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OBIX Interoperability Picture Becomes Clearer at BuilConn

Last month in Dallas, the second annual BuilConn show brought together systems integrators, manufacturers and IT personnel for a dialogue on intelligent, integrated buildings. One of the big questions of the show was who should guide the building automation effort.

"The big issue that I think we're debating as an industry right now is do we believe that control of facility systems is going to be largely dominated by people that come out of the mechanical engineering/HVAC world, or do we believe that it will be dominated by people that come out of the IT world?" said Paul Ehrlich, P.E., business development leader of global controls and contracting for Trane, St. Paul, Minn. "My belief is that things are going to become more and more dependent on the IT world."

While those on the mechanical side might feel threatened by a move toward IT, Ehrlich noted, it doesn't drive away the need for good M/E design, control and installation. That being said, the mechanical industry will need to become more in tune with network technology.

To illustrate the inevitable shift of building automation toward IT, Ehrlich provided an update on the OBIX (Open Building Information Exchange) Committee—which he chairs—a group dedicated to developing an IT standard for building automation. Since building automation is becoming more and more a part of the IT network, he pointed out, it needs to communicate well with the network, and there needs to be a standard guiding this relationship. Enter OBIX.

When the OBIX committee met at BuilConn last month, and the question of where the OBIX standard would be hosted—in a mechanical or IT association—the vote was 2 to 1 in favor of IT. As such, OBIX will form a committee under OASIS, an IT organization involved in global network and XML standards, and the committee will create a standard for data communication within buildings.

While OBIX is only a year old, Ehrlich hopes to see a first draft of the standard by the end of the year. "The goal for OBIX is to move quickly," he said. "We're dealing with the Internet, so we don't have the option of moving slowly."