Uniting Automation

The public building sector is ahead of others when it comes to automation. Frequently, in that sector, automation is used to manage exhibits and operate facilities. But until recently, there was little connectivity between the automated systems. There are separate networks and protocols for lighting, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, water systems, fire alarms, pumps, cameras, doors and elevators; the task is to bring them together.

So while public buildings—including museums, theaters and other cultural centers—have a long-term focus on building automation, in the past few years, it has been done with an eye on Internet-protocol-based (IP) solutions. Today, the Internet dominates automation systems, while wireless technologies proliferate, with the overriding question being whether to install proprietary or open protocol systems.

Most new construction projects and an increasing number of renovations include the installation of building controls that link the facilities and the information technology (IT) department with a single goal—to reduce energy consumption.

In the past year, however, IP-based building automation—the linking of IP networks and building automation systems (BAS), such as access controls, air conditioning, security and closed-circuit television (CCTV)—has been gaining traction with facility owners. It has also attracted the interest of the manufacturers of control systems, said Anto Budiardjo, CEO of Clasma, a marketing and event planning company with a primary focus on providing professional services to the full spectrum of the building systems industry.

“The control systems industry is no longer fighting it,” Budiardjo said. “Large manufacturers have a historic reluctance to pick up proprietary technology.”

Budiardjo added that, as standardization is setting in with communications protocol BACnet at the forefront of IP-based building automation standards, the advantages of the Internet protocol are being realized.
“IP is being used lower ... down in the architecture, and manufacturers are adopting it where they can,” he said.

With the added sophisticated communication technology being used in control systems, today’s public buildings can develop a network of systems that talk to each other, saving on energy consumption and making the operation of the facility efficient and intelligent.

IP-based systems have been slow to be adopted because power and communications companies have innovated the technology without a single standard. Cisco provides devices along with its system; others are data integrators who develop a system that may or may not operate with a building’s equipment.

Still, the advantages are indisputable. A proliferation of IP systems for facility owners and managers offers versatility they never had with legacy systems. They can connect multiple systems and equipment within a building or group of buildings, giving facility managers a view into all the systems throughout a building or campus. Companies such as EMC and Cisco are furthering development of centralized monitoring infrastructure, and public buildings are using them.

IP in exhibits
For museums, it’s not just the management of the building itself that is the focus; there, the IP-based system may be the main attraction. For example, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, an interactive museum, is using an end-to-end Cisco IP-based network to bring interactive learning to its visitors. At the “Suite for Freedom” exhibit, visitors can watch a movie about the Underground Railroad and then place themselves in the shoes of the person from the film. At an interactive kiosk, that person must make critical decisions about his or her escape such as whether to take a little sister along or return for her later.

At Virginia’s Jamestown Museum, a Crestron eControl IP-based control system enables wireless remote operation of all systems on the site. The museum tells the story of America’s first colonists and their interactions with Virginia’s Native Americans through gallery exhibits, film presentations and living-history displays recounting this integral period in 17th-century America. Some 16 exhibits are tied to the Crestron control system with interactive audio, one of which also features lighting.

These kinds of systems, as well as full building automation systems, are continuing to be offered by a limited number of providers and contractors.

“Energy and IT are at an interesting intersection,” Budiardjo said, adding that, “public buildings tend to have large loads. They also have an element of visibility so you would expect them to be very active in [IP-based automation] in the coming years.”

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.

About the Author

Claire Swedberg

Freelance Writer
Claire Swedberg is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com .

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