IP in the Age of Action

The case for IP networks in the age of action
Another look at the role of IP in Building Systems

By Kevin Callahan, Product Evangelist Alerton, and Pook-Ping Yao, CEO at Optigo Networks

The Internet of Things (IoT) is here and has been for a while. Is now the time for building systems to move to IP?

Realistically, MS/TP isn’t disappearing anytime soon. There are plenty of buildings both new and old that currently run on MS/TP. While IP connectivity can deliver powerful data and computing at the edge, networking and IT proficiency are still quite new to the building industry. And the upfront cost of IP technology may give a lot of otherwise forward-thinking folks some pause.

So, why switch from MS/TP to IP?

From information to decisions

The Internet of Things is a network of connected devices, but it isn’t connectivity just for the sake of it. The point of the IoT is to leverage data and analytics. Armed with that information, we can tune buildings to people’s needs.

If data isn’t collected, analytics aren’t shared, and the devices can’t adapt to our wants and needs, there’s no real point to all that connectivity.

We’re not just in the Information Age; we’re in an age of doing something with that information. We’re in an era of actions.

MS/TP is great for a lot of buildings, but it simply doesn’t support real-time analytics: data choke points are inevitable, connectivity is limited, and it does not meet IT best practices.

If you want to leverage the power of data, install the most cutting-edge technology, or improve the quality and comfort of your buildings, IP is the way of the future. That’s the direction the world is moving in, and if you do not start making the switch now, you’ll fall far behind.

Ease of troubleshooting

MS/TP wasn’t designed to scale for smart buildings full of devices. In all honesty, that’s probably for the best.

Troubleshooting MS/TP devices can be incredibly tedious and difficult. If one device isn’t working correctly, it can affect all the others that are chained to it, like a string of lights when one bulb goes out. Fixing those problems requires physically checking devices, climbing around in ceilings and searching for where the wires are loose or improperly terminated. That often means putting in time after-hours so workers don’t disrupt tenants.

IP, on the other hand, was designed with the Internet in mind. It’s flexible, scalable, and it doesn’t require hunting for loose wires.

Expense vs. value

The reality is, IP devices are more expensive than MS/TP. This can be a major sticking point for some, as an IP controller can be up to twice the cost of an MS/TP controller, up to $1,000 more.

If upfront cost is an impediment, it may be harder to get buy-in on shifting to IP. There is a compromise on expense. The important thing to remember though, is that the values are very different.

IP might be more expensive upfront, but you reduce labor costs to install, deploy, commission, and service. You can troubleshoot remotely instead of needing a ladder to physically check devices. You can access common IT tools for troubleshooting, monitoring, and security. By collecting analytics, you can make the building more energy efficient and save money over the long term. It’s not a direct, one-to-one comparison because the products provide totally different results. It’s like comparing an analog and a VoIP phone on cost alone. One is more expensive than the other, but the products themselves carry very different value.

It’s important to note that more specifications require all connected and networked devices to use IP. Some building owners and specifiers demand IP-based systems for uniformity with the rest of IT systems and procedures.

Bridging the network gap

The adoption of IP technology also gets us out of our building automation silo. While it can be easier to work independently, it limits the capabilities and scope of impact the building automation team can have.

The future of our buildings is not built on a division between IT and Operational Technology (OT). It involves teams with different pieces of knowledge collaborating to develop more comfortable, intelligent, efficient spaces: truly smart buildings.

That’s only possible with the common ground of IP.

IP devices and the new networking knowledge that comes with it might seem like this massive undertaking, but if you understand MS/TP then you can certainly learn IP. With greater understanding, we see more collaboration between IT and building automation experts that leads to better, smarter buildings.

Originally published in Automated Buildings

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