Almost half of today’s projects involve multiple legacy control protocols—such as BACnet, LonTalk, DALI, C-Bus, Modbus, KNX, etc — that don’t interoperate
Echelon Corporation, the world’s leading control networking platform provider, released findings from a recent online survey that shed light on plans for building automation systems of the future. Survey results indicate that a majority of planners intend to integrate lighting, HVAC and security systems into a common platform, and that almost half of building automation projects involve legacy systems running multiple protocols from different vendors. The conclusion is that multiprotocol and converged solutions will be key to extracting optimal benefit from the emerging Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Results of the Echelon survey, which was conducted online for four weeks in January and February 2014, include the following:
Seventy percent of respondents said they plan to integrate their disparate building lighting, HVAC and security systems onto a common platform—nearly one-third of them in the next 12 to 18 months.
Almost half the survey respondents indicated that more than 50 percent of their building retrofit projects involve multiple protocols.
Nearly two-thirds reported that at least a quarter of their current retrofit projects involve multiple protocols.
Over the years, building automation systems have been developed using disparate protocols such as BACnet, LonTalk, DALI, C-Bus, Modbus, KNX, etc. that currently do not intercommunicate.
“The convergence of siloed building automation systems will bring multiple benefits to building owners and tenants,” said Wendy Toth, chief marketing officer, Echelon. “With a single converged network, building operators can lower costs; more easily create powerful, integrated applications that boost energy efficiency while increasing comfort for people in the buildings; and choose best-of-breed products from a variety of vendors.”
Market researchers such as those at IHS predict that the IIoT will comprise a billion industrial and commercial devices by 2017, and that the IIoT will add 500 million new units per year. Such predictions provide tremendous economic incentives to bridging currently separate industrial device networks.
Multiprotocol Support Crucial to IIoT Potential
Potential IIoT benefits depend on both existing and new building automation devices being able to interoperate with one another, running whatever protocols evolved within their particular domains.
“The reality of today’s building automation projects is that a large percentage involve devices running multiple legacy protocols,” said Toth. “Building operators have difficulty justifying a migration to the IIoT for ‘rip-and-replace’ projects. Instead, they need a smooth, phased migration to a common platform that integrates legacy devices along the way—which is exactly what Echelon provides.”
Multiprotocol support offers significant benefits for the business of building automation companies. Instead of designing, manufacturing, supporting and tracking different unique products for each protocol option, companies can reduce their number of SKUs (stock keeping units) when a single device can be configured to support multiple protocols. Companies can also expand their business. For instance, those that traditionally have made only LonWorks products can now also compete for BACnet bids, and vice versa.