In the Building Management Systems industry, such a big deal is made of this word, integration.
So much so that you see BMS engineers selling themselves as “Integration Engineers” or “Integration Specialists”.
Is this not just a standard these days? To some degree, everybody is integrating in almost every project. Look at your current input and output points, these are associated to a form of “driver” in one way or another. You configure the driver to look for the IO in the same way you would configure a driver to look for a BACnet link to an AHU or to talk Modbus with electricity meters!
Is this because of salespeople trying to make something more than it is?
Integration is nothing new, BACnet has been around since 1987 and Modbus was a thing even before then.
I mention these two because, at least in my experience, they are by far the two most popular networks protocols that we integrate with. Of course, there are many other networks/drivers which we can integrate in the building environment, and the list is always growing.
The integration process does vary from one control system to the other, but the fundamentals are the same.
BACnet is often seen as easier because of the discovery aspect of it. Once you have it set up and enabled the driver you can simply discover any BACnet devices on the network. Once the device is discovered you then discover the points, alarms, histories, plus more, it really is that simple.
Modbus does not have a discover option but if you have the correct information it should be a breeze, and yes, I do say correct information with a bit of hesitation. You do not have to work on Modbus for long to know that getting the correct information can be a huge pain.
How hard is it?
We will use BACnet IP for the purpose of this demonstration, we will also assume that:
- The site installation is fully complete and has been done correctly.
- All devices have been addressed and configured correctly.
- All devices are commissioned and awaiting connection to the BMS.
- We have all the necessary information to integrate the systems.
Of course, as a Building Management Systems Engineer this is how you should find every job you attend? Right?
The Steps to BACnet IP integration
Add the BACnet driver and set it up.
This sounds more complicated than it is. I’m not going to go into the process in this post, but there really isn’t that much detail. You can be searching for BACnet devices in 10 clicks once you have added the driver.
Discover the BACnet devices
Once the driver is configured you can then select the driver and discover the available devices on the network. Once the discover is complete all available devices will appear in the “discovered” panel. These can then be added to your database by simply dragging down.
Discover the information within the BACnet devices
Now the device is stored in your database you select which objects you would like to read/write, these can be physical points, alarm points, schedules, histories plus many more. Discover the required points and drag them into your database.
Once the objects are in your database they are free to use like any other object with the same properties throughout the software. You can add your own extensions, rename, add facets, provide limits, link, the list goes on.
And that is it! You have now integrated to a BACnet device using Tridium Niagara4 software.
Of course, the above example is a little bit crude and oversimplified but essentially everything is done and the network between the two devices is communicating. If you simply wanted to read a temperature value in real-time then you would need to do nothing more, it would work!
This would take less than ten minutes from start to finish. Anything further is just working within the Niagara environment anyway, you start adding tags, creating history extensions, creating alarm points…. All this is standard Niagara software engineering that people are doing every day, the integration side of it is purely a means of bringing the information in and in some cases, it is as simple as drag and drop!