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The Role of Semantic Tagging in Supporting HVAC Equipment Manufacturers

Today 80% of all commercial buildings do not have a building automation system in place, which means there is an opportunity to reduce energy consumption and minimise their carbon footprint. Given that HVAC is the largest consumer of energy in a building, it is logical that managing and controlling HVAC will make the biggest impact on reducing energy.

Richard McElhinney, Vice President of Technology at Conserve It and Vice President for the Project Haystack Board of Directors, and CEO of J2 Innovations Alex Rohweder recently contributed to Haystack Connections Magazine to discuss the role of semantic tagging in supporting HVAC equipment manufacturers.

As the largest energy consumers, HVAC equipment manufacturers are in prime position to lead the way and ensure that their equipment is efficient while also supporting the optimisation of other building components. Using the power of Haystack semantic tagging, HVAC manufacturers can make this possible by creating opportunities for simplified integration and interoperability with third party applications.

Manufacturers have the opportunity to create “system- in-a-box” type solutions for managing their products and related whole building systems. The answer is to enable the HVAC installer to provide simple and data rich building management and plant management type solutions through the power of tagging.

Simple, accessible tech

Imagine equipment manufacturers provide deskilled plug n’ play systems and applications which can easily be commissioned by the HVAC installer to create a simplified building automation system that delivers substantial energy savings. We’re reimagining what relationships look like between equipment manufacturers and BAS using Project Haystack and leveraging the power of tagging and data modelling. Here’s a look at how the open standard and technology can simplify HVAC equipment control, deployment, and provide more visibility into performance data.

Going beyond the mechanical equipment

The opportunity exists for HVAC manufacturers and their installers to go beyond the basic safeties and control of just the singular HVAC equipment. They could provide a complete, integrated HVAC system that includes the air handling units, chillers, boilers, pumps, cooling towers, and associated valves and sensors. This holistic approach can then help optimise the performance of the system as a whole to save energy and operating costs. While the value of such integrated solutions is well-known, today’s challenge is largely the “spaghetti integration” of different devices with their own semantic models and sometimes even protocols.

Provisioning and startup

What if deploying an HVAC system was a matter of an installer entering basic configuration parameters through a wizard? With the help of a software appliance approach, a step-by-step process could be taken to provision an entire system. This configuration could even be done in the factory production line or remotely via a commissioning engineer as well.

The plant equipment controllers will self-identify (“I’m a chiller”, “I’m a boiler”, etc.) and auto-generate their own Haystack tags. The controller will also announce the points it contains by publishing a tagged, semantic model.

This would result in a product that provides a foolproof way to deploy a complex system with the OEM’s control and optimisation knowledge built right in. Therefore, the overall performance and reliability would be maximised from the day it was started up.


The resulting tagged applications provide value to both manufacturers and third-party applications. By sharing the structured data, the plant system becomes part of an open and integrated solution. High value applications such as analytics, dashboards, trending, historian, and alarming can now consume the data more easily. This enables enterprise level data comparison and analysis across multiple vendors and systems.

Control engine

For HVAC equipment, the control system integrates and orchestrates the components of the fans, motors, dampers, actuators, and sensors. These inputs and outputs are modelled and tagged using the Haystack standard and can be dynamically linked to a control engine that implements the automation and optimisation strategies. Through tagging, the defined control strategies can be mass deployed to all systems of such type without extra engineering. This can extend beyond the plant logic to incorporate associated equipment, such as AHUs, FCUs, HPs, and VRF systems. With a tagged system, the manual task of linking censored data is replaced with dynamically linked data queries.

Enhance your equipment’s UI

The user experience (UI) can influence the ease of deployment and overall quality of the provisioning. Through the use of a software appliance (typically on a touch screen or mobile device), the procedure for check out and system startup is a better and more productive experience. For installers, this helps streamline the commissioning process and also makes it easier to integrate into the building automation system.

When implementing a system based on Project Haystack standard for point definitions, the binding of the data to the user experience widgets happens automatically. This creates automatically generated graphical content and dramatically reduces engineering labour.

Performance data

HVAC manufacturers generally have zero visibility around their equipment set-up or performance - unless it malfunctions and one of their own technicians has to be deployed to physically diagnose the problem.

With Project Haystack web protocol, HVAC equipment manufacturers have the option to implement remote connectivity to the equipment they have supplied on site and monitor performance over time. This has the potential to generate huge amounts of aggregated IoT data across multiple customers for analysis of how their products perform under various conditions. These kinds of insights could help identify optimisation opportunities and make software updates automatically. It also allows benchmarking against other equipment, be it legacy models that were replaced.

Project Haystack provides the means for equipment manufacturers to unlock new revenue streams and position themselves for the new data driven economy in the building systems world.

It’s time to make an impact

With a Haystack enabled system, an HVAC equipment manufacturer and installer can collaboratively create better systems to ensure maximised plant performance. The manufacturer provides embedded control knowledge and optimisation strategies for their product. Their appliance helps standardise the complexity of a central plant, and provides normalised data for easy consumption. For the installer, this means they can deliver an integrated intelligent building project with confidence. For the HVAC equipment manufacturer and their ecosystem partners, the Haystack tagged data allow for new business models around higher value software applications and services. Ultimately, this provides a better user experience for facility managers, energy managers, technicians, and end users.

It’s time for manufacturers to seize the opportunity and create “system-in-a-box” type tagged and IoT ready solutions for managing their products and associated ancillary equipment. Forward thinking manufacturers are already building Project Haystack into their equipment. Those who don’t seize this moment will be left behind and left out of the power that semantic modelling technologies such as Project Haystack offer.

This is an excerpt from the article that first appeared in Haystack Connections Magazine. To find out more on the role of semantic tagging in supporting HVAC equipment manufacturers visit


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