Chris Irwin, VP sales EMEA & VP global marketing at J2 Innovations looks at how software can offer real benefits.

The Covid-19 crisis is adding a new layer of systems to be managed, in office, retail, education and manufacturing buildings, to assist with monitoring and control of occupancy levels and social distancing. This comes on top of existing pressures to reduce energy usage and carbon footprint, whilst managing extremes of temperature and incorporating IoT propositions for space and environmental monitoring. There is also increasing demand to integrate building management systems with fire and security systems. Whilst it is possible to tackle these needs all in one building upgrade, most will prioritize and carry out incremental changes. Either way, the key to short-term and long-term success will be the way the growing array of building systems are managed, so that they work in harmony and deliver real benefits. The latest benchmark for building automation supervisory systems is now one based on the FIN Framework open software platform.

FIN Framework is increasingly being used as the basis for new products from various companies, some who publicly announce their use and others who keep it private. OEM partners who have released products based on FIN Framework from J2 Innovations include Biqsave in Norway, Smart-Traxx in the Netherlands, as well as Coster’s Web Garage and Clivet’s chiller management application in Italy. Siemens has also used FIN in several products: Desigo Controlpoint, Building Operator and Desigo Optic. The last of these, Desigo Optic, is available for Systems Integrators in the Nordic region as a Building Management Systems (BMS) supervisor.

FIN Framework, now in its fifth iteration, offers a uniquely comprehensive set of features in monitoring, control, scheduling, alarming, visualization, integration, and analytics for BMS. At server level FIN can run on Linux, Windows and MacOS X, providing a highly intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for touchscreen and browser accessible supervisory applications, with easy to create dashboard, smart alarm, and fault detection diagnostics features.

The use of open source options throughout the FIN Framework enables easy integration or customization and provides enormous flexibility. Haystack tagging and data modelling enables FIN to automate many of the project configuration processes and deliver context-sensitive information automatically. Metadata tags allow easy normalization of useful information for customized views and dashboards. FIN utilizes several open source libraries, including AM Charts for dashboards and React UI tools to enhance functionality and to provide great resources for OEM developers. Three libraries of equipment graphics are included – 2D, 2D+, 3D shaded, and there is the facility to add custom libraries. Extensive use is also made of wizards, for example, auto-generated configuration, which enables the creation of an entire project from a spreadsheet using an import utility wizard. Added to this is a template wizard which simplifies the task of device configuration. FIN delivers huge time saving for all aspects of a project, including points, control logic, graphics, summary, O&M manuals and OEM specific features. FIN is very intuitive to navigate through; throughout there are context sensitive links to enable the user to easily focus on the aspect of building operation required, whether it be the alarms, schedules, overrides or performance dashboards. FIN supports the current generation of IoT protocols such as MQTT and REST as well as the traditional automation protocols, including BACnet, Modbus, SNMP and OPC UA.

Security is a high priority in FIN, which has passed ISTS penetration testing and been designed to comply with the IEC62443 security standard. J2 Innovations is now part of Siemens cyber-security initiative to ensure all aspects of the framework are continually monitored for vulnerabilities and threats, with regular updates as necessary to ensure FIN continues to be robust and secure.

A recently launched FIN capability, called Edge2Cloud, uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer highly secure, authenticated remote site connectivity, to simplify multi-site portfolio management, without the need, cost and complexity of VPN or APN set-ups. Edge2Cloud allows users of the FIN Framework to easily access building data and device management remotely and securely, without IT support or having to visit site.

FIN has been developed for OEMs to customize, develop and add features and functionality. It is designed for easy, quick integration and simplicity in getting the outputs OEMs, integrators and users want for operations and communications. Open APIs make it easy to extend the framework and to integrate with third party systems and devices. So, as new products appear to address the issues related to Covid-19, as well as to enable carbon reduction and energy cost savings, they can be quickly added, integrated and managed effectively and in harmony.

Users of FIN

Åsmund Holand, technical manager for Biqsave, Norway: “When evaluating several platform technologies for the BMS-part of our new suite of buildings intelligent software for added value enhancements, no other solutions were even close to FIN5 from J2 Innovations.

Some of the most important features for us, our SI Partners and our common end-customers, are backwards and forwards compatibility with other building automation and security systems, being IoT and Industry 4.0 ready, open source, haystack tagging and templates for the configuration of systems graphics, HTL5 and a “mobile-first” approach to dashboard design.

A licensing policy that is easy to understand with several models from local on-site Installations to cloud/SaaS or both, and a lot of combinations in between, from Micro to Global Enterprise size, and all with the same power.”

Clivet SpA, Italy, the global maker of specialist HVAC systems is using FIN to develop innovative HVAC plant and building optimization solutions. Domenico Canei, Control Systems and IoT R&D manager Clivet SpA commented: “We’re very much looking forward to the journey we’re about to take alongside J2 Innovations. FIN is the most innovative software platform that has been built for supervisory, building automation and IoT applications. It will enable us to customize and improve the monitoring, control and optimisation capabilities of our already market leading HVAC systems while helping us transition to a pivotal role in the smart building, digitalization and IoT space.”

Coster Group, Italy is one of the world’s foremost HVAC and building control specialists that is renowned for its simple-to-install configurable systems. In 2019, Coster started the search for a software platform that would form the basis of a new-generation of control systems for the next decade. Andrea Zara, CEO Coster Group: “This new wave of systems needed to be open, scalable, lower cost and faster-to-develop. After consultations, FIN Framework quickly emerged as the standout solution - it was faithful to our ‘simple-to-install and configurable’ ethos while also taking advantage of the latest technology developments such as Haystack 4.0 and IoT devices.”

“While Edge2Cloud is a great solution which allows a single access point for multiple FIN instances around the globe without the need for a dedicated network or tricky security configuration. This makes the solution highly-scalable. There are some handy features with the potential to grow in the future.”

Air-TraXX BV, Netherlands – supplied and deployed FIN 5 Framework technology under the Smart-TraXX brand. Tailored to the needs of the Dutch market and particular requirements of Air-TraXX, Smart-TraXX is a software suite which provides monitoring, control, scheduling, alarming, visualization, integration, and analytics capabilities that can be easily customised and incorporated into building control systems. Frank Smit, managing director of Air-TraXX: ““This software framework enables us to bring better tools and develop more innovative applications for our clients. It saves time and means we can quickly engineer a building control system at a lower cost, allowing us to do more work and provide a better turnaround and value for our customers.”

Henning Sandfort, CEO of Building Products Siemens, Germany said: “What matters to our customers is speed of integration, ease-of-use engineering and bottom-line value from data. FIN framework provides the right answers with a state-of-the-art software architecture and user experience. Desigo Optic, based on FIN, is a great complement to our leading automation portfolio.”