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The Rise of Smart Buildings 171

Roland Piquepaille writes "In a very well-documented article, Computerworld describes the current status of building automation systems (BAS) that control heat, air conditioning or lighting and how these systems are merging with traditional IT infrastructures. Computerworld writes that they're not enough standards in this industry and asks a fundamental question: who will administer these building networks, IT or facilities managers? Take for example Yale University which wants to connect 210 campus buildings, but also wishes "to integrate the BAS with the university's accounting system for billing and chargeback." Imagine the security risks involved with such an approach. This shorter summary contains selected excerpts of this must-read article."
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The Rise of Smart Buildings

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  • READ THIS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:41PM (#11988086)
    The Rise of Smart Buildings Just add water!

    Here is the "short summary":
    The Rise of Smart Buildings

    In a very well-documented article, Computerworld describes the current status of building automation systems (BAS) that control heat, air conditioning or lighting and how these systems are merging with traditional IT infrastructures. Computerworld writes that they're not enough standards in this industry and asks a fundamental question: who will administer these building networks, IT or facilities managers? Take for example Yale University which wants to connect 210 campus buildings, but also wishes "to integrate the BAS with the university's accounting system for billing and chargeback." Imagine the security risks involved with such an approach. Read more...

    Let's start with a an assessment of the current situation.

    As building automation systems (BAS) that control heat, air conditioning, lighting and other building systems get smarter, they're converging with traditional IT infrastructures. Emerging standards are enabling data sharing between building systems as well as with other business applications, improving efficiency and real-time control over building operating costs. Information security concerns, immature standards, the reluctance of vendors to give up proprietary technologies and ignorance among IT professionals of the convergence trend are all slowing the pace of this transformation, but it's gathering momentum.

    But who will control such networks? And are there enough standards in this industry?

    Open standards are just beginning to evolve and will likely break down the silos between building systems ranging from physical security to elevator controls. And the data from those systems is likely to be shared with other business applications such as the accounting system. This will allow for more-efficient buildings as applications are developed that can capitalize on newly converged data streams and real-time access to data.

    [Right now,] standardization has started from the bottom up. Proprietary cabling systems in networks that link sensors and other devices to controllers on individual floors have given way in recent years to two competing, open protocols, BACnet and LonTalk, while floor controllers are migrating onto IP backbones.

    Barry Haaser, executive director of LonMark International, says LonTalk and BACnet will prevail at the device level for technical and cost reasons. Others aren't so sure. "Instead of two guys running the IT and controls networks, why not one guy? I see IP going down to the individual device," says Anno Scholten, chief technology officer at BAS vendor Plexus Technology Ltd. in Irving, Texas.

    IT infrastructure used in building automation systems This diagram shows how "building automation systems today rely on open, industry-specific protocols such as LonTalk (shown) or BACnet for device-level communications. But they increasingly leverage Ethernet and TCP/IP for home runs back to the control systems." (Credit for image and legend: Computerworld).

    Let's take the example of Yale University to see how complex can be the merge between control systems and IT infrastructure.

    But sharing the IP backbone raises security concerns among network administrators. Yale University is starting a project to consolidate its BAS onto an IP network that will link 210 campus buildings, and it plans to tie the BAS into a room-scheduling system that will automatically control energy usage based on room occupancy. For security reasons, Bill Daniels, manager of systems and technologies for the university's facilities group, has created an isolated, parallel network that's protected by firewalls and uses nonroutable IP addresses to keep data off the Internet.

    Jerry Hill, director of systems engineering at Yale, says security is paramount. "We don't want a student to hack into our building management systems just beca
    • Re:READ THIS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LakeSolon ( 699033 )
      Gah. I thought we were done with the Roland Piquepaille articles. Good idea posting the article text in the comments to reduce the ad hits though.

    • Re:READ THIS (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Forbman ( 794277 )
      Don't want students to hack into the building management system? Simple, then. Just have that system dump its data to a secure store, and have the accounting system read that data. You don't want a live feed off of the HVAC monitoring system anyways.

      The utilities and industry use SCADA to gather data from instrumentation and equipment. Then you just need the system that aggregates that information to report to F&A (finance & accounting).

      As long as it's a one-way system, then the only risk for hack
    • Re:READ THIS (Score:5, Interesting)

      by demachina ( 71715 ) on Sunday March 20, 2005 @01:15AM (#11988982)
      In case you missed it when I posted it on Roland's scam last Sunday, here [] is a writeup someone did on how Roland is trying to use Slashdot to make a living, and is apparently being aided in his efforts, for one reason or another by Slashdot's editors.
  • they're? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:42PM (#11988092)
    "they're not enough standards"....?
  • by the_argent ( 28326 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:42PM (#11988094) Homepage
    At first, probably IT. Then, after they've been around a few years, IT will get replaced with the boss's nephew that's "really good with computers".
  • IT will do it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by turtled ( 845180 )
    The IT Dept will do it. With the advanced technologies and networking involved, it's along the same lines as full computer networking. Maybe in the future (10~20 years) it'll be simplified for less qualified. Until then, it's a higher paid salary taking care of it.
    • Re:IT will do it. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, IT will NOT do it. You all might want to think that IT has claim to it, bit they won't.

      The facilities management and Operating Engineers will be doing it. Just like they run building services now. I can imagine a bunch if CS/IT geeks going up against a bunch of good ole union boys about who has rights to this domain.

      The unions already have been training and educating their members in 'modern' methods. This is really is the next step to inteligent controllers for things like chillers, boilers, elevato
    • Re:IT will do it. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And who in IT is qualified to check whether the chiller is being controlled properly, or the return fan is on at the same time as the supply fan so we don't blow the windows out?

      The only time anyone outside of maintenance needs to see this stuff is possibly scheduling occupancy.

      And standards? Not in any of our lifetimes. Bet on it.

    • Re:IT will do it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by standbypowerguy ( 698339 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:41PM (#11988390) Homepage
      "Until then, it's a higher paid salary taking care of it."

      Don't be so cocksure about that. I'm part of a group of buildings professionals that provide infrastructure support for a major telecommunications carrier, and I can tell you for certain, our pay grade is superior to that of most IT managers and engineers in the company.

      With regard to BAS systems, they are far more complex than networking gear. The systems we support typically employ a wide variety and large number of sensors, communicating on different protocols. The code is customized for each facility, since it must interface with and control equipment from multiple vendors. These systems require maintenance and troubleshooting skills atypical of most IT professionals.

      I shudder at the thought of IT maintaining our BAS systems. One thing most of the IT professionals I've assisted over the years fail to realize is that electrical and mechanical infrastructure are the underpinnings of the rest of the facility. When you're out of power or cooling, you're out of business, plain and simple.
    • Re:IT will do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @11:15PM (#11988530)
      Actually, it's funny you spin it this way. Because in the current state of affairs, highly trained technicians handle these things because it's not "simplified for less qualified" IT personnel or otherwise to handle. These technicians are higher paid than the IT staff. Now this mainly has to do with these systems developing entirely separately from IT (ie the HVAC industry really had no incentives to make their systems IT friendly, nor did they really know otherwise - so they just developed the systems themselves).

      But, despite what you may think about having an IT person jump right on the job because the system 'seems similar' to what they work on, the type of specialized training involved in dealing with building systems is much different than typical IT work. I would think at least a year-long training program would be required before anyone could become an apprentice. And then another year or two of on-the-job training before you are fully qualified to work on your own. If your project hiccups, fine... you might lose some sales, computers might go down temporarily, services might be unavailable. If your building systems hiccup, you might burn a building down, hinder hundreds of people from doing their jobs, or damage millions of dollars of equipment, samples, resarch, etc. Need me to prove my point? Give most IT staffers a wiring diagram, and they'll scratch their head and ask you what the hell it is ...
  • Subject Subject (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TechnologyX ( 743745 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:46PM (#11988118) Journal
    Don't read "the shorter summary", fuck Roland. Somebody mod up the A/C with the article text from Roland's site.
  • by BortQ ( 468164 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:48PM (#11988123) Homepage Journal
    Clearly this is a job for Microsoft, a company with large resources and the necessary pull to get a standard in place. Yes, there's some risk that Ukranian script kiddies may be able to 0wnz your air conditioner unit, but I'm sure there will be a patch out soon.
  • Dumb Idea (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why the hell would anyone put the accounting dept in charge of computers?
    "Hmmm... this file on my drive is named, that must mean it's a webpage!"
  • Hmm... guess some PHBs have been clicking those X10 pop-ups.

  • Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Tarquin ( 811055 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:49PM (#11988132) Homepage
    Bruce Schneier scratched the surface of this in his book Secrets and Lies. He specifically adressed internet or network-accessable appliances. Basically his take is: sure they might seem convenient, but how can you be sure that someone properly went over the code on your refrigerator to make sure it was secure? Last thing I want is someone hacking my fridge and shutting it down so my beer and mountain dew get warm.
    • more fun and games (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alizard ( 107678 )
      How about turning your toaster on, turning the gas valves on your rangetop on, and turning the ignitor OFF?

      How about turning your hot tub up to 210 degrees F? (99C for furriners)

      how about turning your refrigerator up to 100 degrees for a few hours a day... and cooling stuff off just before you get home.

      I think the smart building concept is wonderful... but those who can probably should roll your own until you are certain that the security problems have been solved.

    • Personally, I don't see this as too big of an issue. All of your network-addressable appliances would be on your private network, behind a firewall. They'd have private (10.x, 192.168.x, etc.) IPs. When you wanted to login to remotely access your devices, you'd go to a web control panel of sorts on a secured PC which would take your commands over HTTPS and pass them on to your appliances on your private network. Computers on the public internet would have no direct access to your appliances. (At least
      • Re:Security? (Score:1, Insightful)

        by 11011001 ( 710307 )
        I can see this as a problem with the average home owner. If they can't configure their wireless router to be secure, how can we expect them to configure their gateway computer to be secure (such as a secure password)? Out of the box security is going to be really imporant.
      • Re:Security? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by The Tarquin ( 811055 )
        What you say is true, which makes your appliances roughly as safe as a PC protected the same way, yet some PCs still get busted into, despite those precautions.
        And yes, I agree, there are some things more important than securing home systems, but the point is IF this system is released then there WILL be security problems. I don't think most people who aren't IT people will realize that. "Everything controlled via the internet? BRILLIANT!" would be the attitude taken by almost everyone, I think only us
  • I , for one , welcome our new smart building overlords!!!! ... ok its lame but i got nothing much in my mind .. blah
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2005 @09:52PM (#11988145)

    he even has his own Wikipedia entry

    Slashdot trolling phenomena []

    and suprise suprise Timothy is mentioned too

    no wonder people dont subscribe to this shit

    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      I just clicked on the Roland Piquepaille article link just to annoy you.

      As icing on the cake, I didn't bother to read the article, but immediately scanned the page for advertisements to click through on. OK, slim pickings -- there's the diploma mill, which normally I would be glad to see pay some of its ill gotten gains, except I wouldn't trust my browser (even though it is Firefox) on the web site of an outfit like that. So I settle on "goat cactus -- effortless algorithmic music for OSX", and am rewarde
    • While the Slashdot trolling entry is clearly one of Wikipedia's less serious entries, that particular section crosses the line in my opinion. Bitching and flaming are against the spirit of the thing.
  • How long before we have one of these []

    Fun thriller, about a building who kills off its inhabitants...

    -- Marcio
  • I hate this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:00PM (#11988178) Journal
    I hate this so much. When I was in school, physical plant had control of the central air/heat in our building. They were in a small office next to a warehouse. I spent most of my time in a five story building on the other side of campus. They decided when our a/c went on. We could call them, but we'd be lucky if they actually listened. There were lots of people in our building 24 hours per day. Good luck getting the air turned up in the middle of the night. Ugh.
    • Similar experience here. Our compsci building has lights and air controlled by one of these "smart" systems. It's a new-ish building and we've been suffering since we moved in. Lights turning themselves off when we aren't moving enough is bad, but the worst is the cooling. Apparently the idiots who setup the system didn't think labs full of P4s running 24x7 needed to be cooled when there is no one jogging around the room.
    • In the building where I work, the lights go off automacilly at 6:00 pm (7:00 in the summer). If you're working late, they have a number to call where you can punch in your zone number and the lights will come on for that section for another 2 hours.
      The main problem is that at 6:00 everyone is trying the number at the same time, so it may take a half hour or more of redialing in order to get the lights back on.
  • by stevenrnelson ( 865039 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:01PM (#11988185)
    So who's going to be the first one to steal private information through the thermostat, or send spam though the ceiling lights? Remember how those guys turned the side of a large building into a very low resolution display?
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:02PM (#11988186)
    ... all I can think of is "There Will Come Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury...
    • about your sig (IRS has ruled that MS upgrades aren't considered gambling losses) -- are gambling losses really tax write-offs? can you please explain them (if they are.) Thanks.

      It just seems ridiculous. Sounds like a perfect example of the power of different lobbies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    > that they're not enough standards

    Thank God there're enough standards in the English language that we don't have to read mistakes like this... oh...
  • I've seen a couple (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jjeff1 ( 636051 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:11PM (#11988235)
    I'm an IT person. I've seen a couple of these systems. In general, they use networking simply to transport data between HVAC controllers.

    In my experience, the customers have multi-building networks. Within each building, all the HVAC sensors and controls are all wired to a central control device, not over the network. The control device is typically some solid-state box bolted to the wall, not a PC.

    All these boxes talk back to a central server (crummy PC with BAS software) over the WAN. The server then tells the boxes what to turn on and off and sends out alerts if something goes wrong. The alerting is basic, no SNMP or emails. A pager if you're lucky, but probably just a flashing message on the screen. My understanding is that there are some default settings the boxes can use if they should lose connection to the server.

    As for this being an area for IT to take over, I don't see it. The vast majority of the work involved is with wiring HVAC sensors and systems back to the controllers and in programming the settings into the BAS software on the server. There is very little IT knowledge required. If you can program a cable modem router, you probably have enough IT knowledge to program the IT part of these things.
    • Sounds a bit like ours. Relatively dumb HVAC controllers, each building has local fall-back, network failure != building failure. All on their own VLAN on the common fibre. It is coupled to the room booking system, if a room is booked HVAC looks after it. Lighting for lecture theatres, etc, has occupancy sensors and the dreaded 30 minute cutoff, but this does not apply to toilets, stairs or faculty staff offices.

      Security? You can hack anything if you want to... Switch/routers and a solid campus firewall me
    • This is well said. Some day, hopefully soon, the world will realize that the IT department can't do everything that has a computer attached to it, and along with this, IT managers will quit assuming that they should be in charge of everything on the network!!

      IT people would have no more idea what to do with HVAC controller errors than the DJ at your local radio station should know what to do with a RAID error.

      I wish people would quit assuming that the network is more than just a service, like POTS lines e
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:14PM (#11988252)

    from the article

    Copyright © 2005 Computerworld Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Computerworld Inc. is prohibited. Computerworld and and the respective logos are trademarks of International Data Group Inc.

    enjoy the lawyers

    • As much as I dislike roland pika-troll, a copyright notice is not a contract and does not trump fair use laws. Someone smart enough to game the system to drive ad revenue on their 'blog' is smart enough to understand the basics of fair use law as it applies to journalism.
  • My guess is that the Computer Science department is somehow going to do a lot better generating power and heat then either Physics or Chemistry. (and at cooling off in the summer despite all of those CPUs.)
  • by towndowner ( 813250 ) <> on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:15PM (#11988258) Homepage
    IT and Facilities Management will merge - that simple. administering windows boxes and unclogging toilets aren't too dissimilar to begin with.
  • First one to say "I for one welcome our new mortar overloads!" dies a slow and painful death! Wait, no, aiiiiieeee...
  • As an architect-monkey, sometimes I have to stay late to get stuff done. Past 9PM, every 30 minutes I have to stand up and do jumping jacks to get the darn lights to come on. I don't care about lights, but when the lights are off the air doesn't move. They must be linked. Frack power savings. 30 minutes is too freaking often when you are working on something deep.
  • Yes, but... (Score:2, Funny)

    by MMMDI ( 815272 )
    Will there be smart buildings in a bag?
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:26PM (#11988310)
    who will administer these building networks, IT or facilities managers?

    The boss' secretary. You know, the one who's always cold. She'll be setting the thermostat for every room in the entire facility from her desktop. Better stock up on Bermuda shorts.
  • DALI (Score:5, Informative)

    by oddbudman ( 599695 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:27PM (#11988315) Journal
    To me it seems strange that this article does not mention DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface). It is a new standard for Lighting control that is sure to shake things up. Especially when you see DALI is currently being pushed by lighting manufacturers such as Osram, Atco, Helvar and Phillips to name a few. Dali places a fair bit of intelligence at the lighting fixture, and can be easily intergraded to TCP/IP networks using such systems as Atco's windim@net. This allows for remote monitoring and control. Better yet DALI can be wired using standard 240v insulated cabling and can be run next to the mains wiring (no segregation). It really is a smart step foward for lighting control. Check it out []
  • "In a very well-documented article [...] this must-read article."

    I've got a feeling somebody just tried to trick me into actually reading the article.

    Well I'm long enough on slashdot to know better... :P
  • God forbid that Microsoft creates a OS for this, I wonder how long it will take a hacker or someone with too much free time on their hands to break into this system.
  • Oh, come on, I can't be the only one that saw the RoboCop miniseries []! Well, maybe I am.

  • by SidV ( 800332 ) <slash@sidv-dot-org> on Saturday March 19, 2005 @10:42PM (#11988391)
    I work within an industry that would supply some of the stuff to be used in so called "Smart structures" I've been to the conferences, I've talked to the people.

    It all falls apart because of cost. I can control anyone of the different systems in your house/building, I can monitor any variable you want. But the cost point is much much higher than you would expect. Even for a small 2000 sq foot house to monitor each room, control lighting and so forth would cost tens of thousands of dollars installed.

    Then it still wouldn't work well, because I can only monitor so many different variables, and there are too many exceptions.

    For instance. I worked in a semi smart building. Part of it was that motion sensors turned the lights on and off. If it didn't sense movement for 5 minutes or so it shut off the lights.

    All well and good until someone is in the bathroom alone for a legngthy constitutional. Then your trapped on the can in a dark room.

    Yes a minor example, but just one of many thousands of issues that come up. Say heating. You want to lower heating in rooms that aren't used, so you lower the temprature. Then someone comes in to work for an hour or two. Well rooms don't heat up immediately, so while the system is trying to heat the room up, the person says, "It's to damn cold in here" and goes somewhere else.

    Or the opposite, you turn off the air conditioning, then people avoid that room because it's hot and muggy, next thing you know you've got mold in the walls.

    All for a system that costs tens of thousands of dollars for a small building, hundreds, or millions for a large building.

    As to networked appliances. Who want's to update the software in their toilet so they can use their microwave.

    Who wants to find out out their boiler has a bug that shuts it's down under certain conditions, only to be told.

    "It's a known problem, it will be fixed in the next release."

    Who wants to have to re-boot their stove.

    For some things simple analog controls work fine, things like on/off switches, potentiometer based volume knobs, and tuning knobs.

    I can't stand the current generation of car stereos because the volume goes in steps, either just a little bit too loud, or a little bit to quiet. In the old days I could fiddle with the tuning knob to get in a hard to reach signal. Now I can only go up or down .1 Hz, if that doesn't work, give it up. I don't want everything else to be a similar way.
    • For some things simple analog controls work fine, things like on/off switches, potentiometer based volume knobs, and tuning knobs.

      I can't stand the current generation of car stereos because the volume goes in steps, either just a little bit too loud, or a little bit to quiet. In the old days I could fiddle with the tuning knob to get in a hard to reach signal. Now I can only go up or down .1 Hz, if that doesn't work, give it up. I don't want everything else to be a similar way.

      I have the same problem, b

      • The problem boils down to the fact that people with a digital hammer view everything as a nail, when it aint necessarily so.

        The is an enormous space left over for a really good analoguesqueeelccch and farty noise; but...too many think that that it's a given that everything is already, or can be, modelled (usu. in terms of amplitude) - and the rest is some sort of artifact.

        Sad but true.

    • Personally, I want to meet the idiot that decided motion sensors on toilets (not urinals, mind you, but toilets) was a good idea. Try and take a shit - next thing you know, you're getting a ball-wash. It's extremely annoying, not to mention a tad cold.
  • So... If someone hack into the system ... Basically he / she can "Steam" the whole building? Or have tons of Mansicle or frozen jerky?
  • The day that my house automatically detects and finds drivers for the hardware I just installed is the day that I call my house "smart". Or any building for that matter.

    But either way, I would want one of those sets of robots like in the Fifth Element, so I can call a robot to pound on my back when I choke on a cherry.
  • by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @11:04PM (#11988484) Homepage
    This shorter summary contains selected excerpts of this must-read article." Come on . . .grow up . . . a "must-read article" That sounds like a troll if I ever heard one.

    Does this guy actually think that this article is of improtance and relevance to every single slashdot reader? Sounds like old TV commercials . . . "Tonight a very special episode of Blossom . . . the one you can't afford to miss . . . ." This is just poor sensationalized journalism. Does Roland Piquepaille think that /. readers are that gullible or does he think that we're just that stupid?

    • Does Roland Piquepaille think that /. readers are that gullible or does he think that we're just that stupid?

      Well, let's see.

      1. He's still posting stories.
      2. People are still going to his page.
      3. We're still here on slashdot.
      Was your question rhetorical, kind sir?
  • an architect squeaks (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_twisted_pair ( 741815 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @11:05PM (#11988486)
    Sorry to disillusion people people , but as an real [not-fucking-software ;) ] Architect (or even anarchi-tect) these thing are the way forward.

    In the UK we call such systems BMS, Building Management Systems. It amounts to vaguely-intelligent way to manage building energy consumption; that is the sole remit. Realise that, while there may be ways to access the info remotely and thus expose the system to security risks .that is not the prime objective

    The real point is to monitor boiler firing cycles, and window-openings (night-purge cooling etc) remotely to minimise running cost.

    Yes, it's great. I can watch, in real-time , the window management of a school I designed two years ago, from a terminal 200 miles away. I can learn from it, in terms of how the building is really used, as opposed to how it was assumed to work. Can I over-ride choices? No, and neither can any one else by 'hacking' the system. The truth is, BSMS systems are dumb - they are pre-programmed and (at best) report. No-one (esp. the investors) is actually interested in spending for IP addresses for the windows on the Arts wing, the necesary actuators and so on. I can monitor these things only because the necessary sensing is already part of other systems - like the alarm systems.

    To everyone who wants to set off the sprinklers at their High School: please realise that sprinkler heads are purely reactive and work solely on rate-of-rise of temperature; they are not remotely addressable. Smoke sensors, on the other hand, can be ;)

    • sprinkler heads aren't even electronic. They have metal plugs that melt at a given temperature, which releases the water and the pressure drop by one sprinkler going off usually will set off several others in the same area or zone. The pressure drop is also detected by pressure monitors hooked up to the fire alarm system.

    • In the UK we call such systems BMS, Building Management Systems.

      Pfft. Talk to me again when you have a similar system set up and successfully running in a refinery or other similarly complex industrial facility like a chip fab.

      Architects are always a pain in the arse - style minus substance and they rely on their civil/structural subcontracted engineers to do the heavy lifting.

      Think the "oooh, shiny" client response phenomenon; that's essentially the market that architects cater to.
  • Useful applications (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For those of us out there who aren't in this particular field, what would really help would be some controllers and other types of devices that can be plugged into a fast ethernet/GigE network, given an individual network address, and which can be used to monitor temperature/humidity, turn on/off outlets, turn on/off switches (relays), log temperatures, or similar functions. Yes, there is that home automated system (X-10, aren't they the ones with the annoying pop up ads from a few years ago?), but I'm tal
  • by rtphokie ( 518490 ) on Saturday March 19, 2005 @11:14PM (#11988520)
    Is "smart" going to be the new "e". A word tacked on the front of other words to satisfy writers eager to sound hip?
  • Great...The last thing I want to do is to reboot my house.

    Today is August 5, 2006, Today is August 5, 2006... []

  • In your DRM'ed Airco...
  • literally.
  • All your HVAC are belong to us!
  • The real scoop. (Score:5, Informative)

    by thejeffer ( 864748 ) on Sunday March 20, 2005 @12:28AM (#11988851)
    No offense, but the majority of the posters so far have no CLUE what they're talking about. I work for one of the largest building automation companies in the US (and world) and write the logic for programmable controllers. First of all, there is no way you'd EVER want an IT department taking control of your HVAC system unless they've been trained VERY well and their building's controllers were programmed with an IT department in mind. I started off in the IT world, and thought moving to building automation would be a cinch, but let me assure you, there was a huge deal to learn. When you're dealing with Chillers that can blow a cap that costs $10,000+ to replace, just because you accidentally allowed a chilled water valve to open up while your return water was still too hot after the a switchover in your 2-pipe plant... well... let's just say you want a building maintenance guy dealing with these situations. As far as standards go, just because IT people don't know about them hardly means they don't exist. The most prevalent standards today are the ones mentioned by the article - BACNet and LonTalk. Both are fairly simple protocols that allow for efficient communication over a wide range of network media. They were designed with slower networks in mind, so that if your bandwidth is only 100k/sec, you're still going to be fine. Usually the controllers are on a slower copper wire network, and then routed through an ethernet network to the frontend computer. Personally, I'd like to see the business go towards using standard ethernet and tcp/ip the whole way through, because of the lower costs of standard routers, repeaters, bridges, etc. As far as security concerns go... If they're worried about someone hacking in to their HVAC system and harming things, then their system was progammed shoddily. A well programmed system always takes into account the stupidity of users. You place safeguard upon safeguard upon safeguard. Even guys that have been facility managers for years will try to do stupid things, so you plan ahead and only let them make non-harmful changes from the frontend.
    • Whatever. For as many buildings as you're talking about, there are probably a hundred others stocked with Ye Olde Electronicke Door Lockes et al that are run by whatever non-doofus "I don't need a manual to program a fucking VCR clock" types are handy. And those folks don't know - or particularly care - about the work involved in lowbrow facilities management.

      Or else it's the facilities management types who can't type their way out of a paper bag dependent on whatever third rate retards took professional c

    • I worry more about promoted-to-Peter-Principle level, clueless MBA-types getting into positions of power than I do about naive IT dorks calling the shots for process control and safety system management. Who knows what a HAZOP is?

      The _real_ engineering world has governing bodies (and stuff like that) to oversee the activities of its members. This is why bridges don't usually fall down and water comes out when you turn on the shower.

      "Software engineers" are really "developers". The only computer-related
    • This is why it works (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tc9 ( 674357 )
      You keep the low voltage protocols off the internet. You use a gateway. Cllearly, obviously, you do not want the internet in the middle of a process control loop.

      One should think of a process control system (HVAC for the 3rd floor) as similar to a RAID sub-system. Multiple moving parts. Different devices computing their own sectors, timing, etc. Servo motors have their own control logic that manages spin up, spin down, head stepping. A supervisory RAID system manages striping, adding hot-spares, etc. All

  • It's Roland the Plogger again.

    First, this stuff has been around for years. Decades, in some cases. And it's been "real soon now" since the days of X10.

    Here's a classic example, the Echelon LonWorks demo room []. This has been online for many years. You can turn the lights on and off, run the window blinds up and down, read the room temperature, and do similar amusing stuff. It's all done via power line networking.

    As it turns out, LonWorks was modestly successful in building automation. But it's beco

  • by jeffkjo1 ( 663413 ) on Sunday March 20, 2005 @02:09AM (#11989162) Homepage
    The last thing we need is automated building that are tied into computers.

    I was having a conversation last night with a friend about how annoyed I am with the current crop of auto mechanics. I have a minor problem with my vehicle that I can't diagnose, but the shop won't even look at it.
    "Because it isn't throwing a code."
    Just because the check engine light isn't on doesn't mean there isn't a problem. The last thing we need are building supers who look at their computer screen and say, "I don't see a problem", because the water leak up on 17 hasn't gotten big enough for the computer to notice it.
  • I must say, as a Critical Facilities Engineer, I feel that most of the posters thus far are drastically downplaying (intentionally or not) the complexity of modern facility management as well as BAS systems.

    I work for a large commercial real estate firm at a campus for a very large financial institution. Our facility is just over 1,000,000 sq feet and is comprised of 6 buildings including a data center. It is my opinion that the people that "take over" management and implementation of BAS's as they mov
    • by SidV ( 800332 )
      " Think how amazing it will be to be able to turn the lights on at your house from your PC at work before you leave to drive home "

      Amazing yes, usefull no. And contrary to what this is supposed to do, which is reduce energy costs, burning a bulb/bulbs you don't need is wstefull.

      More usefull is the motion sensor I have for the bulb in my carport. When I pull in it lights up so I can get in the house, and flip that highly complicated analog switch to light the inside house.

      Turning the light on when
  • ...that scene from Hackers [] is possible. "The pool on the roof must have a leak." :)
  • Could we please stop trying to control everything from the network? Heating, it makes sense, as long as you do it well (my flatmate works in building where the heating is controlled remotely. By a remote thermostat. So if it's cold 30-odd miles away, the heating goes on. Pure genius that one). In the case of Toronto airport (example from the first article), I can see lighting being a good idea too.

    However... where I work, we recently moved into a new building, with motion sensor controlled lights. These wo
  • For many years I have had a network of Microchip PIC controlers networked using a 1200 baud serial network into a central controller. The central controller is a PC-104 board that allows configuration via either a touch-panel or using it's web server.

    There is a very old snapshot of how it was configured when I was in New Mexico at Barnnet []. It is setup in a similar manner here in Oregon, but the HVAC system uses A/C instead of a swamp cooler.

  • In principle I think this is a good idea, but the devil will be in the detail of the implementation: it must be robust and secure.

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