In industrial control market, one of the most conservative segments is that devoted to commercial building automation and networking. Allthough the Internet of Things and the Industrial supeset of that have been under intense scrutiny for a number of years, it is only recently that the engineers involved in building automation seriously considered finding ways to combine the wired networks they currently use to control building facilities as heaters, ventilators, coolers, elevators, water systems, and lighting with the convenience and flexibility or wireless wireless Internet of Things connectivity.
According to Sohrab Modi, chief technical officer at industrial networking specialist Echelon Corp. engineers in this particular segment of the industrial applications segment have come to this conservative position because of the unenviable position they are in.
On the one hand, they have all the requirements for real time, deterministic and precise operation, reliability that say the designer of an control system in a factory automation environment has. “But they also have the consumer looking over their shoulder: if the elevator, a heating system, an air cooler, does not work properly when someone pushes the button, they hear about it,” he said.
He said the ubiquitous connectivity that wireless IoT connectivity in such environments is being integrated slowly by building engineers only where they are sure they can can retain the reliability and dependability of such wired protocols as ASHRAE's BACnet, Echelon's Lonworks and other industrial Ethernet alternatives where needed and go to wireless IoT solutions only as needed in as a seamless a manner as is possible.
No where has this conservatism been more apparent than at the annual AHR Expo devoted to building automation. In 2013 and 2014, the focus was mainly on well known and characterised wired network solutions, with a few hints of wireless IoT activity and those mostly in the form of a variety of Zigbee and EnOcean based wirelessly connected appliances and facilities.
What a difference a year makes! At AHR Expo 2015 this week in Chicago, Ill. , in addition to companies such as Ayla Networks, EnOcean and Echelon (Figure 1 below ), there were at least 15 presentations and panel sessions related in some way to IoT and wireless issues on such topics as “Self-powered Wireless Sensors and Controls for HVAC Application,” “Wireless Monitoring to Put Data Where You Want It,” “How Smart Automated Buildings and IoT Create Smart Cities,” “The Ways to Connect Field Devices -Bacnet, Modbus and Wi-fi,” and “Growing the Building Automation Industry Younger with the Internet of Things (IoT).”
Ayla's initial efforts with its Agile IoT Platform were focused on targeting home automation with an end-to-end platform that allows manufacturers and service providers to turn home oriented controls, HVAC, appliances, lighting and other everyday products into intelligent devices that can collect information, can be managed remotely, or perform tasks automatically on behalf of consumers.
According to Rod McLane, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Ayla is taking its next step into the Industrial IoT space at AHR Expo where with REGEN, it is demonstrating how Ayla's platform can be combined with REGEN's swarm logic based system to allow equipment in buildings to communicate and coordinate to minimize the number and size of loads unnecessarily running concurrently, thereby reducing peak demand.
Back again at AHR Expo 2015 is Echelon Corp., who has been in the building and automation network business since the 1980s with its Lonworks wired networking protocol, recognized alongside BACNet as a standard real time deterministic system for use in demanding industrial network environments.
Last year, it introduced Izot platform, which integrates much of its Lonworks network architecture into an IIoT framework that works seamlessly across both wired and wireless networks and across environments with mixed security, safety and real time reliability requirements.
This year at AHR, said Modi, it has introduced an expanded version of its multiprotocol IzoT that includes new Wi-Fi control modules and integrated support for BACnet/MS-TP. He said Echelon showed a demonstration board (Figure 1, above ) for a converged building control and lighting control network supporting both wired and wireless devices that use LonTalk/FT, LonTalk/IP, BACnet/IP and BACnet/MS-TP protocols).
Also at AHR Expo 2015 was the EnOcean Alliance, member companies of which demonstrated a cross-vendor system approach that provides ways to use wireless energy harvesting techniques to overcome the limitations placed on isolated building areas in achieving maximum energy saving. The demo showed a connected building system integrating intelligent HVAC and lighting control with energy management – all based on the EnOcean batteryless wireless standard but from different building industry manufacturers.
It integrated self-powered wireless temperature sensors from Thermokon, Kieback&Peter and Neptronic, a temperature/humidity sensor from KMC Controls, a Variable Air Volume controller from Distech Controls, a temperature actuator from Kieback&Peter, a CO2 ambient sensor from Gas Sensing Solutions, a solar-powered window contact as well as a Spartan Peripheral Devices wireless heating valve actuator.