG-EU/BACnet International Liaison Group teleconference early this morning (my time, for my European colleagues it was late afternoon) I was asked to find out when the spring BACnet meetings were likely to occur so that the BIG-EU plugfest wouldn't be likely to coincide.

It should have been a simple matter but of course it wasn't. All I had to do was to get a copy of the the current PC MOP (Project Committee Manual Of Procedures*) from the ASHRAE website and look it up in the back. Except that I couldn't find the PC MOP. There was something that looked like it, called the TC MOP, but it didn't have the table in it. So I sent off a note to the current chair, and learned about his difficulties in trying to schedule meetings to occur shortly after public review periods end so that the committee can work on the received comments right away. In any event, he gave me the projected dates so I could proceed but there was also a note about a change in the public review system for standards that are not code-intended.

In any event, I finally located the PC MOP, updated just two weeks earlier, and went to the table in Appendix I. But Appendix I was gone. It ended at Appendix H, which has public review periods for code-intended standards.

So it looks like a long-discussed change is in the works and we won't be locked into the twice-yearly cycle that has slowed the deployment of new material.

This could be a good thing.

* I still like the old name better: Manual for Processing ASHRAE Standards, MPAS, pronounced "impasse."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It really is cave-like

I'd been meaning to update the appearance of this blog for some time now, but there were always more pressing things to do and I didn't want to put in the possibly necessary time for experimentation to get it to where I want. But the latter issue went away when I changed the appearance of another blog. (I'm running three blogs right now: definitely one too many but one is by its very nature short-lived and will come to full stop in early August.)

The two changes were to get the logo into the header and to add a picture of the BAC Cave as it is in real life -- a nice, cool, dark interior office. Now that my tripod is repaired I need to take another photo and get the colors right, though this is close. The required exposure for this shot was something like 1/3 to 1 second at f3.5, which might tell you how dark the BAC Cave really is. (If I need more light I can turn on lights under the cabinets behind me.)

I'm surely using more energy (at least in summer, and right now with with heat wave reaching above 80F/27C) getting the temperature down to my comfort zone of 20C/69F than I save by not using the horrid fluorescent overhead lamps, but isn't increased productivity the real goal?

And besides, until folks such as my American boss walk right up to the door of the BAC Cave they can't tell if it is occupied or not. Maybe fewer disruptions. (Sorry, Alex, or maybe not! Ernst, not a problem for you.)

(It's been suggested around the office that I should buy "BAC CAR" vanity plates for my car. I think that's going a bit far.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Call for Members (ASHRAE Smart Grid)

Yesterday the long-awaited (by me, anyway) announcement and call for members for a new ASHRAE committee went out. My participation having been already approved, I had my application submitted in less than 45 minutes -- not that I'm really in a hurry to be on yet another committee.

In any event ASHRAE is forming SPC (Standards Project Committee) 201 to develop a standard called ASHRAE/AHAM/ISA Standard 201P, Facility Smart Grid Information Model. This will be a critical component of the Smart Grid development effort and goes far beyond the apparently commonly-held notion that the Smart Grid is nothing more than "the utility comes into your house, adjusts your thermostat and turns off your appliances." If that were to be where it winds up, I'd preduct a massive backlash. But we're looking at more cooperative models.

On of the interesting things about the application form is the voting membership category. ASHRAE's rules for project committees requires some balance on its committees, unlike a certain other organization with "pay to play" rules that result in it being massively dominated by if not entirely comprised of manufacturers. (There is no charge to participate on an ASHRAE committee and you do not even have to be a member.) Speaking from a manufacturer's perspective, I'm really happy for User category participation in BACnet and only wish we could get more of some, to get their direct input on what we do.

In any event, the categories defined for SPC 201 are:
- General
- Utility
- Consumers - Residential, Commercial, and Industrial
- Appliance, Residential Automation, and Consumer Electronics Producer
- Commercial/Institutional/Industrial Producer

It seems that as a representative of Honeywell, Trend and Alerton I am in the last category and that's how I applied.

But it would be really good if we could get good representation in the "Consumers - Residential, Commercial, and Industrial" category.

The deadline for applying is July 27th; the announcement is here:

(If you are applying for the "Consumers" category and want help navigating the system, contact me.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

All Quiet on the BACnet Front

Having been away from my work e-mail for a three-day holiday weekend I was dreading what I would find when I logged in this morning. Two surprises: 1) very little e-mail, and 2) absolutely nothing BACnet-related. Well, except for a note sent to the committee chair about the status of a proposal I had drafted and filed before I left Albuquerque.

After the contention and multi-direction split of the committee over its predecessor, it's going to be interesting to see what happens on this one, because it doesn't actually do anything except add a suggestion to the implementer, to wit:

[Change Clause 13.1, p. 290]

It is the responsibility of the COV-server to maintain the list of active subscriptions for each object that supports COV notification. This list of subscriptions shall be capable of holding at least a single subscription for each object that supports COV notification, although multiple subscriptions may be supported at the implementor's option. The list of subscriptions is network-visible through the device object's Active_COV_Subscriptions property. Subscriptions may be created with finite lifetimes, meaning that the subscription may lapse and be automatically canceled after a period of time. Optionally, the lifetime may be specified as infinite, meaning that no automatic cancellation occurs. However, the COV-server is not required to guarantee preservation of subscriptions across power failures or "restarts." Periodic resubscription is allowed and expected expected, at least at the longest interval after the last received COV notification for which it is acceptable for the COV-client device to operate unawares on "stale" COV information ("stale" because the COV-server is not operating, has been removed or has been replaced), and shall simply succeed as if the subscription were new, extending the lifetime of the subscription.

I'm sure there will be quibbles with the phrasing (I'm not completely happy myself), but beyond that we'll see.

(It's good things are slow because I have to write a BACnet-related article due next week.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Reliability (rant: from Nikon to Hyatt)

In BACnet we have this notion, currently embodied in many objects and if I remember correctly (IIRC)* most but not all objects have a property named Reliability.**

The notion of "reliability" pervades BACnet.

Back in 1995 one of Alerton's founders decided we would not rely on BACnet COV ("Change of Value") notifications because BACnet allowed the COV-notifier device to forget the list of who was subscribed if the device reset or power was lost. This meant that any device that required some item of data (such as the classic "Outside Air Temperature") via COV had to re-subscribe at least at the longest interval it was willing to perform its calculations on out-of-date data. It was easier, and required less network traffic, simply to poll.

(Ironically Alerton's Ibex protocol uses COV quite extensively -- but without volatile subscriptions.)

In any event, I had put some time in on a proposal to improve the situation regarding COV servers in BACnet. That the committee not only did not reach consensus but last week split among various possible directions forward, resulting in my working successfully to kill my own proposal -- well, that's life. We discussed it, the concept failed, it's withdrawn, and I have filed a new approach that puts the onus where it belongs, on the subscriber, for more fun-filled debates in the next Objects & Services meeting this fall.

But the notion of "reliability" goes far beyond BACnet. [rant on]

I have a Nikon D70 digital SLR camera (dSLR), dead the second time for a failure in its "shutter block" -- a several hundred dollar repair and a now-known weakness in the camera. Do I spend a few hundred dollars to get it fixed yet again? For three years now, the answer has been "no."

The Nikon D70 died on a trip to Mt. Lassen (California) where I needed a good camera but the best available replacement locally was a Canon Powershot IS-3, like the D70 a 6 megapixel camera but a faux dSLR point&shoot: it has an eyepiece, but you look into a screen instead of through the lens. (This is good, actually, usually far better for shooting than camera-back screens though it has one of those too.)

However, this old Nikon fan hates to say it, but when you add the CHDK extensions to the Canon firmware, you end up with a camera with capabilities FAR beyond the Nikon. To have an active histogram before you press the shutter, for example -- priceless. (If possible I shoot using manual settings.) And there is so much more that CHDK does; all I'm lacking here is good glass, (Speedflash) hot shoe, and interchangeable lenses.

The Nikon S3 pocket camera's card ejector also failed. Takeaway: Nikons do not appear to be very reliable mechanically.

Nikon has lost a customer. Their new camera bodies won't take my old lenses; the old Nikon len$e$ will either revert to the film body (if I ever shoot film again) or be sold with everything else Nikon on eBay. I'm back at ground zero: when it comes to pass that I buy a new dSLR it will not be Nikon; it might be a Canon.


Hyatt fell flat on its face too this year. I've been a "Gold Passport" (I think that's the entry level on their program) member since 2003 though I have no recollection of staying at a Hyatt until this year. Hyatt gets some of it really right: check-in is quick and easy, very much unlike the glacially slow Hilton-chain process.

But like Nikon, Hyatt got it fatally wrong. In the past couple of months I stayed at Hyatts in Santa Clara CA and Albuquerque for conferences. I have no personal complaint with either, but in both cases a well-known colleague arrived late only to be told, yes, he had a reservation but they didn't have a room! (The second time he had called ahead to advise of his late arrival.) They put him up overnight in some other hotel and in Albuquerque they wanted him to stay at that other hotel. This goes far beyond unacceptable.

It has cost them a little already; for the ASHRAE winter meeting I reluctantly booked the Las Vegas Hilton (HQ hotel) before it filled up -- not that great a hotel but with relatively convenient access to the conference center, good for one with mobility issues. I had to make the Hilton reservation instantly upon announcement (received in the airport halfway to the summer meeting now concluded!) and had been considering a subsequent switch to the Las Vegas Hyatt, but definitely not now.

Lessons learned: Don't buy Nikon and don't book Hyatt. [rant off]

Reliability. It's a really important property and not just in BACnet.

* It's 4 AM, I'm wide awake, and I am on my home computer which does not contain a copy of the BACnet standard -- what elements in this picture are wrong!?

** Without a copy immediately at hand to confirm, this may change with one of the addenda going to public review; among the sweeping improvements to the BACnet alarm system was the introduction of the notion of "Reliability" to objects that never had it before, such as the Schedule object. It doesn't have runtime issues such as a dead sensor but it can detect misconfiguration such as scheduled writes of analog values to an on/off relay control: if you tell a relay "go to 5.375," what is it supposed to do?