Interoperate or Fade Away
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 05:51AM
Toby Considine in Markets and Innovation

Control systems have been complacent, ignoring real enterprise standards, accepting poor interfaces with not very useful WSDL. They do this, because they can. Control system vendors just assume that the old ways will go on forever, that they can sprinkle a little XML on their control streams, and declare they have an enterprise interface,

Well not any more. Two players who may not understand the underlying systems, but who do understand enterprise interfaces have entered the market.

First, a an old conference acquaintance of mine sent me the following link from Microsoft. Microsoft Research has what is essentially a science fair each year. The following is a link from this year’s MR fair, and a development called Tine Web Services.

We will demonstrate a low-power, low-cost Web-service implementation for devices that must run on batteries for several years, such as smoke detectors and window-break sensors. In particular, we will show a prototype system of WSDL/TCP/IP over a low data rate 802.15.4 radio used in home automation. The Web-service interface makes it easy for multiple programmers to develop home-control applications using devices manufactured by different OEMs without learning new programming technologies. Our system also provides a uniform setup experience for users, enabling them to integrate multiple home devices into a single network. We also will demonstrate how a home network can be connected safely to the Internet to be accessed from cloud services. We will present a feedback-based, multiradio scheduling algorithm for energy-efficient communication among battery-operated devices. Finally, we will demonstrate an energy-management application that saves energy by actively monitoring weather and energy price variations using cloud services without compromising user comfort. This example application can be used to connect the 166 million U.S. homes and several million more worldwide to the Microsoft cloud for providing energy management. This application can generate a steady revenue stream for Live services that does not depend on user clicks. It also reduces our carbon footprint and leads to a greener lifestyle.

See the video here: http://research.microsoft.com/aboutmsr/techfest/videos/video_e.aspx

The price point is not where it needs to be, but it is not production either.

In other news, I heard rumors today about a CISCO initiative to bind WS-Reliable messaging built around lightweight EBXML to the building system. I have no real information on this initiative yet, but it does sound like writing a generic Android program for this interface would be a breeze.

So the game is engaged. Control systems vendors can actually begin to offer common informational interfaces, and compete around performance and service, or they can compete with the Thais for the market left after the Chinese are done. It should be an interesting five years.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).
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