In the process and factory automation worlds, the days of the big shows in North America are done. The ISA show, the Sensors show, the National Manufacturing Week, the Chem show are all either dead and gone or shadows of their former selves.
But in the building automation space, nothing could be further from the truth.
I hadn't been to an ASHRAE show in over a decade, and I decided to do a day trip to Dallas to see what was going on.
I had this idea that there might be convergence between the systems and solutions of process and factory automation and the building automation space. I was very right.
I ran into an old friend, Steve Ferree, of Fieldserver Technologies, who reminded me that every factory or process plant also has an office building. Ferree does as much or more business in building automation with Fieldserver's protocol converters as in the process automation space and the factory automation space that the technology was first designed for.
There were lots of familiar names exhibiting, too. Emerson, Siemens, Schneider, Iconics, Baldor (ABB), GE Measurement and Control, Badger Meter, Dwyer, Ashcroft, JUMO Controls, Sierra Monitor, Fluke, Parker Hannifin, and, seriously, many more.
I used to work in the building automation space, and what was even more interesting was the increase in ruggedness and durability of the designs. No more did you see bare circuit boards on standoffs with wires running off in different directions. The controllers looked like standard industrial grade controllers. The HMIs looked just like what we're used to.
There were dozens of companies with wireless sensors and controllers, with many different protocols-- mostly Zigbee and proprietary protocols. In the building automation business, wireless is here to stay, where in process automation, people are still trying to get their feet wet.
If you have some interest in seeing where building automation is going, the ASHRAE (or AHR Expo as they call it now) will be in NYC next January 21-23 2014 at the Javits Center. Visit www.ahrexpo.com for more details.