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Chris Irwin | 18 Jul 2019

FIN works great with Niagara

FIN and Niagara combined cropped

A while back, we created some videos to show you just how easy it is to incorporate FIN into your existing and future Niagara projects. There are many projects across North America where FIN Stack has been used in conjunction with Niagara, typically to provide supervision of JACEs. This article explains why Systems Integrators (SIs) do this, and what you can gain from using FIN Stack on projects where Niagara is already installed.

Tridium has been a pioneer in the automation industry in providing a web-served GUI that worked in a browser instead of the GUI requiring installation of a Windows client application on each PC where graphics are required. While this was a great improvement, creating good looking web graphics for a browser was still a relatively complex process for SIs, which is actually why J2 Innovations was started – to develop a GUI application that would work with Niagara and enable SIs to produce better quality graphics faster, more easily, and with a mobile experience. We called it FIN Builder, and it delivered a great graphics experience with a multi-touch oriented smartphone capability.

So much for the history, lets wind the clock forward 8 years or so to the present. Now everyone expects and requires the Building Automation System (BAS) graphics to be accessible across multiple device types. Niagara AX has been upgraded to Niagara 4, which is much better as it supports the HTML5 web standard, so no longer requires the Java plug-in previously required. Niagara also now has some features that facilitate use on mobile devices. Meanwhile, J2 Innovations has had a “mobile first” approach to ensure that everything we developed worked really well on smartphones in a fully responsive way. Since the first release of the FIN Framework in 2015, which featured a fully responsive HTML5 compliant web server, we have been providing the most comprehensive mobile experience in the industry. Not only is the user experience great, but the graphics creation and system configuration time is far less because we’ve automated many of the processes, by leveraging the power of Haystack tagging. This means you can get great looking graphics quickly and easily. FIN users can navigate the site, view and modify points, acknowledge alarms, and even assign schedules on their smartphones. With FIN and our advanced tools, you'll see a great pay-off with little effort.

That’s not all. FIN Framework is about far more than just the supervisory GUI, since FIN’s alarming, scheduling, and global control functions also offer advantages. This is due to our software architecture being based on tagging and the automated configuration that this enables.

These then are some of the reasons why our SI partners use FIN to manage Niagara based systems; they like the enhanced user experience they can offer their customers, and the lower engineering costs they incur in doing so. As the first in our video series showed, it is easy to connect to a Niagara station using the nHaystack driver, which is freely available via Stackhub.org. This nHaystack driver can be installed in any instance of Niagara AX or 4, and enables an SI to quickly create a fully tagged and modeled database in FIN.

Here are the pay-offs of using FIN with NiagaraAX or Niagara 4:

  • Easy to use graphics with comprehensive automatically implemented hyperlinking to ease site navigation
  • Great mobile experience with no loss of functionality
  • “Zero engineering time” Points Graphics option
  • Very user-friendly and context sensitive alarms and alerts visualization
  • Smart alarm logic capability based on tagging that hugely simplifies maintenance of alarming policies
  • Easy to achieve a fully tagged system complaint to the Haystack standard, facilitating automatic fault diagnostics and analytics
  • More flexible dashboarding capabilities built-in with support for AM Charts open source libraries

There have been many thousands of Niagara sites with supervisory graphics designed many years ago, which now require upgrading and re-designing. In-order to improve the efficiency of site operation and management, so there is an opportunity for many end users to consider alternatives to just continuing with Niagara Web Supervisor for their “front-end” software. FIN makes a great alternative, which SIs can buy either from one of our OEM partners, or as FIN Stack, which is available via our distributor network in the North American market.

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