Monday, June 6, 2011

From the family

Dearest BAC Cave readers:

The family of Bill Swan regrets to inform that he passed away Saturday June 4th at John Muir Medical Center in Concord, CA. His illness was unexpected, but his passing was peaceful and in the presence of his family. He is survived by his parents, his wife Kathleen and two daughters.

A memorial service is scheduled for all who would like to attend, Wednesday, July 6th at 11 a.m. at St Bartholomew's Anglican Church located at 14821 Avondale Road NE, Woodinville, WA 98072.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all for your kind words and well wishes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Internet Address for Every Light Bulb

An interesting story here about the increasingly pervasive Internet, in this case individually controlling lights.  Consumer-oriented it seems, and at least they have thought about security issues, but it's not clear that it will be integrate well, if at all, with a commercial building automation system or, worse, with an energy management system as described in a Smart-Grid-related whitepaper from the EIS Alliance, titled The Customer Energy Management System (CEMS) for commercial, residential and industrial buildings/consumers.  I invite you to take a gander (look) at the paper.

Watching the development of BACnet's lighting control extensions, it's clear to me that while one can easily do "On -- Off -- %FullOutput", there is a whole lot more to lighting control than can be conveyed via a simple Android app.  And that's even before you try to go beyond individual control of each lamp -- think about lighting up the house on the way home from the airport, or at least the path from the garage to the bedroom (so I don't have to to flip switches with both hands full of luggage).  There aren't enough stoplights between SeaTac airport (SEA) and home for me to turn on the requisite set of lamps remotely, one by one, enroute.

What these folks are doing is something to watch, certainly, but it doesn't seem to me to be the full answer.

And I hope their power control devices are more robust today than the X10 devices sold in the early 1970s; the vulnerability of the old X10 semiconductors (SCRs/Triacs) to filament-lamp-short failures is the main reason I've never installed X10 in any of my residences.

Plug(fest) 'n Play

(Or "Bowling for BACnet")
It wasn't all work during the BACnet plugfest in Saarbrücken -- the organizers arranged an evening out for the group at a nearby bowling alley. Something quite different from previous plugfests. From the pictures it looked like it was fun, but I had to bow out due to jet lag. (Many thanks to Frank Schubert for the report, title suggestion and photos.)
But now it's over and I'm back in the office (for a couple of days) with reports to write. It's not close to a major airport but I would not be unhappy, though, if we returned to Saarbrücken for the next plugfest -- or a BIG-EU meeting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Romantische BACnet

I have to admit, the North American BACnet plugfests, aka "LAN-parties" or "Interoperability Workshops" where representatives from BACnet manufacturers bring their devices (existing, new or still in development) to test with each other in a closed, cooperative and constructive environment, have been nothing like the one this week in Germany.

I will admit up front that, like most Americans, I had never heard of the city of Saarbrücken in northwestern Germany. The travel guides I read barely even mention it; all I heard was "a city in the industrial Ruhr valley," so I didn't expect much. And difficulty in sleeping upon my arrival (leaving this Seattleite "Sleepless in Saarbrücken" -- but it's my fault) didn't improve expectations.

Was I ever wrong.

I had little time to tour, and from this point on it's (almost) all business, but I truly enjoyed my short walking tour around the old town yesterday, with at least a few photos of Saarbrücken with which to remember it. I hope sometime I will be able to return, better prepared.

But that's over and now we're deep into the plugfest testing at the Handwerkskammer des Saarlandes (Saarland Chamber of Crafts -- a great facility, by the way: spacious and comfortable). It's a serious event so, because many of us are competitors, we have to lighten things up a little.

One new jest centers on the general conduct of the event: the testing teams are paired up, two by two, and for a couple of hours test their products together. The tests start with a simple "Can my device see yours on the network?" and (usually) quickly progresses to more testing sophisticated interoperations involving setting up time schedules; trendlogging data; configuring, issuing and acknowedging alarms; and more. But this pairing is now called "speed-dating."

But an important part of plugfests is to foster a spirit of cooperation, and so it frequently includes a friendly dinner together for the entire group.

Frank Schubert noted last evening, following the day's "speed-dating" our intrepid band of BACneteers had settled down to a romantic ("romantische") candlelight dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant.

But now it's early morning, we have another day of "speed-dating" ahead of us, and I must go prepare. "Tschüss" (bye).

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Casting our nets wider

Recent BACnet committee meetings, and this one especially, are highlighting the interactions across varied areas of technology and knowledge. The arena of IT and Internet Protocols (adding support for IPv6, for example) is one area potentially very broad as we search out our direction -- even our terminology is changing rapidly; just minutes ago BACnet-IT was jestingly renamed to BACnet "New Transport Binding" for the latest session's presentation on a demonstration project, based on the discussion & recommendations in the preceding session in the IT Working Group meeting. But this was to be expected.

A bigger surprise came in yesterday's MS/TP LAN working group meeting, on a discussion on expanding the maximum frame size for this low-cost LAN from 501 bytes to 4096 bytes. This technology has been around for some time and well understood - we thought. But IEEE's Kerry Lynn surprised me (at least) when he revealed that increasing the frame size 8-fold would increase the error rate a thousand-fold!

He referenced studies on CRC algorithms from Dr. Philip Koopman (online here), noting that there's a frequent assumption that "other have done their homework" in areas such as this, when in fact they might not have. Characteristics of the CRC-CCITT and other polynomials have been investigated; the following plot shows one result. Kerry will be providing guidance in this area.

"Energy Conservation in Existing Buildings" in public review

ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 100-2006, "Energy Conservation in Existing Buildings," is out for advisory public review until May 25th. (I downloaded a copy just before leaving the office last week.) "Advisory public review" means the cognizant committee is seeking input from the public for updating the standard.

The questions cover a broad range of issues including lighting upgrades and payback periods, commissioning (much potential here, thinking possibly of the International Green Construction Code, which provides an extensive set of specifics related to commissioning), and weather (question below), which is a current topic of discussion in our "buildings" corner of the federally-directed Smart Grid development.

Click here to learn more, and for a link for reviewing and submitting comments.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BACnet Committee in San Francisco

The BACnet Committee's spring meetings are underway in San Francisco, meeting in the Pacific Energy Center -- a facility that appears to be primarily engaged in energy-efficiency education, but also some research.  One of our meeting rooms seems oriented to demonstrating HVAC controls (but with a sign warning folks to leave the sensors alone because a research project is underway).

Thus far the meetings have been heavily focused on comments on proposed changes in recent public review, but other interesting discussions are getting underway, discussions on significant advances in BACnet.