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Building cloud connections

There is a new focus on building cloud connections in the online world -  a big shift from what used to be when I first started writing my website years ago. The term cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on how the Internet is depicted in computer network diagrams and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it conceals.


August 14, 2009
By Ken Sinclair

The cloud contains Software as a Service (SaaS, typically pronounced ‘sass’). On our Automated Buildings website, our mission now is to expose how the dot coms & orgs are using the cloud to provide their products and services. The identification and use of these valuable industry cloud connectors is essential to propel the automated buildings industry forward so it can radically change to survive.

I recently interviewed Rick Huijbregts, VP of vertical industries at Cisco Canada about how the company is adapting to suit this new reality. The Cisco Network Building Mediator not only provides the technical “glue” between the facilities and IT world, but it helps enable the convergence of industries.   

In the past we all joked in the industry about a “sky hook” as the whimsical structural bracing point for building construction objects. Cisco’s new building automation Cloud Connector provides a real solution to connect real time data to the enterprise. I asked Huijbregt about Cisco’s vision of how significant this “new age sky hook” is and how it transforms integrated islands into fully connected real estate.

“It is happening already and Cisco is gearing up to take this market by storm,” says Huijbregts. “With the acquisition of Richards-Zeta we are re-living the mid-80s — history is repeating itself. Back then, Cisco started with the creation of the first multi-protocol router that made interoperability between disparate and proprietary computer systems possible. The network was born and has proven to become the universal platform for business and technology transformation. It has changed the way we work, live, play and learn.

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“After enabling data to flow more freely between remote and disparate computer systems, we converged voice (and have become the world leader in business telephony) and then video,” he continues. “With the new Cisco Network Building Mediator we are taking it to the next level to enable the Internet of Things. Now, billions of sensors, controllers, actuators etc. can be added to the Network. Sound big? It is. Cisco recently announced its Smart + Connected Communities vision of which our Smart Connected Building technologies (including Cisco Network Building Mediator) are a key component.”

Huijbregts went on to explain the importance of this system, saying it “provides an instant opportunity for open access and communication to all the building, security and IT systems connected to the Network. Having the Building Mediator be part of the Network is a very powerful asset in our solution. It now shares the usual features of a Cisco network that is resilient, redundant and highly secured. The whole principle behind this is to move shared functionality to a common platform as opposed to repeating it amongst siloed and proprietary networks.” 
Huijbregts stresses that the Mediator is not a piece of middleware software sitting on a server, but is part of the technology infrastructure or “fourth utility” in your building. Cisco believes it will help drive down costs and add business opportunities to the building world as never before. 

“The Cloud for the real estate industry has become real,” says Huijbregts. “As we see applications and services move ‘off-site’ and offered and provided by hosted service providers, you can start to imagine the opportunities for managing real estate, reducing energy and providing value-added applications to the users of buildings.”
Huijbregts makes something of an obvious but nonetheless apt comment when he says that we never really built buildings for the sake of building them.

“We need buildings to live, learn, work and play. And that should drive how our physical and virtual environments behave  — not the other way around. Converging the performance of our physical and virtual environments will allow us to match or organically and effectively start to address the real needs of users of these environments. The Network and the Cloud will allow the building industry to become more services-oriented instead of product or building oriented. Your building and its capabilities have become like an iPhone, and there is an open invitation to provide applications and services that can be pushed out to every standing structure in the world. It is happening already: Demand Response, remote building services and operations, energy monitoring and modeling (e.g. carbon calculations, trading), data mining and benchmarking. “

So how significant is this “new age sky hook”?

“We believe it is the beginning of the transformation of one of the last industries standing that has resisted the adaptation of technology to re-invent, innovate and improve itself,” says Huijbregts. “The Network is and has proven to be the common platform to make this transformation happen.”

For more on this topic visit the automatedbuildings.com site here.

Ken Sinclair is the Editor/Owner of AutomatedBuildings.com.