Over the course of this year we’re going to unpack the operational technology network one product at a time. We believe a strong, secure and smart OT network is the future of building automation and controls. We’ve assembled an all-star cast of product partners that are strongly positioned to lead the charge and we’ll introduce you to them on a regular basis. To kick off the series, we’re starting at the top in the cloud with building analytics and a brand new product called onPoint.
“Building analytics” has been bubbling up as an industry buzz phrase over the past five years. Most controls contractors and integrators are still figuring out what to do with it. The term has penetrated the C-suite where decision makers are talking in board rooms about “doing analytics” on building assets. There are a handful of analytics products at various stages of implementation across customer sites. Some start and carry on without a hitch. Some start and never really take off. Others cycle in a continuous loop of little return.
When done correctly, building analytics turn building management systems into energy management systems that give back more than they take in. In order to see the full return on a BMS investment and keep a system operating at its peak throughout its lifetime, the system needs to be continuously commissioned. The constant monitoring, adjusting, troubleshooting and optimizing of a system contributes to energy savings and repair reductions quickly and over time.
Analytics make this continuous commissioning possible and Kodaro’s onPoint is the most cost-effective and easiest way to get started.
The building analytics projects that fail typically follow the same trajectory: analytics are sold on the notion that there are energy and operational inefficiencies to identify. There is one solid computer programmer on staff at a controls contractor. That programmer gets pulled into the new analytics job and begins diving into the platform and programming language that was spec’d into the project. An emergency breaks out at a different customer site and the programmer is urgently dispatched to the field to deal with that issue. The programmer returns a few weeks later and starts at square one with the analytics project. Rinse, repeat.
As anyone who has attempted building analytics will tell you, they’re far more complex than their buzz suggests. Most analytics platforms are just that – platforms that are intended to be programmed upon. The platform can do anything as long as someone knows how to program it. In many cases, it’s necessary to have more than one someone who can do that programming to deliver timely progress and ultimately tangible results.
For us, onPoint is the linchpin to the OT network because data is the gold in any comprehensive operational technology effort. onPoint analytics allow for continuous commissioning on multiple buildings and takes away the need to dedicate your top programmer to one analytics project at a time. It also allows integrators to expand service offerings and grow long-term engagements. Crucially, onPoint provides custom reporting to drive action and show results to everyone on the team.
The onPoint base package includes an IT connection using a secure VPN tunnel between building equipment and the Kodaro cloud, plus data modeling and database integration along with proven airside analytics and a team of engineers and data scientists. We’ve been in the loop throughout Kodaro’s development of this product and we’re excited to dive into it with you when you’re ready. Browse the base package and add-ons in our web store, then contact us to schedule a web or in-person demo.
Controlco and J2 Innovations are hosting user sessions on FINStack this month at two locations in the Southeast region. First up, join us in Little Rock on November 16. Plan for an 8 hour class – lunch will be provided.
This training is free and will offer a chance to create an actual job using a demo version of the building automation framework. It’s a great hands-on opportunity to explore the new features of FIN 4.0.
REGISTER FOR LITTLE ROCK
If the Nashville area is more convenient for you, we’re having a repeat session in Franklin on November 17.
REGISTER FOR FRANKLIN
The sessions will cover FIN graphics, historian, bLine Logic, alarms and fault detection, schedules and “magic bubbles.”
Explore FIN’s YouTube channel for more on how FINStack can help your projects.
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.
Last week we talked about how secure connectivity can save your BAS, and why the age of fearing remote access is over. Today we’ll talk about ways you can actually achieve secure connectivity.
The hardware products that are succeeding at secure connectivity for building automation systems are set up a lot like a standard lock and key system, but digital. One small piece of hardware sits at one endpoint serving as the lock that protects all of the information that is received from the device. Another small piece of hardware, the key, plugs into the lock for access to the network devices that are plugged into the lock. The lock only opens when that key is activated.
The lock and key concept is a simple way to outline the process of how intelligent networking devices with cryptoprocessing capabilities communicate and allow access to devices securely and remotely. As complicated as that sounds, the lock and key concept still applies.
There are certain products that make sense for different parts of a building automation system, or for different types of integration projects (new construction versus building retrofit, for example). But our integrator and contractor customers are finding that a new product out of Finland is providing the best bang for the buck right now.
The TOSIBOX lock and key product suite has some of the most promising, secure and easiest to use products that we’ve seen for these applications. We’re focusing here on the remote connectivity aspect, but the same products are also great for secure connectivity from a hard-wired connection. The TOSIBOX product suite ranges from enterprise level hubs for VPN connections to USB-style keys for access to individual devices.
One integrator recently purchased the Virtual Central Lock, Lock 200s and Key 200s for deployment in a new building construction in Mexico City. The integrator found an immediate decrease in the number of field tech deployments to the job site, lower costs because no IP addresses were needed, and excellent network availability and up-time.
Browse the product suite in our online store then contact a rep to discuss your secure connectivity needs.
In the old days, a busted rooftop unit meant an urgent phone call from the facilities manager and a costly emergency deployment of a field technician from a contractor, integrator or controls distributor. For many in the building automation industry, it’s still the old days. But for those who are interested in solving building equipment problems with digital and less costly solutions, diagnosing a problem can be as easy logging into a computer.
Secure remote connectivity is standard in many other industries by now. But when a system on the operational technology side of a building network turns off when it’s not supposed to or cycles on and off in an unintended pattern, everyone scrambles to diagnose and fix the problem, often after it has been occurring for days or weeks.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The technologies that have changed the operation of countless other industries is also available to the building automation industry, people have just been turned off by security concerns or commitment to old processes.
The security concerns around remote connectivity have, up until now, been valid. High profile data breaches achieved through compromising an IBMS plaster news headlines. From there, attempts to solve the problem have over complicated the issue. But as with other industries, there are ways to do remote connectivity right, without compromising anything on the security front and without a PhD in cybersecurity.
The products that are succeeding use technologies already widespread and proven in other industry applications – such as VPNs and VLANs. When applied correctly, the advantages of these remote connectivity products are tremendous.
While you may have shied away from remote connectivity for your BAS with good reason, new products available today don’t require a complete OT network overhaul to get secure remote access to your building systems. These products plug directly into individual units to create a secure portal into that one device or the entire system. Digital transformation sounds like it would require a full system retrofit, but that is simply not the case. As soon as your next system fails or falters, it will become clear that the age of fearing remote connectivity is over.
Check back next week for more details on our favorite remote connectivity products available for building automation applications.
We had a great webinar session with Ron Victor, CEO and founder of IoTium earlier in August to learn about their innovative approach to building automation data security, connectivity and scalability. Controlco recently announced our new distribution partnership with IoTium, for their secure connectivity and edge intelligence packages.
We believe this product suite is ideal for master systems integrators who are working to connect multiple systems at the enterprise level and need to insure secure data transfer on a regular basis. The packages can be used in one building or multiple, for portfolios clustered in one region or spread throughout the globe.
In case you missed the webinar, you can watch it here:
If you have questions that our team didn’t answer there, you can call our IoT national sales director Brent Dunlap and set up a one-on-one demo anytime – (855) 425-6657.
Want more from IoTium? If you find yourself in Santa Clara this Thursday, August 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., you’re invited to a lunch-and-learn at their headquarters. Hear directly from a Master Systems Integrator how the operating system and iNode packages have helped their enterprise-level operations technology integrations thrive in the IoT. Find details and register today (hurry!)
Combined efforts spur buildings IoT progress and innovation worldwide
PLEASANT HILL, Calif. and VANCOUVER, Canada, March 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Today, California-based automation distributor Controlco announces it is the primary North American distributor for Vancouver-based Optigo Networks, opening the door to an era of building networks that separate operational technology (OT) from information technology (IT) for building-IoT integrations.
“Convergence is not the simple solution it once was,” said Controlco President Chip Cummins. “And the number of smart devices on building networks will only keep growing. With that comes increased divisions between IT and OT staff capabilities, and an urgent need to secure everything from individual devices to full networks. We see this partnership with Optigo Networks as a way to help integrators advance their capabilities while delivering next generation operational technology to their building clients.”
Optigo Networks’ suite of hardware products, including its popular Optigo Connect family, offer easy-to-manage switches available with secure networks and a fraction of traditional infrastructure requirements. This partnership expands Optigo Connect’s availability throughout North America, and advances Optigo and Controlco’s shared vision of separate OT networks.
“We are thrilled to partner with Controlco to advocate for separate OT networks,” said Dan Ronald, VP Product Management at Optigo Networks. “Convergence leaves network systems vulnerable to attacks; with a growing number of connected devices in buildings worldwide, those vulnerabilities have massive implications. Optigo Connect is the backbone that smart buildings need, and now Controlco can help them get it.”
Through this North American distributor partnership, systems integrators and facility managers will have easy access to Optigo Connect and support in their OT transition.
Controlco specializes in products and knowledge for the Internet of Things (IoT) as it is used in commercial and industrial buildings. We distribute the industry’s best operational technology devices, controllers, sensors, software and accessories for building owners and operators to succeed at challenging IoT building projects.
About Optigo Networks
Optigo Networks is shaping the future of the commercial Internet of Things (IoT). Optigo uses visualization and anomaly detection to enable explosive growth of IoT in buildings. Optigo is the first to address the growing complexity of maintaining the thousands of little machines that make our buildings comfortable, efficient, and secure. Optigo’s solutions are used every day in a rising number of buildings around the world.