"Information is readily accessible because the Metasys system can be operated from a desktop or laptop computer, or any remote browser-supported device," said Byron Hill.
MILWAUKEE — Johnson Controls’ familiar Metasys® building automation system (BAS) is getting a new twist with the addition of Microsoft®.NET-connected software. In a press briefing here, company officials said this “makes possible easier Web-based connectivity and automates the flow of information.”

According to Johnson’s Byron Hill, director of Marketing for Systems and Technology for the Controls Group, “Information is readily accessible because the Metasys system can be operated from a desktop or laptop computer, or any remote browser-supported device — unlike conventional BAS, which require a dedicated, proprietary workstation.”

He said the software “bridges disparate information and devices, allowing new and existing applications to interoperate across platforms.” He cited one hospital where a manager can use the Metasys system to access “a real-time, single-screen snapshot of the status of isolation rooms — the patient’s name, his diagnosis, when he was admitted to the room, who occupied that room previously and that person’s diagnosis, the room’s temperature, humidity, and status of the isolation air-handling system.

“And they can access that snapshot with a Web pad,” Hill said. “Previously, that information would have only been available by logging into different systems, from different workstations.”

Another facility mentioned was a school where lighting and heat needed for a weekend event can be automatically adjusted by connecting with the school’s calendar database. The school district’s facility director is able to monitor and adjust the building’s operation from any browser.

"Metasys is changing information and transforming traditional control systems," stated Brady Nations.

Simplified Integration

“By applying the Web services’ standards-based solution to nonresidential facilities, Johnson Controls is guaranteeing our customers a simplified and more cost-effective integration of technology, systems, and applications that create healthier, more productive, and safer indoor environments,” said Brian Stark, president of the Controls Group of Johnson Controls.

“We recognize that taking this approach would give us the best tool to most effectively manage the interaction between an organization’s systems, which in turn provides a tremendous competitive advantage to our customers.”

Alex Molinaroli, vice president of Global Sales and marketing for the Controls Group, noted that the technology provides real-time data that is available anytime, anywhere, providing greater flexibility for operating and managing an enterprise, and providing “decision-support information to any interested manager or executive, not just facilities staff.”

Hill said the changes came about “because of what customers were saying about BAS” and the desire to expand its potential.

“We want to take a holistic view. Customers want more useable information and less data. They don’t really want to know what the temperature was last week. They want ease of use. We can’t assume customers have been trained on our equipment. They want an open system. They are looking for a standard way for customers to talk to each other. They want Web interface. They say, ‘Don’t make me buy software for each user.’”

Current Technology

Another key point Hill noted was the need for a system that was state of the art but didn’t go out of date every 18 months. He said the latest introduction from Johnson “offers the current technology but protects a customer’s investment.”

Molinaroli noted that the new approach is “not introducing things that are new. We are just taking advantage of what is already out there.”

Johnson officials described the relationship with Microsoft as “not exclusive, but one of a shared vision.” Cliff Reeves, general manager for Microsoft’s Platform Strategy Group, noted, “We provide a platform technology of Web services from devices to the data center.” He said the technology is capable of “scaling down” to devices such as phones, “scaling in” on a piece of equipment such as a desktop computer, “scaling up” to high-end providers, and “scaling out” by adding machines.

He noted that now there is “more flexibility in how buildings are managed, and who can manage them. The cost of failure and the cost of success can drop dramatically by using handheld devices to monitor a Metasys system.”

Molinaroli noted that the addition of Microsoft technology moves Johnson from the BAS segment to the much broader Information Technology (IT) sector. “In a new construction project, we can ask, what is the real reason this building will be constructed, rather than just solve the problem of how to build a building. We will not just solve plant problems, we will solve business issues.”

Added Brady Nations, manager of BAS Marketing, “Metasys is changing information and transforming traditional control systems. To date, Metasys has a rich heritage as a controls and automation function. Now we are adding advanced Information Technology. Now Metasys is no longer just a control device. It is the driving force of a system.”

Furthermore, he noted that the latest advances allow such connectivity standards as BACnet, LON, and Metasys compatibility on the same device.

Hill echoed a related part of the strategy which focuses on providing a range of services to a customer regardless of the hardware a facility might have. “We don’t have to create all the technology. We must know how to use it. Existing systems stay in place even if it is not Metasys.”

As part of the effort to offer the company’s management skills to a facility, Molinaroli said, “Everything we do focuses on generating the greatest financial return on a facility’s investment. We provide outcomes that we guarantee are better than the customer started out with.”

He called the latest developments “a platform of technology that allows us to provide a competitive advantage. Our goal is lower and more predictable costs, guaranteed outcomes, optimization of facility assets, customized market solutions, and innovative thinking.”

Publication date: 04/07/2003