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Open 2019

Open 2019" is mostly about opening our minds to the Edge of Change that is already upon us.

I just can’t resist a play on words, so whether you use "open" as an adjective, verb, or noun, the title of our next chapter is "Open 2019". A chance to Open the new year with more on  on our crusade to open software, open hardware, and open everything as part of our ongoing digital transformation. But "Open 2019" is mostly about opening our minds to the Edge of Change that is already upon us.

This article by AutomatedBuildings.com Contributing Editor Nirosha Munasinghe from 2010 provides insight to our over 20-year struggle with the concept of "Open."

It can be argued that the word ‘Open’ is the most fundamental keyword that has driven the BAS industry over the last decade and will continue to drive it in the future.

Although the article is focused on our industry at the time 2010, "Open" is now at the core of our digitally transformed lives.

To accept the radical changes of "Open" that will usher us into 2019 -- which will lead us to 2020 -- the year in which much radical change has been predicted, we need to start thinking younger in a hurry. Which begs the question, how can we open to growing younger? 

I have found only one reliable method of growing younger, which is to look at change through the eyes of our trusted younger mentors. Using their eyes and minds we can quickly grow younger in ours and better understand the change that is upon us. To younger minds it is not change, it is simply their understanding of the present problems. Our resistance to change is really a struggle with the mind shift we need to make in order to see the present clearly.

These younger mentors eyes come with a clear understanding of present digital dynamics which makes them indispensable in our acceptance of change. By the way, most of my younger mentors have their own trusted younger mentors and they tell me, "You will not believe what these kids are thinking". In the ongoing struggle for Open in our changing connection communities, we need to open 2019 sharing through the eyes of those who have grown up in, and only know, the digital era.

This post on LinkedIn has been very well received and will allow you a peek at an open world through our younger mentors eyes.

It’s about an amazing panel of less that forty-year-olds in a new, first-ever education session, Next Generation HVAC Controls: Open Software, Open Hardware will provide a very interesting perspective on our future by those now creating it.

I conducted this interview, Open Edge/Mind, with some of the session members will give you a taste of what’s to come.  I love the comment, "with big dragons locking everyone in with proprietary solutions."

Contributing Editor Brad White and his fellow panelists will explore how the rise of truly Open Hardware and Open Software geared to the building automation market are poised to change the face of the industry. This diverse panel of experts includes equipment manufacturers, integrators, and engineering consultants and will explore how being “Open” is already affecting these segments of the industry, and what the future may hold. 

Nicolas saw this as the result of dragons. Conservative business, focusing on wired solutions, with big dragons locking everyone in with proprietary solutions. The domino effect is that of system integrators specializing in either Big Dragon's products or other solutions also locking everyone in, albeit at a higher level. This has resulted in a huge gap between People, building owners and the technology provided by industry experts, that will be filled faster by anyone else but the people in the industry.

While the past of our industry may be siloed and proprietary, not entirely without reason, our panel agrees that the future looks much more open!

How Open am I talking about? 

Say, for example, a guest is charging their electric car at a friend’s house; the charge for that electricity should appear on the guest’s electric bill and not that of the friend. “Homeliness” then becomes a series of settings – a preference profile that can exist anywhere. “Open” can provide simple, almost transparent interaction.

This article, Cheating “Death by 1000 cuts”  is by Nicolas Waern, CEO of Go-IoT, and is part of our January Open 2019 Issue:

Enabling an open innovation platform 

The technological aspects were in focus in my last post, and this time I’ll elucidate more on the business side of things. I copied a couple of questions below from my previous post, which hopefully will get you up to speed faster. What if Real Estate owners could get their buildings connected, up to a point. And then let others innovate with their assets in a standardized way? And what if end users could come up with the solutions themselves? We are already providing open modular hardware towards system integrators and the maker space, but what about the tenants? Is there a way to get them involved them in this space as well? This will be the focus of this article. Enabling an open innovation platform for the real estate sector.

These articles talk about makers and bakers building their own edge controls out of open hardware/software; controls that will open to self-learning bots using natural languages and machine vision.

This article, The Need for Open-Software, Open-Hardware - Why and How by Calvin Slater of the Haystack Working Group shows us how close the future really is:

The Open-Software Open-Hardware edge controller is not an imaginary item. It would seem from the description above that such a device would be too costly and complicated to produce and employ. This is not the case. There are already many devices from several manufacturers in production right now that can fulfill some or all of these requirements.

Slater elaborates on his theme in this article, The Anatomy of an Edge Controller

The reality is, none of these devices contain any parts that are truly proprietary or unavailable to the public. It turns out that it’s completely possible to build your own edge controllers. Not only that, but it’s also possible to buy just enough pieces to make just one controller; if you are so inclined.

This is kind of a big deal. In the past, someone with a passing interest in electronics could not very easily experiment with these types of devices. They would have to commit to buying thousands of units as opposed to purchasing just one chip. Access to datasheets and reference manuals needed for evaluation and design required extensive legal agreements and signing of non-disclosure forms. Software and tools to compile, flash, and test various processors were often extremely proprietary, difficult to use, and prohibitively expensive (like thousands of dollars). These pricey development tools were of course not cross-compatible with other vendor’s chips. It was not very easy to test out and learn about products from different manufacturers.

So how are connection communities opening to open? 

Our free education sessions at AHRExpo.com can provide valuable insight. Take, for example, this one scheduled for Tuesday morning, Semantic Tagging Passes an Inflection Point - Understanding Project Haystack:

Since the ASHRAE announcement of BACnet/Haystack/Brick collaboration, there is a lot of movement on tagging among manufacturers. There is a mix in the level of tagging support each vendor now has for the Haystack library and the BACnet approach, but, there is no pushback regarding the need to support standardized tagging. They are either already doing it, or it is on their roadmap. They all understand this is where the industry is headed as the industry learns to utilize smart device data to reduce operating costs and create value for building owners and operators.

This session will introduce Project Haystack, the open-source initiative which is recognized as the most developed and deployed solution for “marking up” equipment system data.

This article, Create Your Own Custom Sedona Components by Zach Netsov, Product Specialist, Contemporary Controls, discusses the advantages of technology build with Open in mind:

The open nature of Sedona allows hardware manufacturers and software developers to create open controllers powered by Sedona and extend their functionality in the form of custom components. This means that if a developer wants certain functionality in Sedona which does not currently exist, a custom Sedona component could be easily developed. The Sedona language is an object-oriented programming language similar to Java or C#. If you have any experience programming and simply look over the open-source example code, or the absolute value example code I provided here, you too can create your own custom Component implementations with special functionality, share them with the Sedona community and install them across different Sedona platforms to create powerful control applications. Powerful functionality in custom Components can save a lot of time in the field, reduce overall control application (wire sheet) size, or offer completely new functionality. 

So how do the major players view the Open movement? 

They all focus on their own dominants and keep throwing sand in each other’s gears, creating their own definition of "Open" that hurts us, the people.

The "major proprietary dragons" of our building automation industry have been slow to “Open up,” but are beginning to use open source to catch up. All want to use Open but none want to be Open -- which would loosen their grip on their proprietary market share. But Open is slowly happening because bigger dragons like Google and Amazon are breathing fire on their tails.

Google and Amazon, are built on the open source they use to get where they are going and now are using their industry domination to create barriers to true Open. This article by Ron Amadeo writing on the Ars Technica web site is an interesting read discussing the delicate balance between open and controlled dictatorships:

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

He argues that if Google did not act, we faced a Draconian future; a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice.

Today, things are a little different. Android went from zero percent of the smartphone market to owning nearly 80 percent of it. Android has arguably won the smartphone wars, but "Android winning" and "Google winning" are not necessarily the same thing. Since Android is open source, it doesn't really "belong" to Google. Anyone is free to take it, clone the source, and create their own fork or alternate version.

As we've seen with the struggles of Windows Phone and Blackberry 10, app selection is everything in the mobile market, and Android's massive install base means it has a ton of apps. If a company forks Android, the OS will already be compatible with millions of apps; a company just needs to build its own app store and get everything uploaded. In theory, you'd have a non-Google OS with a ton of apps, virtually overnight. If a company other than Google can come up with a way to make Android better than it is now, it would be able to build a serious competitor and possibly threaten Google's smartphone dominance. This is the biggest danger to Google's current position: a successful, alternative Android distribution.

And a few companies are taking a swing at separating Google from Android. The most successful, high-profile alternative version of Android is Amazon's Kindle Fire. Amazon takes AOSP, skips all the usual Google add-ons, and provides its own app store, content stores, browser, cloud storage, and e-mail. The entire country of China skips the Google part of Android, too. Most Google services are banned, so the only option there is an alternate version. In both of these cases, Google's Android code is used, and it gets nothing for it.

Yes, Android really is open source. Here's the definition of open source: of or relating to or being computer software for which the source code is freely available

Google always releases the source code of each Android revision freely to the public. Although Android is developed by a single company and manufacturers throw in their bloatware and skins and put some of their own restrictions in their derived version of Android - the actual source code is open. AOSP, in its heart and soul, is open source. Android Open Source Project https://source.android.com

The battle of market dominance goes on and Amazon weighs in heavy. Take, for example, Amazon Go stores operating in Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle. The new stores have no checkout lanes. Customers scan their smartphones to enter, cameras monitor what they take from the shelves, and Amazon bills their credit card on file after they leave.

Let’s make no mistake, Amazon isn’t a retail company, it’s a Cloud-first company that’s targeting scalable business verticals. The genius of Microsoft’s reincarnation was Azure and the Cloud, but AWS is leaps and bounds ahead of it, as described in this article from Michael K. Spencer writing on Medium.com:

Amazon Web Services AWS isn’t just leading the Cloud; it’s Dominating.

The AWS reinvent conference in Las Vegas last week gave us a lot of tasty tidbits about the progress of AWS, Amazon’s Cloud unit. Enterprise companies are starting to trust AWS with larger multi-year deals. This means AWS is growing at over 40% YOY. It’s already the cash cow of Amazon, fueling innovation in lower-margin areas.

Want a scary book to read? Automating Humanity by Joe Toscano (with illustrations by Mike Winkleman) has some disturbing things to say about the hidden agendas of some of these technology giants. From the description on Amazon.com (and yes, I’m aware of the irony):

Automating Humanity is an insider's perspective on everything Big Tech doesn't want the public to know—or think about—from the addictions installed on a global scale to the profits being driven by fake news and disinformation, to the way they're manipulating the world for profit and using our data to train systems that will automate jobs at an explosive, unprecedented scale.

Now you have some insight to how it will be challenging to keep Open in 2019, but for the good of all we need to keep focused on our goals and keep the pressure on the major players (dragons large and small) to open up and not just play lip service to Open. As we buy our products and services, be sure to understand the level of open as those proprietary dragons are all starting to use their market share to build on the back of the open everything movement in their attempts to establish total control – 180 degrees from the true path of Open.

Moving forward, our humanistic, mindful building-controlling bots, made with open everything will be a mashup of hardware and code, much of it taken from the dragon's den of the major players. Open software and open connection communities must be supported by all to resist and expose any proprietary market manipulation.

Happy "Open 2019" to all and the best of the season to you and yours!

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