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Why Use Open vs Proprietary Protocol in Your Building Automation System Integration

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Matt White

Choosing between an open vs. proprietary protocol is a critical factor affecting building automation system integrations.  Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each can help you make smarter decisions and make the most of your investment.    

Open vs Proprietary Protocol in Building Automation System Integration

In the early days of building automation, a majority of equipment manufacturers developed their own software and utilized company-specific programming tools and network protocols. These proprietary or closed control systems were only compatible with the vendor’s equipment—equipment that may not give you the functionality you want. But as building technology became more sophisticated and building owners felt the constraints of proprietary options, open protocols emerged as a more attractive alternative. These protocols allow for easier integration of equipment and devices from multiple manufacturers into a single system. Without being beholden to a particular vendor, your options are virtually limitless.

Exploring some of the key aspects of control protocols will clarify the benefits and drawbacks of open vs. proprietary approaches.       



Communications Protocols

BACnet, MODBUS, and DALI  are examples of some common open communication protocols utilized in modern building systems. Compared to proprietary or closed protocols that employ vendor-specific languages, these open protocols facilitate interoperability across vendors to connect devices.       


Programming Software

Open protocol systems can integrate software platforms developed by many different equipment manufacturers. With such protocols, BAS platforms can be built to specifications that allow for interoperability and integration of new and existing components. However, there are cases in which a vendor might use an open communication protocol within proprietary programming tool. For BAS integration, open protocols means that the system can be programmed and operated without requiring manufacturer’s or vendor’s support.  


Choice of Products and Service Providers

One of the key drawbacks of proprietary protocols is the limited choice of equipment and upgrade options. You are committed to the same vendor for servicing and maintenance year after year until the system is replaced. This often means being locked into a vendor’s costly service plan with few or no competitive options. 

As open protocol BAS systems work with an endless array of equipment and software platforms and are easily serviced by any qualified technician. Installation, servicing, and upgrading can be performed by the vendor of your choice. Vendors will now compete for your business by providing good customer service, knowing you have options.  



A building owner should have full license ownership and administrator control of the building automation system once it is installed. Closed protocol products are licensed to a single authorized dealer and forces building owners and other stakeholders to request service, support, and upgrades from the same dealer. In contrast, there are products available that allow multiple vendors and suppliers the ability to perform updates and provide support. This is instrumental in creating open architecture for BAS integration, improving scalability, and controlling costs.    



Open protocols utilized in an open software infrastructure helps developers customize building automation systems and create scalable, future-proof solutions. With proprietary  protocols and software, there is no such flexibility.   

When evaluating open vs. proprietary protocol systems, open is obvious choice for smart buildings. 

Realizing the Possibilities of Open Protocols

Even building owners who are keenly aware of the advantages of open vs. proprietary protocol systems usually lack the technical expertise to create an open infrastructure for their BAS. A master systems integrator (MSI) helps building owners take advantage of the endless opportunities open protocols offer. By understanding your current system, your goals, and your challenges, an MSI can create the best solutions for successful integration.

Buildings IOT specializes in open protocols. From systems architecture to on-site deployment, to cloud integration, our expert teams are with you every step of the way as they turn your vision into reality.   

Want to know more about the advantages of open vs. proprietary protocol for BAS integration? Contact our team of experts and get the insight you need. 



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