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OPEN SYSTEMS: Working with the fact, not the fiction

Incorrect assumptions about open systems prevent organisations selecting the right building management solution for their specific needs, says Rhys Haden, Solutions Advisor, Honeywell Building Solutions. Here’s how the problem can be solved with the right technical measures

Risks can escalate when using smaller

integrators whose engineering skills, record keeping and financial stability may not be as reliable as those of a larger business - particularly system manufacturers whose longevity, skills, resources and commitment to delivering the solution are more certain. When working with system

manufacturers, there is clear responsibility for delivery, maintenance and longer-term upgrades. When a system manufacturer and an installer are involved, responsibility for causing and fixing faults can be unclear and time-consuming to resolve.


hese days, when building owners, facility managers or consultants want to specify

a new Building Management System (BMS), they invariably say they want an “open system”. This comes from a fear of becoming locked into a single service provider with the perceived risk (although not always the reality) that this may result in high service prices and poor service levels. But what is meant by the term open? Here,

we discuss three potentially overlapping open system types: open-protocol, multi- vendor and user-managed. For building owners, operators and consultants, a clear understanding of the difference in these concepts and how this affects the success of the system and the facility, is crucial to choosing the right solution.

WHAT IS AN OPEN PROTOCOL? A building management system generally is made up of field controllers and a software head-end, which consolidates and presents all data from the controllers to the system operator for them to view and change the operation of the system and building. A communications protocol is the set of rules that devices use to communicate over a network and an open protocol is an industry standard for communication, which enables


the software head-end of one manufacturer to communicate with field controllers of any manufacturer that supports that standard.

SINGLE-VENDOR VERSUS MULTI- VENDOR SYSTEMS When choosing a software head-end system, a building manager generally purchases either a single-vendor system direct from the manufacturer or a multi- vendor system through a distribution channel, selecting a value-added reseller or system integrator that offers the system. Some building managers like multi- vendor systems because it gives them a choice of service providers for installation and support. However, as these systems are always custom engineered to meet the requirements of a particular site, the result is an operational system, which is as unique as the site itself. As the complexity and criticality of the

engineered system increases, the tie to the service provider who has the knowledge of how the system is set up also increases. It becomes increasingly impractical to consider changing service providers, even for multi-vendor systems and choice of service provider for single or multi-vendor systems becomes increasingly important.

Figure 1: Open Building

Management Systems offer flexibility but more choice can often mean a confusing range of options

USER-MANAGED V. CLOSED SYSTEMS Arguably, user-managed systems that include the capability to make additions or changes without extra tools or applications provide the greatest flexibility for the building manager. They can engineer the system themselves, can use their FM provider to make system changes, or can call in their system provider to make these changes for them. Whilst selecting multi-vendor systems

gives building managers a ready choice of installers and service providers, selecting user-managed systems gives the building manager and their FM team the ability to engineer the system themselves or to call in the expert support of the system provider. User-managed systems provided by the

manufacturer also give the building manager the confidence that they are dealing directly with the technology developer. They are best placed to deliver solutions to requirements that building managers cannot solve themselves, or to provide the end-to-end, full life-cycle solution the building manager requires. Choosing a building management system creates a raft of technology and supplier choices that will have a big impact, not only on the upfront purchase price, but also on the system’s life-cycle costs, reliability, flexibility and on the risks and issues it creates or avoids.

Honeywell Building Solutions 001 (480) 353-3020


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