Special Report: Interoperability
Going Beyond the Standard
Manufacturers group takes the next steps to bring
BACnet to the marketplace
— A special report in conjunction with the BACnet Manufacturers Association
Since the release of BACnet more than five years ago, most managers in
commercial and institutional facilities have become familiar with the
standard and its implications for managing facilities and streamlining the
performance and integration of multiple HVAC systems.
What some might not know, however, is that a new organization — the BACnet Manufacturers Association
(BMA) — has been formed to support the protocol beyond the charter of
the American Society of Heating,
Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Setting the standard
Although the BACnet standard was published in 1995, additions, changes,
extensions and refinements are continuously in process. Two addenda have
One in January 1999 added BACnet on TCP/IP, and one in February 2000,
among other things, added a trend log object, an averaging object, and a
multi-state value object, and made changes to alarming. Coming in a future
addendum will be new objects for fire and security applications and
improvements to existing services.
Following that, the section of the BACnet protocol dealing with
conformance and specification will be rewritten. Conformance classes and
functional groups will be discarded and replaced by BACnet
interoperability building blocks (BIBBs) and profiles. The goal of this
change is to improve interoperability among implementations.
BACnet is an American national standard, a European pre-standard, a
South Korean standard and an ISO Committee draft standard. The protocol is
supported and maintained by the ASHRAE Standing Standard Project Committee
135 (SSPC 135).
This close tie between BACnet and ASHRAE is extremely important, due to
the nature of the standards process. No changes can be made to the
standard protocol without formal review and consensus from the SSPC 135
ASHRAE is a guidelines organization, not a commercial marketing,
testing or enforcement body, so another complementary organization must
fulfill these needs, and BMA is that organization.
BMA members are companies that design, market and install building
automation products. All member companies either offer or plan to offer
products that support the BACnet protocol, and they are committed to
ensuring that their BACnet products interoperate.
Alerton Technologies, Automated Logic, Cimetrics, Delta Controls, Lithonia Lighting, Siemens and Simplex are founding members of BMA, and
many other manufacturers have joined the group since its
BMA is forming the BACnet Testing Laboratories (BTL) to perform BACnet
compliance testing of building automation products. Testing tools will be
developed and made available to BMA members, and there will be a
product-listing program, which will list products displayed on the BMA Web
Products that have been successfully tested by the BTL may display its
logo, which will be copyrighted and its use strictly regulated.
End-users and specifiers can be assured that products with the logo
comply with the BACnet standard. A company can have a product tested by
submitting an application form that specifies the BACnet functionality
present in the device. After the form is submitted, a BTL staff member
will contact the manufacturer to arrange for shipment of a product sample
to the BTL.
Physically testing devices is the only way to know if they truly work
in an interoperable manner. Testing software will be made available to
manufacturers to pre-test their products and prepare for actual
BMA is different from the BACnet Interoperability Testing Consortium,
which was formed by NIST under a cooperative research and development
agreement. The consortium has been supporting BACnet through
interoperability testing and technology demonstrations for several years.
The consortium's charter places significant limits on its commercial
activities, however. BMA is a private corporation whose broad charter
permit it to support BACnet through a range of activities.
The next steps
A BTL working group composed of vendor representatives and other
interested parties has been working on defining test procedures for
interoperability and compliance of BACnet devices and systems. Test
procedures performed by BTL will be based on compliance guidelines
developed by the BACnet committee, ASHRAE SSPC135. A meeting planned for
October will bring together products and begin the first interoperability
testing between vendors. BMA plans to begin accepting applications for
testing and listing by January 2001.
Besides the testing laboratory activities, a marketing association
committee has been formed to focus on educating the industry about BACnet
and BMA, as well as the benefits of having BTL-certified products. The
marketing association committee was formed in June 2000.
The association committee also is working on plans for the October 2000
BACnet Interest Group-North America (BIG-NA)/BMA meeting in Pennsylvania,
as well as the January 2001 AHR Expo in Atlanta.
Also, “BACnet for
the 21st Century,” a conference presented by BIG-NA and BMA, is
scheduled for Oct. 9-10 at Penn State University in State College, Pa.
This first day of the conference will be an intensive conference,
exposition and seminar on building system interoperability, background,
theory, specification and application of the BACnet standard. The second
day will focus on BMA and BTL.
BMA also will have a booth dedicated to promoting interoperability
testing of BACnet devices and systems at the 2001 AHR Expo on Jan. 29-31,
2000, in Atlanta. A demonstration of interoperable BACnet products is
BMA is continuously looking for additional members to work on its
initiatives. Anyone in any of the following groups should consider joining
This information was provided by the BACnet Manufacturers Association (BMA).
The Goals of BMA
The number-one objective of BMA is to develop a BACnet conformance
certification and a listing program that will award an interoperability
mark to BMA compliant products.
© 2000 Trade Press Publishing Corporation