During the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE’s) 2010 Winter Conference held in January in Orlando, Fla., the BACnet committee approved the publication of eight addenda to ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 135, BACnet—A Data Communication Protocol for Building Automation and Control Networks.

The addenda are expected to be available on ASHRAE’s Website, ASHRAE.org, by the end of February.

The addenda include a specification for a standard way of representing data in Extensible Markup Language (XML) that will give BACnet new capabilities for communication among a range of applications. XML is a popular technology in the data-processing and communication worlds because of its capability to model complex data and its flexibility to be transformed and extended.

"With this new IT-friendly way of representing building data, BACnet will open up new ways to communicate. XML can be used for exchanging files between systems, communicating with the Smart Grid, and expanding enterprise integration with richer Web services," Dave Robin, chair of the BACnet committee, said.

The XML syntax is intended to be the core data representation for a variety of uses:
• Powerful new Web services that are capable of efficient exchange of complex structured data.
• An electronic version of a BACnet PICS document, consumable by workstations and other tools, to describe the capabilities of a device.
• An "as-built" description of a deployed device, distributed as a separate file or a BACnet File object resident in the device itself.
• Descriptions of proprietary objects, properties, and data types, which may be simple, for basic data-sharing purposes, or extremely rich, providing complete descriptions of the meaning and usage of the data in multiple human languages.
• An export/import format for tools and workstations to publish their knowledge of a complete system of devices and networks.
• An XML version of an EPICS, including the complete test database and other test-oriented data.

In addition to the XML "computer language,” another addendum has added an important new capability for human languages as well. When the Unicode character set was created many years ago, it was constructed to be a universal set of characters to support most of the world's languages together in one stream. However, its original 2-byte encoding caused trouble with a lot of existing systems that were designed to process only the 1-byte characters common in western languages. The "UTF-8" encoding was created to solve this problem and quickly became a popular method of conveying international text on the Internet. BACnet also has embraced this standard and uses it in a way that takes advantage of its compatibility with the existing and ubiquitous American National Standards Institute/American Standard Code for Information Interchange character set.

BACnet has added support for more data types as well. A set of new "Value" objects rounds out BACnet's ability to represent different data types in a uniform and standard way. Added to the original Analog, Binary, and Multi State Value objects are new Value objects for every primitive data type that BACnet supports, including support for character strings and large numerics.