The business case for BACnet/IP

A recap of our webinar with Phil Zito, on the benefits of IP
Business case for BACnet IP versus MSTP Phil Zito Building Automation and Ryan Hughson webinar

Slowly, more and more buildings are moving onto BACnet/IP. There aren’t any hard and fast numbers on installations of IP versus MS/TP, but there is a growing shift in the industry. Not just because of the technological benefits — although IP is lauded for its simplicity and inherent connectivity. No, the shift is due to the business benefits of BACnet/IP.

What is the business case for BACnet/IP? Why should we be implementing this technology?

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a webinar with Phil Zito, owner of Building Automation Monthly, to dive into the reasons he sees people adopting IP. Phil and our Director of Business Development had a great time digging into everything from the Internet of Things and scalability, to the ways different topologies affect the network. Read on or watch the webinar recording for your basic introduction to the pros of IP!

The business case for IP

From 2:22 to 17:39, Ryan and Phil dug into the business cases for IP.

1. The true Internet of Things

Ryan pointed out that there are a lot of driving factors for IP, but one of the dominant elements people bring up is the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is really being driven by the consumer side, which then pushes the industry to innovate more in the commercial Building Internet of Things (BIoT). There’s so much we can do with devices that fit in our pockets. Why wouldn’t we expect power and personalization out of the spaces where we live, work, and play, too? There are challenges that come with that, of course. The devices that we’re so used to seeing in our smart homes often don’t scale easily to a commercial building or campus. You need a structure in place that allows for interconnectivity, and BACnet/IP is becoming a go-to for that.

2. Scalability and flexibility

Phil and Ryan discussed how a zone-level network like MS/TP wasn’t designed to scale, it wasn’t designed to be flexible. It has a certain function and was designed to work in a certain way. There are limits to what MS/TP can do in terms of speed and connectivity. Phil brought up a great point that the consumption of data on a BACnet MS/TP network has to go through a supervisory device, which then normalizes that data and ultimately ends up sharing it across (most likely) an IP protocol. With IP, you’re already in that world. Interoperability and scaling your network with new devices is much simpler when you’re designing a smart building with IP.

3. Infrastructure for the future

One of the biggest challenges that Phil said he’s seen over his year’s of integration is the problem of data normalization. Normalizing data to achieve the use case is still one of the biggest challenges with smart buildings because it’s not something that gets specified. You don’t look in the spec and see how you normalize these different types of data. So systems where you don’t have to normalize data as much are going to give you a better foundation for the future.

4. Financial savings

Phil addressed the question of cost. Many people argue IP is more expensive, and balk at the upfront costs. But the important thing to understand is that there are different architectures in an IP system. That’s really important to understand, because it’s not all expensive, IT-grade switches in a star configuration. They dive more into the topologies further on in the webinar, but it’s important to understand that there are key differences.

5. Ease of use and staff expertise

There’s a big need to understand IP, and it’s not as scary as it’s often made out to be. IP is just another method of connectivity. That’s it! There are best practices that you need to implement, but it’s just another set of tools, programs, and methods to wrap your head around. If you’ve managed to learn MS/TP, you can certainly learn IP. In fact, we hear of a lot of people actually find IP quite simple to use!  

IP vs. MS/TP: How are they different?

From 17:40 to 24:19, Ryan and Phil discussed ways that IP and MS/TP are different. If you’re looking for an introduction to the two protocols, be sure to give that section a watch!

IP topologies

From 24:20 to 48:56, they covered some of the different topologies you find in IP networks. If you’re looking for an introduction to different BACnet IP topologies, you can review the star topology at 24:20, the tree topology at 28:51, the ring topology at 45:44, and the line topology at 48:09. Skip ahead if you’re interested in learning more about those topologies!

Business case for BACnet IP versus MSTP Phil Zito Building Automation and Ryan Hughson webinar

Diagram via Wikipedia

There are a lot of reasons to adopt IP, and we hope this webinar gave you another perspective. Be sure to check out our webinars page, to stay up to date on our latest sessions!

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