GSA Researcher Sparks Discussion About Tridium and What ‘Open’ Means

Chatter_MattersDon’t expect a yes/no, black/white, right/wrong answer to the question ‘Do you think Tridium’s Niagara AX platform is the sole source for creating a true open system?’ when posed to experienced system integrators. But, you can expect to learn a lot. I definitely recommend reading over the answers given to John Beadle, MBA, Building Services Specialist at the General Services Administration when he launched that topic on the Building Automation Monthly Discussion Group on LinkedIn last week.

Two main viewpoints are expressed: Mike Welch, Control Network Solutions, offers a fairly good summary of one side when he says,

The fact that Tridium is the custodian of Niagara AX but that any suitably qualified and skilled person or organisation can create new solutions and products based upon it [because APIs are available], seems not a bad situation. The core technology in terms of conformance, reliability and performance are well managed and that enables the Niagara community to work off a solid platform to address the real world requirements of their end clients. This process actually serves the end clients well as opposed to hundreds of different platform technologies for multiple sources making solution choice harder and more difficult to maintain.”

GSA’s John Beadle suggests a different framing in the following two quotes:

In the automation industry we use ‘Open’ as a variable. Sure you can open the window to let some stuff in or out. But wait. Go too far and that window gets closed, and the key belongs to the window vendor…I believe in innovation and the right to at least make some type of profit for a little bit. Therefore, I must ask, how long can the industry sustain itself without a need for innovation?

In other words, Beadle believes: All monopolies stifle innovation. Honeywell, with Tridium, has a monopoly. As long as Tridium remains the sole source for creating a true open system BAS, innovation will be stifled.  So he is asking the next question about timing.  However, even if you concur that Tridium has a monopoly, Honeywell has high motivation to be as responsive as technically possible to customer demand for open. Beadle defines this as:

All controllers connected can be programmed from the head end without any vendor tools. There should be no need to call the vendor for replacing or commissioning a controller. The building engineer should have all the tools to install and configure Supervisory panels, AHU’s, VAV’s, etc.. Better yet, even lighting should only use the Niagara AX HMI for configuration.

Again, you should read for yourself. You’ll find not only some very familiar names in building systems integration like Steve Jones of S4 and Rich Purtell of Climate Control Technologies weighing in, but also Keith Makowski of JLL, speaking from building owner perspective. Steve Jones participation in the discussion is notable because he similarly took the pulse of the market in a moderated discussion about 18 months ago about the industry’s ability to converge on protocols. His summary of this earlier discussion is worth reviewing at automatedbuildings  if you want to understand industry dynamics.

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