IA, BA, Star Trek

BA-IA_StI always loved the original Star Trek series. The original. Not any of the extensions that followed. I liked the old ones. The ones with the really awful special effects, the terribly done fight scenes and the really racy (for the day) “love” scenes for Captain Kirk. Alright, it wasn’t really love scenes. There was hardly was as much as a kiss, but when I was twelve, what they had was pretty thrilling.

It was good vs. evil. Very simple premise. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy fighting the Klingons. The Klingons – dastardly enemies. Dirty, conniving, thieving aliens who were always suspicious of Kirk, the Enterprise and the United Federation of Planets (UFP).

Here’s a huge leap. I’m going to compare the United Federation of Planets vs. the Klingons to the Building Automation (BA) and the Industrial Automation (IA) industries (you won’t get that anywhere else). I’ll admit it’s a pretty big stretch, but that’s how my mind works. They’re not at war. They don’t hate each other. But the people working in one industry just don’t understand a lot about the people working in the other industry. Yes, they both do automation, but there are differences. Lots of differences.

For example, speed – BA data is pretty slow. Flow rates, temperatures, cooling or heating initiation, it’s all stuff that can take seconds. Moreover, it’s stuff that no one cares about. If I get the temperature in the cooling tower every one second or every thirty seconds, it really doesn’t matter as the temperature doesn’t move that fast. In IA we have a lot more speed concerns. When you start a production line, it had better start in the next half second, not thirty seconds from now. I remember GM saying that a two second delay starting a line could cost them $2,000,000 a year.

There are other differences too. People tend not to just work on one building but rather work on many different sites. In IA, a control engineer might spend his whole career in one place.

I thought about this today because we’ve really made some cool new products at RTA to link BA and IA together. For the first time, there are BACnet gateways that function as BACnet IP Clients and BACnet MS/TP Masters.

What’s that mean?

There are a lot of possibilities. For example, it means that a PLC for the first time can access a BACnet IP Server device or a BACnet MS/TP Slave device as an EtherNet/IP Adapter. Our gateway can make up to 32 BACnet devices act like EtherNet/IP Adapters.

This is a pretty significant. There are a lot of times when PLCs need to access building kind of control devices and RTA is providing those integrators with a great way to do that. I’ll look forward to getting your feedback on this exciting addition to our product line. Just don’t comment on the silliness of the analogy to Captain Kirk and the Klingons. Do you think the Enterprise had BACnet? John