Making Connections

The S4 Group is a developer of gateway technology to integrate disparate technologies and systems in the building automation industry and other non-IT vertical markets.

Making connections within the building automation community is critical to the longevity and solvency of third party suppliers. In order to make positive connections, it is necessary to understand the types of organizations within building automation. Traditional industry associations, trade groups, etc. differentiate themselves through technology, communication strategies, and the membership experience. These communities sustain themselves through membership dues and volunteer resources. Traditional associations are a good place to start collecting information about the challenges and opportunities that exist in different aspects of the Building Automation industry. For example, when Steve founded The S4 Group 10 years ago, he contacted BACnet, LON, and OPC communities to seek guidance in market data and directions that were being pursued by all of the industry‘s leading manufacturers. They offered him a great deal of information in print as well as in conversation.While the focus of traditional communities may be predominately one dimensional, they are a valuable resource for the industry.

The newly developing Connection Communities can do everything that these traditional communities have been doing, but they go a very important step farther. They empower every member to be an active participant and to drive the direction of the Connection Community. In effect, the new Connection Community is member directed, member moderated, very agile, and can frequently morph itself to meet the needs of its membership. Making connections with members in these organizations offers a good chance to exchange information, look at ways to meet customer needs and engage with several members. As connection communities continue to evolve, there is not one model that serves as the “best practice” for others to follow. One of the most evolved models today is the HVAC Talk site. They may not call themselves a Connection Community, but they certainly function as one. Members ask questions and give answers; share rants and raves; and create a vast resource of knowledge and support for one another. DIY questions are discouraged, so it really is a Connection Community of HVAC professionals working together for the benefit of each other and their customers.

Most of the traditional communities in our industry focus on a particular technology. What the BACnet community is very quickly embracing is the fact that there are legacy systems that are still very serviceable, there are evolving technologies that perform very specific tasks that BACnet is not suited to address, for instance the EnOcean® wireless and energy harvesting technology, and there are other industries that the BAS community in general needs to interoperate with.

Gateway technology, such as our S4 Open Appliances, is the enabling technology of interoperability. Even more important are the cultural changes that have to happen within the traditional communities. As technology advances, it encourages discourse between community members and facilitates open communications between the standards bodies and the trade association that supports the technology on the other side of the gateway. Open communication is vital to the success of both.