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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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Smart Buildings, Smart Energy, and the Road Ahead

I arrived in Chicago for the AHR show with the early Sunday morning budget flight crowd. I was not surprised that most of the van worked with HVAC. I was gratified to be recognized by Terry Reynolds of Control Technology. Terry told me that he was using oBIX in his jobs. “We are just starting to crack things open” he observed. We compared notes on projects ranging from the UNC EBMS (Enterprise Building Management System) to the New York City public school energy management system.

He went on to ask me of  what is going to drive adoption faster. I think there are five elements of smart energy that are now on the horizon.  Each of them will accelerate the deployment of open systems for energy-using and supplying systems. Each will also expand the use of oBIX.

WS-DD and WS-DP are going to bring automatic discovery and configuration to embedded energy systems. Most people use these technologies already. Their use in building and energy systems is new. When you have plugged your computer into a network and found the printers, you have performed device discovery (DD). When you further found that the printer supports duplex printing, but not color, you have used a device profile. The WS stands for Web Services and these protocols are being developed into standards at OASIS.

The fascinating part about WS-DD and WS-DP is that one of the world’s largest makers of electrical switch gear and building systems, Schneider Electric, is part of the standards committee. Sooner or later, we will have profiles for building systems just as we do for printers and digital cameras. Just as they do now for cameras, these profiles will describe functionality and use, rather than sensors and actuators. Perhaps these profiles will delineate predefined oBIX contracts for performance. If so, this will at last make it safe for business applications to interact with building systems.

WS-Calendar is an effort to formalize and standardize schedule elements for web services. Interactions with business functions always begin with agreeing on a schedule. Business interactions with the smart grid will always begin with a price and a schedule. Schedules will award the developer of autonomous systems; just as the use of ICalendar schedules the interactions of autonomous people. When I invite someone to a meeting using ICalendar, the responsibility to get up in the morning, eat breakfast, drop of the kids at school, etc., is the onus of the other meeting attendees. In the same way, responsibility for preparation of a meeting space, including economic negotiations with the grid for energy, will fall to the building system.

New standards to provide situation awareness to first responders will lead to the WS-ready standardization for techniques to visualize building system operations. 911 operators and first responders will be able to query building systems. There will be an open source SVG-based framework to tie floor plans to sensor data, and to provide a source of meaning to the underlying sensor data. (SVG is a standard displaying scalable graphics in a way that can use standard interactive web techniques such as AJAX. SVG is available on Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and many cell phones; Google is even making an SVG plug in for Internet Explorer.) Once we have a code requirement to visualize building operations in an open standards-based way, it will be natural to use the same interface for maintenance and operations.

OpenLynx is an open source oBIX server, available on SourceForge. Peter Michaelic has defined it with a pluggable architecture; any underlying protocol can be plugged to the inside and exposed as oBIX on the outside. OpenLynx reduces the barriers to providing standards-based web services to any underlying system.

OpenADR is a developing standard for Automatic Demand Response. Demand Response is what utilities call the interactions to manage demand by sending messages, including price signals, to their customers. Utilities have a growing interest in what they call fulfillment, i.e., they care not only that processes are followed, but that contracted energy goals are met. This means that building systems, and their operations, are about to be linked directly to corporate revenues.

When I was in high school, I learned to swim out and wait for the big wave. They always came in sets, and the first wave of the set was not the biggest. So I would tread water, and count the swells. Each of these efforts is currently underway. Together they will remove the barriers to standards-based middleware for building systems. I’m counting energy swells and waiting for the big one.

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