What is BACnet?

What is BACnet
Let’s start at the beginning, by defining the BACnet protocol

Very simply put, BACnet is a communications protocol that governs how your building automation devices work together. Think of it as a language: the rules that guide how devices communicate, just like vocabulary and grammar dictate how we talk to each other. 

BACnet’s special because it’s a vendor-neutral standard. In the days before BACnet era (BBE), protocols were proprietary. Having devices from many different vendors in a single building was impossible, because those devices couldn’t communicate with each other at all: they just didn’t speak the same “language.”

So, you were locked into one vendor for the lifetime of the building. It was impossible — or at least, prohibitively expensive — to switch vendors. You couldn’t exactly replace every single device in the building. That unfortunately led to building owners and managers putting up with less than stellar service, or buying devices based on what was available to them rather than what was best for their system. This image by Peter MacDonald is a fantastic illustration of how challenging that period was.

Illustration of the issues with non-BACnet, proprietary systems: trying to coordinate systems that don't work together. Illustration of how BACnet provides a solution. By providing a foundation that all systems can work on and with.

Learn more about the history of BACnet in our whitepaper, “Why should you invest in BACnet?

This all changed when a group of pioneers created a vendor-neutral, open standard. BACnet revolutionized the industry because it was suddenly possible (and downright easy!) to install devices from many different vendors. This video from Contemporary Controls is a great breakdown of what BACnet is and how it changed the industry forever.

For more information, this Quora post from Joel Bender gives a solid explanation, and this FAQ from Mike Newman also digs into the BACnet basics.

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BACnet/IP predominantly communicates through broadcast messages, which are received by every device on the same network. Broadcasts are super important for discovering devices or finding and sharing new information.

OK, so we understand that BACnet is a communications protocol.  

Recent Projects

Penn State University Optigo Networks Visual BACnet


When Tom Walker looked at Penn State University’s Navy Yard network, he saw huge issues. The system was busy and loud, to the point where the overrun network was bringing down the entire building. Because this was happening on the MS/TP network, pinpointing the problem would mean boots on the ground to segment and test the chain, piece by piece.

Penn State University Optigo Networks Visual BACnet


When Tom Walker first started working at Penn State University four years ago, there were a lot of network issues. Buildings were dropping offline. Broadcast traffic was pushing 90,000 packets per hour. Walker was on the phone almost every single night because devices were down or had to be reset.


Torre Manacar Mexico City Optigo Connect


When MR Soluciones began work on Torre Manacar, they knew they needed a flexible and scalable network infrastructure to support a wide array of integrated systems. Optigo Networks was a natural fit for the massive project, designing a robust network at a competitive cost.



Short Pump Town Center, an upscale retail center, underwent a complete renovation in 2014. The flexibility of Optigo Networks’ solution meant the retail center’s unknown final design was not a barrier to placing IP surveillance equipment in the field.



Optigo Networks connected New York-based Boulevard Mall’s security surveillance devices in December 2015, using a Passive Daisy Chain topology.

Visual BACnet tech support team


One tech support team at a manufacturer purchased an account with Visual BACnet in April 2017, for technical problems around the world.

Aster Conservatory Green Optigo Connect


The Aster Conservatory Green is a community comprising 352 residences across 24 low-rise buildings. The buildings use advanced surveillance and access control technology, including 40 HD video cameras and 60 FOB-access-tele-entry points for access control.



When Delta Building Automation (Australia) won the BMS Upgrade at 25 National Circuit for the Australian Trucking Association, they partnered with Optigo Networks to create a secure and robust Building Services Network (BSN). Optigo Connect more than delivered on this project with a scalable solution that restored the building network to perfection.

Optigo Connect Seattle Stadium


Optigo Connect offered a simple, cost-efficient solution for a premier Seattle-based stadium. Optigo Networks’ design improved the surveillance system to crystal clear perfection, made it dependable, and allowed the security system to scale with the addition of more than 40 16MP cameras.



Optigo Networks and OTI offered a secure and scalable solution for four data centers’ HVAC and Access Control systems throughout the United States. Optigo Connect’s performance in the first data center was so impressive, the client asked that Optigo replicate the network design for three other data centers.