Confronting Myths and Misconceptions about Tagging in Building Automation Applications

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In building automation, tagging applies a standardized name and definition to control devices and points. Tagging is aimed at replacing the unstandardized and frankly not very useful method of naming devices. Take this example: A commissioning agent establishes the names of all the devices and points in a building automation system before getting off the job. By the time a field tech has to go troubleshoot a device, the commissioning agent is long gone and there’s no documentation for that field tech to find what name was given to the device he’s looking for.

Or take the controls engineer who’s using remote access to monitor, troubleshoot and update the BAS. That person is trying to find the point showing where the AHU is delivering air to a zone via VAV terminal units. What should he search? If he’s using Haystack tagging protocol, he could search vavZone. He’d know that because it’s listed on the open web, not because he found a word document on an old hard drive from 1992.

Tagging, and specifically Project Haystack for building automation applications, is about eliminating the guess work and the errors that result from the most minor differences in device and point names. Naming an air handler unit “AHU” may be intuitive to one person while naming that air handler “airhandler” or “air-handler” may be natural to a different person. There are simply too many variations to try if you ever want to get anything done – AirHandler is different from airhandler, airHndlr, and so on.

It’s true, once there’s a unified tagging method for building automation devices and points, then advanced, even AI-driven applications can be run on top of building data. These are applications like SkySpark, FIN Stack, and maybe eventually Niagara. There may be an element of self-interest in developing a standard protocol so that proprietary software systems can advance, but the truth is building controls can no longer stay confined to basements or rooftops. Property owners are pressing for the industry to find real value in data from building controls. We all know it’s there, and tagging frees us up from spending all our time looking for it.

*Photo from jblevine2004 on Flickr, commercial use license.

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