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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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Sunday
Aug052007

Hospitals and Control Systems Data

Of late, I have been so interested in the Grid, that I have forgotten the internal enterprise and the use it can make of information from embedded systems. Recently I fielded a question on hospital recordkeeping, refrigerators, and TJC (The Joint Commission) compliance.

There are refrigerators dispersed throughout every hospital that store medication, research samples, lab cultures, et al. To maintain their TJC certification, hospitals must monitor and record the refrigerator temperatures. Today, many have a manual process of reading and recording this information, followed by log consolidation and other potentially manual processes. The question concerned how to best support this process.

My answer follows.

Embedded control systems are inside each of the embedded systems you name. Access to the information within these systems is, alas, non-standard and quirky. Even if you can get the reading from a particular sensor, it is likely to be non-qualified and non-abstract. Those are fancy words to say that you may be asking a temperature sensor and getting the answer back in millivolts. Even getting that answer is hard, because the protocols used inside the systems do not look like anything that your IT folks have seen before.

There is a new standard, now in early adoption, for getting to the information in controls systems. oBIX (open building information exchange) is a web services based protocol developed within OASIS ( www.oasis-open.org ), meaning within a business communications group rather than within a controls manufacturers group. Several manufacturers are in early testing of there oBIX gateways to underlying controls systems. I am using 70 such gateways to get to building operation information right now.

What is good about web services is that they are open and accessible. They do not require that you be an engineer in the control room to get to information. I have seen Excel spreadsheets using only out of the box software polling a web service periodically and automatically adding another row of data.

If you work in hospitals, you may have run across HAVE (Hospital Availability Exchange) standard. HAVE lets, say, emergency medical responders poll nearby hospitals operators for the shortest wait time for critical diagnostic equipment. Because the HAVE standard includes no patient or procedure oriented information, it cannot put HIPAA sensitive information in play – only wait times and resource availability.

For implementation today, you should rely on someone else’s advice. But for mid term planning, look to service oriented architectures based upon abstract surfaces expressed as web services.

Full disclosure here – I am co-chair of the oBIX committee. Some in ASHRAE would passionately defend BACnet-WS as the architecture of choice. That discussion is a long and nuanced one that I will spare you. But *I* say, starting asking your suppliers about oBIX.

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