02 Feb 11:00
It’s now 30 years since I began working in the Building Automation industry (can it be that long…?!). This year has probably been the most exciting so far as the market is rapidly changing, largely as a result of the exponential growth of the “Internet of Things” market. For an explanation of what the IoT means for buildings you could watch a video of a talk I gave recently, posted by FM Inspired https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52UqS0JtF0U.
Even in just the 9 months that I have been with Distech Controls I have observed a significant shift in the UK and French markets regarding how BMS is being specified on new projects, as a direct result of the launch in December last year of Distech Controls’ range of Eclypse IP connected terminal unit controllers. Until now, the conventional BMS paradigm has been serial network connected FCU or VAV controllers using twisted pair cables in the ceiling, connected via an IP gateway to the IP backbone network to which the main plant controllers and supervisory software are also connected . Increasingly, in the UK, BACnet MSTP is the specified serial network and a Tridium JACE (or the equivalent Distech version; EC-BOS) serves as the IP gateway communicating via BACnet IP to the supervisory software. Now the Eclypse controllers enable a flat IP architecture, with all “edge devices” connected directly on an IP network which simplifies system engineering and opens up the potential for much easier integration with IoT sensors and other building related applications, such as smartphone apps that provide occupants with a single interface for a wide range of functions ranging from control of the local environment (temperature, lighting etc.) to room booking, car parking, cafeteria menus, local transport information etc. Such integration can now be achieved directly with each Eclypse controller using its REST API interface. In case you are not familiar with REST (REpresentational State Transfer) this is a standard way in which IT web services enables interactions between software applications.
The way Distech Controls has designed the Eclypse range is rather clever – instead of requiring that all the IP connected controllers be individually CAT5/6 connected back to a managed switch, which would result in a lot more cabling in the ceiling than the daisy-chained BACnet MSTP serial network , Eclypse has 2 Ethernet ports and an internal 2-port switch so that the IP network can be daisy-chained from one controller to the next. Even better, Eclypse supports Spanning Tree software which enables the IP network to be run as a loop back to the main switch introducing some redundancy, so if the CAT5/6 cabling is broken at one point the network can still function routing the other way around the loop. The other nuance which vital is the inclusion of a fail-closed relay on the IP ports so that in the event the FCU controller is powered off for maintenance as may occur from time to time, the relay ensures continued network continuity bypassing the powered down controller. The result of all this is that cabling IP connected controllers in the ceiling is no more expensive than running a serial network, and has the significant future-proofing benefit of “laying some track” for future IP applications, since other IP devices such as people counting cameras can be added at a later date. Just to put the “icing on the cake” Distech have made all the controllers capable of being Wi-fi connected as an option and they will support the EnOcean open standard for wireless sensors.
So, my question is; has your BMS been eclipsed by Eclypse? The future is now shaping up to be one in which all the controls in a building are accessible via IP and part of a more integrated “IoT” style system, with many disparate devices connected to each other and the Cloud via IP.