Front-End Interface Is Building Block Of Successful BAS Upgrade

By David Callan  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Keep Big Picture In Mind To Ease Challenges Of BAS UpgradesPt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Maintenance, Commissioning Keep BAS Going StrongPt. 4: Showcase Products: Building Controls

The front-end interface is the building block of a successful BAS upgrade. Just as all networks aren't created equal, neither are all interfaces. The front end of the BAS, or the hardware and software that the operator interfaces with on a regular basis, whether controlling the system from a remote terminal (more typical today) or from the BAS interface itself, is the single source of communication with the BAS. Things to look for include:

  • Responsiveness. Network architecture and the front-end interface need to be as fast as an iPad. Software must refresh quickly. If it's slowed by delays, operators will stop using it.
  • Quality of graphics. The visual presentation of the software and hardware should be appealing and intuitive.
  • Programming Language. If the programming interface is presented only in code, the operating engineers are going to be hesitant to make any changes, but if they're presented with object-oriented language, it's much easier to make the necessary changes and adjustments. That being said, a more sophisticated operating engineer is likely to make tweaks to any programming interface. Know the limits of your operating engineer when choosing the programming language.

Remote mobile access computing, or the ability to use the Internet to connect to a building's BAS from a remote location through a secure portal, provides an additional front-end interface option for the building operator. While this may not be ideal for every building, it can provide an added level of flexibility and reliability for any BAS.

5. There are varying degrees of openness. Most of today's BAS systems are called "open," but this term is very misunderstood. In an "open system," the BAS device and network share a common communications protocol, like BACnet or LonWorks, with other building automation systems. Most BAS, though, especially those made by large equipment manufacturers, have proprietary software on the front end or come packaged in a proprietary bundled delivery system. This means that a limited number of technicians and contractors can modify or upgrade the BAS, making it more difficult to switch both systems and servicing vendors.

Additionally, the product lines that the big companies are going to be the most competitive on will be those that solidify their position in the building long term. While these systems will be functional, what's saved upfront by bundling the software and equipment at the time of the upgrade may be lost in future options. Typically, the larger brand name BAS will also have different tiers of systems. They will often license out a lower version or previous generation of their systems to smaller contractors for less.

Being an educated consumer means knowing what your building's needs are, as it may be better to go with systems that are less or more open, depending on the personnel working with your BAS or previous experience with certain vendors and manufacturers.

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  posted on 4/16/2014   Article Use Policy

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