‘Green’ Becomes the Envy of End Users

You would almost have to be living on another planet to have missed the current energy crisis of not only the United States but the entire world. Many industries, as a push to attract new markets, have labeled their products and services “green.”

This is an effort to indicate the saving of energy, natural resources and preserving the planet, our home. If you are an integrator or alarm dealer, what better way to market your services and products than to provide not only security and life-safety services, but also green services in the form of building and home automation technology? Let’s check it out in greater detail.

Selling Automation as a Value-Add

A grocery store can already understand the need for loss prevention tools such as  CCTV, and security devices for burglary and hold-ups. But if you really want to seal the deal provide products and services for monitoring their freezers and coolers. The cost is often minimal compared to the loss in business when a large amount of perishable product is destroyed over the weekend. On top of this if you can assist, or possibly even guarantee, that a certain amount of energy can be saved by using additional automation technology then you have a comprehensive package that would be of interest to any smart business owner. Remember, your competition is probably still selling just alarm services.


When working with building automation technology the sky is literally the limit. However, if you are new to the technology why not start out with some basics such as the monitoring services just mentioned above.

Traditional companies like Winland of Mankato, Minn., have upgraded their product lines considerably in order to provide easy-to-install wireless systems such as EnviroAlert®. Systems like these not only allow you to monitor for building environmental changes but can actually provide logged data to help make a better assessment as to the efficiency of equipment and operating space.

Automation Organizations

If you are new to the building automation market you should become familiar with trade organizations that specialize in building automation systems (BAS).

One of the biggest is Continental Automated Building Association (CABA). Founded in 1988, CABA has more than 400 company members and is dedicated to the advancement of intelligent home and building technologies. The organization is a great networking and educational resource. CABA also encourages the development of industry standards and protocols, and leads cross-industry initiatives (see diagram).

 So where can you keep up with the developments in go-green initiatives as they relate to building automation? One good source is the free research paper “Bright Green Buildings,” which was compiled by the Frost & Sullivan for CABA. This 218-page report is available at www.caba.org. Pay special attention to Chapter 4, “Evaluating the Impact and Benefits of Intelligent and Green Building Technology.”

Another organization worth becoming familiar with is the Instrumentation Systems and Automation Society (www.isa.org). This group has been accepted as an automation expert source for automation standards since 1949. Presently the organization is working on the ISA 100 standard with approval expected by the end of 2008.

One of the challenges of building automation is getting both new, different automation technologies and legacy technology to operate together in one network-based system. Standards such as ISA 100 are designed to assist in this area. One example is the effort the ISA 100 workgroup is putting forth with the Zigbee Alliance.

What’s All the Buzz About Zigbee?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has created the 802.15.4 standard — the wireless communications protocol for devices with long battery life for remote sensors. Presently one of the best wireless remote technologies is the Zigbee protocol (www.zigbee.org). 

Not only do Zigbee devices work at less than 20ma and achieve ranges of 300-1,000 yards, they have sleep time current for Zigbee-based building automation modules (now at 10µa or less, making them very attractive for variety of automation applications). A form of mesh communications is used, and with amplified Zigbee devices a range of more than 2 miles can be achieved.

Zigbee is not alone as there are other protocols such as lesser-known WiHART, Z-Wave and 6LoWPAN. The question often comes up, “How do I know part of one system will work with another?” Zigbee helps define how these systems will work together and has a certification program to support this compliance.

WirelessHART or WiHART is designed more for industrial automation applications and is based on the HART protocol IEC61158. This standard is supported by large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and integrators dealing with industrial controls and monitoring.

Bob Dolph has served in various technical management and advisory positions in the security industry for more than 30 years.

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