One of TOP Server's key differentiators is the wide variety of different drivers/protocols to choose from for communicating with the multitude of device makes and models out there in the automation world. Existing users can tell you that all of the major manufacturers such as Allen-Bradley, Siemens, Omron, Mitsubishi and so many more are conveniently organized into driver suites.
But what about specific industries such as Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Power & Utilities, Building Automation or IT & Infrastructure? TOP Server has convenient vertical industry suites, as well.
Continuing our series about specific industries covered by TOP Server, keep reading to find out specific details about the TOP Server Building Automation Suite including several great features that should make your lives easier in TOP Server V6.0.
In the Building Automation space, it is essential for professionals maintaining these facilities to have the ability to monitor and control the building lighting, HVAC, power, safety, and security systems. Reduced energy costs and better efficiency are just a couple of benefits that can be realized by automating environmental and other systems for a facility. Communications protocols such as BACnet and Modbus are commonly supported by such equipment to provide those monitoring and control capabilities. Looking for my post on IT & Infrastructure specific features? Click Here
TOP Server has always provided a BACnet/IP driver and a Modbus Suite and other drivers such as System Monitor for keeping a pulse on the PC hardware statistics in the facility as individual offerings. But if you need all of those capabilities, the best option provides all of the common drivers used for facilities management in one bundle - the TOP Server Building Automation Suite.
So what is the Building Automation Suite? Let me talk about the component drivers of the suite in brief, as well as, some specific features that industry professionals who need these drivers will find particularly useful and time-saving as you're trying to monitor your facilities from systems like Wonderware.
1. The Drivers
The TOP Server Building Automation Suite provides the most popular drivers that can be used by your HMI/SCADA, DCS system or Historian to facilitate management of your facilities' lighting, HVAC, power, safety and security systems.
- BACnet/IP Driver - Used to monitor and manage facilities controllers supporting the industry standard BACnet/IP protocol.
- Modbus RTU Serial - For devices with a serial interface, a commonly used protocol is the Modbus RTU Serial protocol (supports native Ethernet encapsulation).
- Modbus ASCII Serial - For devices with a serial interface, another commonly used protocol on older hardware is the Modbus ASCII Serial protocol (supports native Ethernet encapsulation).
- Modbus TCP Ethernet - For a wide range of PLC, RTU and other devices with an Ethernet interface, a commonly used protocol is the Modbus TCP protocol.
- System Monitor - Used to monitor PC health and performance metrics on the underlying PC hardware in your facilities.
- UCON (User-Configurable) - For those Building Automation devices not supporting BACnet/IP or Modbus, the UCON driver enables configuring connectivity for basic protocols where protocol documentation is available.
- CID (Custom Interface) - Allows development of custom communications into TOP Server using any language that supports the Windows API (Relies on Shared Memory standards and constructs)
Rather than requiring separate licenses for each of these drivers needed for facilities communications, the Building Automation Suite brings them all into a single convenient option when a majority of these protocols are needed for a project.
2. The Features - Configuration API
Over the years, we've worked with companies and integrators in the Building Automation space that I typically refer to as "power users" that like to go one step beyond off-the-shelf capabilities to get the most value from TOP Server in your automation projects. If you're one of those power users, you may have asked us in the past for the ability to configure your TOP Server programmatically from another application outside just the standard TOP Server user interface.
TOP Server V6.0 gives you the ability to programmatically configure TOP Server through a REST-based API. And stay tuned - in the future, we will also be introducing a .NET API. But what does that mean for you?
- Configure TOP Server from any custom application
- If you have your own custom developed facilities monitoring or control applications that are accessing TOP Server and you’ve always wondered why it isn’t possible to configure your TOP Server straight from that custom application – TOP Server V6.0 makes that possible.
- The new API provides all of the same configuration options available using in the TOP Server user interface, but via API calls you can make from any custom application (things like adding a new channel or device, editing existing channels/devices/tags, deleting channels/devices/tags, and so much more).
- So if you have a custom client application that you have developed for managing your facilities, for instance, you could now program that application to utilize the new API and potentially make all of your configuration changes in one place (that client application) and have the corresponding changes automatically propagate to TOP Server without ever having to open the TOP Server UI!
3. The Features - Device Discovery
Existing TOP Server users should recall that TOP Server is a pretty intuitive and easy-to-use solution for connectivity. Channel and device "wizards" step you through the configuration and use default settings that commonly work with minimal edits.
Going beyond that, several of the drivers available in TOP Server also support automatic device discovery (where the communications protocol supports this). For Building Automation professionals, you'll be pleased to know that the included TOP Server BACnet/IP driver does support automatic device discovery for detecting your devices supporting BACnet/IP on the network and adding them to your TOP Server configuration.
And going still further, in TOP Server V6, automatic device discovery is now exposed in the updated tree view as a right-click option (previously, you had to open the Channel properties to access device auto discovery).
Streamlining this process even further frees up even more of your valuable time to focus on other facilities management tasks on your to-do list.
4. The Features - Enhanced Security Included
And last, but not least, TOP Server V6.0 now includes complimentary access to the Security Policies advanced plug-in at no additional charge, previously a $395 add-in option. But what is the Security Policies plug-in, you might be saying, and how does it apply to me as an building automation professional using TOP Server?
- Flexible, powerful control over your TOP Server
- The Security Policies plug-in provides the ultimate in flexible user authentication for your TOP Server.
- You can dictate what users have access to down to the individual tag level based on their defined user in the integrate TOP Server User Manager.
- With security being at the forefront of concern for many building automation professionals, you need to be able to ensure the right people have the right access to the right settings. Having access to the Security Policies plug-in should make your job that much easier with respect to security.
All of these features are designed to provide improved efficiency, scalability, and flexibility for your current or upcoming facilities management projects. And, while these are some of the most relevant features for Building Automation, as always, we have a list of other enhancements and features in the release notes that we just don’t have room to cover here - click for details.
Ready to see TOP Server V6 in action? Click below to access an on-demand webinar with live demonstration of the new features.