Why the time is right for integration

There are a number of factors that remove traditional integration barriers.

10/03/2013


Technology to monitor electrical systems from a computer-based graphical user interface, or front end, has existed for decades. But the cost to monitor these systems used to be high—often prohibitively so—while the features and benefits provided by the solution were often slim. Purchasing a single-vendor packaged solution was often required, creating lifecycle cost problems and owner frustrations. During the past decade, however, a number of factors have converged to remove the traditional barriers to integration. 

Changes made by electrical product manufacturers include:

  • Lower cost of embedding microprocessors with communication ports into equipment
  • Lower cost and complexity of application development
  • Continual increase in microprocessor power
  • Open, standards-based communication protocols that reduce development costs and increase immediate market demand for individual products. 

The combined result is that virtually any manufactured electrical product with a microprocessor can now be purchased with a standards-based open protocol network connection for a small additional cost and quite often includes a standard network connection. Furthermore, to differentiate their products, manufacturers are enhancing the application layer features provided by the software in their microprocessors. For example, it is nearly impossible to purchase a 3-phase power meter without a Modbus connection, and advanced features such as web-based user interfaces, onboard trend collection, alarm e-mails, and alternate protocols are available for small additional costs.

BAS system changes include:

  • The demand for standards-based open communication protocols has pushed all vendors to readily support them.
  • Modern BAS system architecture relies heavily on standard Ethernet networks and many BAS systems are implemented on owner Ethernet networks.
  • BAS software configuration/development environments now commonly provide tools to speed integration of third-party open protocols and non-HVAC equipment, such as meters and lighting controls.
  • Third-party enterprise applications that operate on top of a modern BAS are now more prevalent and can offer powerful specialty enhancements to a standard BAS.
  • As single-vendor proprietary BAS implementations become obsolete, BAS integration personnel have become better trained and have developed deep experience in integrating electrical systems. 

The result of these changes means that any modern BAS can easily be expanded to integrate with electrical and mechanical systems. Vendors and integrators are integrating these systems regularly. The applications that are available can deliver powerful new value from additional data. 

Owners and engineers may have been burned in the past by the cost, complexity, and disappointing results of electrical system integration attempts, and may now be reluctant to repeat a lesson learned the hard way. But progress by both electrical equipment and BAS systems has now passed the point where the cost/benefit is more strongly in favor of integration.


Mar is senior associate at Environmental Systems Design and a member of the Consulting-Specifying Engineer editorial advisory board. Knight is senior associate at Environmental Systems Design.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
Control Engineering Leaders Under 40 identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn more about methods used to ensure that the integration between the safety system and the process control...
Adding industrial toughness and reliability to Ethernet eGuide
Technological advances like multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) transmitting and receiving
Virtualization advice: 4 ways splitting servers can help manufacturing; Efficient motion controls; Fill the brain drain; Learn from the HART Plant of the Year
Two sides to process safety: Combining human and technical factors in your program; Preparing HMI graphics for migrations; Mechatronics and safety; Engineers' Choice Awards
Detecting security breaches: Forensic invenstigations depend on knowing your networks inside and out; Wireless workers; Opening robotic control; Product exclusive: Robust encoders
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
News and comments from Control Engineering process industries editor, Peter Welander.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
Anthony Baker is a fictitious aggregation of experts from Callisto Integration, providing manufacturing consulting and systems integration.
Integrator Guide

Integrator Guide

Search the online Automation Integrator Guide
 

Create New Listing

Visit the System Integrators page to view past winners of Control Engineering's System Integrator of the Year Award and learn how to enter the competition. You will also find more information on system integrators and Control System Integrators Association.

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.