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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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Unveiling the Unseen World at UNC

Many problems of sustainability stem from costs that are invisible or are ignored. Building performance is rarely managed as building control systems are rarely accessible. As long as building systems are invisible and uncontrollable, then they will only rarely be operated with more than minimal efficiency.

We are just completing a multi-year project at UNC in exposing building control systems using ecommerce protocols. We called this system the Enterprise Building Management System (EBMS).

We had hundreds of existing buildings, each with its own low-bidder installed systems.

Most solve such complexity by opting for sole source acquisitions. Some areas, however, have special purposes that demand a special solution that may not be available from a sole source. In any case, we were starting with a substantial installed base. Merely achieving a traditional sole source solution applied to hundreds of buildings would take decades to complete, and cost far more than our budget.

We placed each system securely in its own sandbox, keeping the low level protocols off our network while exposing web services interfaces to operations staff and our customers. Our central monitoring and operations, based upon open source software, can now interact with systems from each vendor. Its interface is exclusively the web browser, and we have used it, and its graphics, on devices ranging from PCs to iPhones. We are planning to introduce these interfaces to the wider campus, faculty, and students.

While we were planning EBMS, I recognized we needed a new model for interactions with building systems, to open them up to the interaction with business operations, and make their operation visible to building occupants, to students, and to the public. Low level standard protocols such as BACnet and LON and proprietary vendor protocols require deep integrations while shielding information from the non-elect. Even when based on low level standards the supervisory systems are proprietary and without programming interfaces.

Five years ago we decided to move oBIX to OASIS for standards development. We lost several members of the team at the time, members who wanted to develop the standard within the traditional building system community. Web services are the protocols used for business-to-business interactions, but not all web services are usable by business or e-commerce. OBIX uses ecommerce style interfaces so that business programmers with normal skill-sets can interact with buildings.

The approach opens up systems to market competition and innovation. Each building system can be chosen based upon performance and functional fit, rather than compatibility to installed base. We anticipate this will help us see more rapid improvements in the future.

With this work in place, we are now moving forward to more exciting opportunities that our open interfaces create. We are working with the Registrar to schedule building operations around actual use, exchanging information using the same protocols used to schedule meetings by email. This will enable us to schedule heating cooling tied to actual building use. We are opening up environmental monitoring information to building users. The data center can see the building’s operating posture. Archeology can see each collection's environmental conditions.

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Reader Comments (2)

Your users must find the new "unveiled" environmental and energy data useful in operations management, but what kinds of "Digital Dashboards" are you planning to make available to 1) Research Faculty at UNC; 2) Research Triangle Entrepreneurs; 3) Building Service Performance work groups?

Hopefully you will continue to expand on this fascinating topic, especially as energy prices and oil prices continue to invade academic budgets.

Keep up this excellent work.

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBob Smith

Sounds like a really interesting project, Toby. A point that resonated with me was, the fact that your operations center has leveraged open-source software to manage their day to day needs. I'd be curious to hear what the drivers (financial, extensibility, etc.) behind that decision were - and how that technology investment is managed\maintained.

May 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave Leimbrock

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