2020 has been dominated by the COVID crisis, but for those involved in managing buildings other worries have been increasing too. If you are concerned about the increasing cybersecurity threats, coupled with your ability to adapt to the changing demands from building users, then a review of the systems you use to manage your building(s) is warranted in the New Year. Some software is only able to run on outdated operating systems like Windows XP and Windows 7, while some software suppliers have already or are in the process of discontinuing support for their older products (examples of those are J2 Innovations’ 4.5 version of FIN Framework which is now on version 5, Tridium’s Niagara AX (by July 2021) or Trend’s 963 Supervisor). In these cases, upgrading your BMS is a priority, especially the software, to stay up to date with latest market and cyber security requirements. While building operators often assume that any upgrade must mean continuing with the same supplier, the adoption of open standard protocols such as BACnet has created more choices when contemplating systems upgrades. Although some BMS manufacturers offer migration utilities to ease the transition to newer software, these tools often do not eliminate the need for significant re-engineering especially when it comes to the redesign of older graphics and the optimisation of the control logic. Today, buildings no longer are constrained to the original BMS vendor’s software. In some cases, one can even save money by selecting an alternative supplier.
One of the biggest factors that delays upgrades is the perception that the whole system (including all the controllers) will have to be replaced all at one time. This is frequently impossible both at a practical level and with regards to budgetary implications. In the past, BMS’ used manufacturer specific proprietary protocols that made it difficult to switch to another provider, but now most system vendors offer a gateway to an open protocol, such as BACnet or Modbus, even if they do not natively support them. This enables migration or upgrade of an older system to be planned and allows systems to be broken down into prioritized, and manageable components to be replaced over a viable time frame.
Controllers can be replaced one-by-one or in groups by the new type(s) and connected to new supervisory software via IP that can run alongside the old software. The BACnet protocol can work with multiple different supervisors, so the data from the incumbent controllers not yet replaced can be managed by the new software, alongside the new controllers. The modern software solution worthy of consideration is the latest version of J2 Innovations’ FIN Framework (FIN), which offers an innovative next-generation software platform that has been customized by various suppliers for use in BMS supervisory applications. FIN is an agnostic system since it supports all the widely used open standard protocols and offers intuitive and mobile friendly graphics and dashboard visualization capabilities. Using FIN to upgrade your BMS enables an incremental approach as you migrate to a BMS that is quite appropriate for current needs.
FIN supports the current generation of IoT protocols such as MQTT and REST as well as the commonly used automation protocols, including BACnet, Modbus, SNMP, OPC UA and KNX, making it capable of linking to older and new equipment or a mix of the two. FIN Framework is simple to install with the use of wizards, for example, auto-generated configuration, which enables the creation of an entire project from a spreadsheet using an import utility wizard to identify and map all the data points. Open APIs make it easy to extend the framework and to integrate with third-party systems and devices. So, as new products appear to address the issues related to COVID-19, as well as to enable carbon reduction and energy cost savings, they can be quickly added, integrated, and managed effectively and in harmony. It is also scalable so you can plan big but start small.
Another reason to choose FIN Framework is that it is natively based on the Haystack open standard for semantic tagging. Project Haystack is an open standards initiative supported by many organisations to define the metadata associated with real-time building related data. Tagging data makes the process of comparing performance across many sites much simpler and enables automated analytics, meeting the needs of computer software applications for exact definitions of the data they are being asked to process. Already widely used in tens of thousands of buildings around the world, Haystack tagging, and data-modeling is making extracting value from building data much easier. Haystack can also be used as an open protocol over REST.
Chris Irwin, VP of Sales EMEA, J2 Innovations, explains:
“The use of open standards throughout FIN Framework enables easy integration and customization, providing enormous flexibility. Haystack tagging and data modeling enables FIN to automate many of the project configuration processes and deliver context-sensitive information automatically. Metadata tags allow normalization of useful information for customized views and dashboards.”
FIN is intuitive to navigate; throughout there are context sensitive links to enable the user to focus on the aspect of the building operation required, whether it be the alarms, schedules, overrides or performance dashboards. A recently launched FIN capability, Edge2Cloud, uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer secure, authenticated remote site connectivity, to simplify single or multi-site portfolio management, without the need, cost and complexity of VPN or APN set-ups. Edge2Cloud allows users of FIN Framework to access building data and device management remotely and securely, without IT support or having to visit site.
2021 is a good time to look at migration from outdated BMS to keep up with the radical changes in building use and operations in the response to the effects of COVID, as well as reducing costs and energy use, alongside offering more flexibility to building users.
In North America, FIN Framework is provided through distributors under the FIN Stack brand. Globally, J2 Innovations work with a range of suppliers that provide product under their own brand to the market.
Press contact: Jenny Evans
Jenny transferred from the Siemens UK&I Smart Infrastructure communications team to J2 in 2020. Jenny is passionate about the building technology industry and brings over 14 years of experience in marketing, communications and strategy. Outside of work, she is captain of a local field hockey team and enjoys taking her chihuahuas on walks.
J2 Innovations Headquarters, 1550 Valley Vista Drive, Suite 200, Diamond Bar, CA 91765, USA. Tel: 909-217-7040