LonMark International is expanding its interoperability guidelines and device profile architecture to support the rapidly growing market for Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT). The LonMark expansion corresponds with Echelon Corp.’s new open IzoT platform, which enables the creation of reliable communities of devices based on LonMark’s interoperability model.

The IIoT refers to industrial objects, or “things,” that automatically communicate over a network—without human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction—to share information and take action, often autonomously. Because of the unforgiving environments in which these industrial devices exist—including harsh physical conditions and mission-critical processes—IIoT solutions must meet the challenging requirements of industrial-strength reliability, hardened security, wired and wireless connectivity, and backwards compatibility with large installations of legacy devices.

“With more than 350 members, 500 certified products and 100 LonMark profiles spanning multiple industries; LonMark International has created one of the world’s most admired interoperability standards,” Barry Haaser, executive director, LonMark International, said.  “Now companies can support traditional control networks based on the ISO/IEC 14908 standard or migrate them toward IP-based networks utilizing popular wired and wireless transport protocols such as Ethernet, IEEE 802.11, IEEE 802.15.4, and IEEE 1901.” 

For 20 years, LonMark International has enabled the connectivity and interoperability of millions of devices based on the ISO/IEC 14908 control-networking standard using its proven device profile model. Now that networks are becoming more IP-based, LonMark International is providing a migration path for products to communicate over IP networks. Now, an even greater number of buildings, factories, restaurants, transportation systems, and indoor and outdoor lighting worldwide can share information and interoperate in a standardized way. 

Varun Nagaraj, senior vice president and general manager, Internet of Things, Echelon Corporation, said the new IzoT platform demonstrates the natural evolution of control networks toward IP architectures. “Members of the global LonMark community will now have multiple connectivity options for their control system products,” Nagaraj said. “The combination of the Echelon IzoT platform and LonMark’s proven interoperability model provides a powerful technology supporting both traditional LonWorks networks and new IP-based networks.” 

LonMark is a non-profit association for the certification, education, and promotion of interoperable control systems for the benefit of manufacturers, integrators, and end users. For more information, visit www.lonmark.org.

EXCLUISVE INTERVIEW:
Barry Haaser, executive director, LonMark International

HPAC Engineering: What is the significance of this announcement for HVAC system design engineers?

Haaser: This gives HVAC design engineers the ability to take advantage of the device-level profiles that have become so popular in the industry over the last 20 years to enable connectivity and interoperability at the device level. It extends the LonMark interoperability framework to include other transport protocols such as wireless mesh networks that are supported under Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standard 802.15.4, Standard for Local and Metropolitan Area Networks, Part 15.4: Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks ,  IEEE Standard 802.11: Wireless LANs, and the emerging powerline standard, IEEE Standard 1901-2010, Standard for Broadband Over Power Line Networks, in addition to traditional wired backbones. We’re freeing up the designer and developer to use whatever transport protocol works best for them, but provide a common layer for device-level connectivity.

HPAC Engineering: Will this apply for new building construction, retrofits, or both?

Hasser: That’s the beauty of it, it could be used anywhere. The engineer will be able to use standard, off-the-shelf network management tools. There are a variety of products under development to help assist in that effort. Those actually developing control systems can use open-source tool kits for product development, and there are a variety of off-the-shelf tools to assist them.

HPAC Engineering: What does this mean for building owners?

Haaser: It gives the customers more flexibility over the types of products that are installed in their facilities. It would give them better access to wired or wireless devices in a network. As we’ve all come to learn, wireless products don’t always work 100 percent of the time, so it can be beneficial having access to similar products that could work with a wired configuration and that seamlessly connect to one another through routers rather than gateways. Routers simply route messages from one physical media to another — say, wired to wireless — whereas gateways typically do protocol translation. The idea with a router is that you can connect these networks more efficiently and less expensively than you can using more complex and more expensive gateways.

The other part of this that’s important is to ensure that these networks are secure. I just attended a conference on device energy and network security and, as you can imagine, device security was a pretty big issue. Whenever you’re moving things into an IP-type framework, you need to make sure that you’re implementing appropriate levels of security within the network to prevent people from the outside from hacking in, malicious malware, or things like that.  So those best practices are also supported under this initiative.

The nice thing about moving into an Internet of Things type architecture is that you get better access to data, so any device on the network should be able to share that information with cloud-based applications. This should make moving data upstream into cloud-based systems much easier.

We’ve been monitoring the Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things space for quite a while and we’ve noticed it seems to be missing a common layer for enabling multi-vendor interoperability. Interoperability solutions that we’ve seen are either limited to a particular wireless or wired technology, or they’re limited to a particular application or an industry sector. One thing LonMark does very well is enable connectivity and interoperability and sharing data between diverse products that use LonMark device profiles. It’s our feeling that if we can take those device profiles and apply them to the Industrial Internet of Things and allow for different transport protocols, then we can continue to see adoption of open systems as opposed to the industry going back in time and readopting proprietary platforms. We’ve worked hard for the last decade or so to migrate the industry away from proprietary into a more open, interoperable environment, so we’re hoping to protect that for the customer.