Open Framework

For the decades that we've worked with control systems, they've almost always been excessively exclusive and proprietary, meaning they only work with products of their brand - Honeywell control systems only working with Honeywell hardware, and so on. Historically, the only way to get around this has been through the use of expensive adapters, but things are now changing in the world of HVAC control systems.

Open framework is the opposite of a proprietary "closed" system. With open framework, all components in an HVAC system all speak the same language, so to speak, meaning they can all work together seamlessly, without the need for those aforementioned adapters. Choose any component from any manufacturer, and our open system technology can make them all integrate effortlessly, no strings attached. Where "closed" systems once forced our customers to pick singular brand names for their entire HVAC setup, open systems now give our clients more freedom than ever before.

LonWorks - Open Framework & Simplified Building Automation

LonWorks, our open platform of choice, is quickly becoming the new standard across the heating and cooling world. The IBI (Intelligent Buildings Institute), an international trade association for commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, formally endorsed LonWorks' innovative new platform. ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers), in addition, has adopted LonWorks' platform as their building automation standard. Further, it has become ANSI standard (ANSI/CEA-709.1-B).

Where other building automation platforms focus exclusively on HVAC control, LonWorks is able to control the whole of your building's electrical infrastructure. This includes the lighting, keycard access, elevators, and much more - all of which can be controlled from a single panel, what we call a DDC, or direct digital control panel. At Economy, we always want what's best for our customers, and we're confident in the idea that building automation will one day be the standard for all buildings. As such, we'll be happy to discuss why a building-wide automation system is one of the best ways to future-proof your building.

The History & Spread of Open Framework

Open framework has its origins with chip designs, power line and twisted pair, signaling technology, routers, network management software, and other products from Echelon Corporation. In 1999 the communications protocol (then known as LonTalk) was submitted to ANSI and accepted as a standard for control networking (ANSI/CEA-709.1-B). Echelon's power line and twisted pair signaling technology was also submitted to ANSI for standardization and accepted. Since then, ANSI/CEA-709.1 has been accepted as the basis for IEEE 1473-L (in-train controls), AAR electro-pneumatic braking systems for freight trains, IFSF (European petrol station control), SEMI (semiconductor equipment manufacturing), and in 2005 as EN 14908 (European building automation standard). The protocol is also one of several data link/physical layers of the BACnet ASHRAE/ANSI standard for building automation.

China ratified the technology as a national controls standard, GB/Z 20177.1-2006 and as a building and intelligent community standard, GB/T 20299.4-2006; and in 2007 CECED, the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers, adopted the protocol as part of its Household Appliances Control and Monitoring – Application Interworking Specification (AIS) standards.

During 2008 ISO and IEC have granted the communications protocol, twisted pair signaling technology, power line signaling technology, and Internet Protocol (IP) compatibility standard numbers ISO/IEC 14908-1, -2, -3, and -4.

By 2006 approximately 60 million devices were installed with LonWorks technology. Manufacturers in a variety of industries including building, home, transportation, utility, and industrial automation have adopted the platform as the basis for their product and service offerings. Statistics as to the number of locations using the LonWorks technology are scarce, but it is known that products and applications built on top of the platform include such diverse functions as embedded machine control, municipal and highway street lighting, heating and air conditioning systems, intelligent electricity metering, subway train control, stadium lighting and speaker control, security systems, fire detection and suppression, and newborn location monitoring and alarming.

Two physical-layer signaling technologies, twisted pair "free topology" and power line carrier, are typically included in each of the standards created around the LonWorks technology. The two-wire layer operates at 78 kbit/s using differential Manchester encoding, while the power line achieves either 5.4 or 3.6 kbit/s, depending on frequency. [1]

Additionally, the LonWorks platform uses an affiliated IP tunneling standard -- ISO/IEC 14908-4[2] (ANSI/CEA-852[3]) -- in use by a number of manufacturers[4] to connect the devices on previously deployed and new LonWorks platform-based networks to IP-aware applications or remote network-management tools. Many LonWorks platform-based control applications are being implemented with some sort of IP integration, either at the UI/application level or in the controls infrastructure. This is accomplished with web services or IP-routing products available on the market.

An Echelon Corporation-designed IC comprised of several, 8-bit processors, the "Neuron chip", was initially the only way to implement a LonTalk protocol node and is used in the large majority of LonWorks platform-based hardware. Since 1999, the protocol has been available for general-purpose processors[5]: a port of the ANSI/CEA-709.1 standard to IP-based or 32-bit chips.

One of the keys to the interoperability of the system is the standardization of the variables used to describe physical things to LonWorks, this standards list is maintained by LonMark International and each standard is known as Standard Network Variable Types (SNVTs, pronounced "sniv-its") so for example a thermostat using the temperature SNVT is expected to produce a number between zero and 65535 that equates to a temperature between -274 and 6279.5 degrees Celsius.

Additional Links:

Echelon Corporation

LonMark International


IEC - LonWorks Technology tutorial

LON IP/Web services integrations

DTI - Examples of mixed Ethernet and LonWorks architectures

LonWorks case study

Bright Core

Bright Core Middleware Demo