S4 Engineering Services

On the way to the BuildingsNY show I spent a couple of days in Evansville, Indiana providing engineering support to Alpha Energy. Alpha Energy is a Schneider Electric dealer who just completed their first two S4 installations. They have the profile of a perfect S4 partner. Their primary business model is as an HVAC services company. A number of their employees have extensive JCI Metasys® experience. Most importantly, they have a culture of customer first!

Alpha was not satisfied with the results they were seeing with their first two installations, so Schneider Electric and S4 worked together to arrange a site visit to investigate the installations and determine what needed to be done to correct the situation. First impressions are usually very telling. The quality and attention to detail in building the panels was evident.

The first finding was that the firmware was not up to date. Every system that we deliver comes with a one year subscription to our Software Assurance program. Staying up to date with changes to the BACnet standard, customer initiated enhancements, and bug fixes means that the S4 firmware is continually improved upon. We typically issue one major release per year and, on average, three maintenance releases. Beyond the first year of software coverage, S4 partners can choose subscribe to the program for additional years. Installing the latest firmware immediately cleared up the major symptom that Alpha was concerned about, whcih was devices going offline in SmartStruxure.

We spent a lot of time with the Alpha Energy team reviewing the integration process, features of the BACnet-N2 Router, and best practices. A lot of emphasis was put on understanding and interpreting the built in performance monitoring metrics and statistics. As we visited each project, we utilized these capabilities to quickly confirm that the firmware upgrade was needed. Then, I worked with the Alpha team to fine tune the integration. The next symptoms that were observed was that the N2 bus was saturated and the BACnet transaction queue was not keeping up. We eliminated unneeded trending requests to control the overall demand. Remember, the N2 bus runs at 9600BD and that cannot be changed. We then confirmed that the N2 Router Transparent Cache was turned on. Next, we changed the remaining trend logs to be COV enabled and added a COV increment to the configuration. The results were far fewer BACnet transactions hitting the N2 Router. The tradeoff being higher CPU utilization in the N2 Router and better utilization of the N2 bus. The N2 Router was protecting the N2 bus from excessive transactions. The bus was still saturated but the N2 Router was being very selective about when N2 transactions were submitted to the bus. The end result was a fully integrated and very efficient integration.

Alpha Energy now has a pair of success stories that they can use as reference accounts. They already had a great reputation with both of these customers and have now demonstrated a new set of services and skills that they can deliver in their market area.