2013 BBC-SD Firmware Updates v1.05
If I put this firmware on a deployed BBC-SD, will I have to re-train customers on how to use it?
We’d certainly like to dispel any worries you may have if you have liked the look and feel of the BBC-SD as it has been for the past few years. Version 1.05 does not drastically change the interface – it is simply much more refined. Consistency across this upgrade was very important to us and end users would likely need to see two units side-by-side with the same configuration file to notice any appreciable difference between the versions. In fact, if one was to update the firmware of any BBC-SD’s in the field, the end users would find the device to be slightly more intuitive, not less. Because the upgrades are subtle, there is no need to retrain anyone, no need to modify any customer documentation describing the unit’s operation and no need to even change or even redeploy the configuration file.
What has changed in the actual display screens & navigation menus?
Several of the screen views and navigation features have been refined. The back button now returns you to the same view of the previous screen – not just the top of it. The up & down navigation was also tweaked. Now if a screen has unused blank lines at the bottom, the user will no longer be prompted (or able) to scroll down through the all-blank screens. The up and down arrows are updated in real time to grey out scrolling options that would lead to blank or unused screens. The result is that a device configured not to make use of all 750 possible data screen lines no longer looks “unfinished” with copious amounts of blank lines in the menu system.
A similar tweak was made with the schedule & calendar menus. If no schedules or calendars are set up, then the “schedules” button doesn’t show up at all. If you choose to map in a single schedule or calendar, the schedule button takes you right to it. If you have a number of different schedules and calendars nothing has changed-pressing the schedule button will still take you to the schedule menu where you can choose between all of the schedules that have been linked to the display.
The last tweak to the look and feel of the BBC-SD is the ability to modify the number of decimal places that a floating point number displays. This allows you to configure the device to display as few as one or as many as four digits to the right of the decimal. And of course this view setting does not limit the display’s ability to enter and send data with full precision.
What are the new features in this release?
Network monitoring is now a fully integrated part of the BBC-SD. Plugging the controller into any BACnet network is all that is needed for the display to begin mapping out all of the controllers on the network. This includes the names of the controllers, the manufacturer, the device instance, the total number of objects, the Max Master setting, the amount of time it takes on average for the controller to respond and many other points of interest. And masters are not the only controllers that can be automatically discovered; one can even tell the display to seek out and monitor any slave devices that may be lurking on the network or otherwise locked out of the token loop.
This screenshot shows a generic damper control unit as seen by the BBC-SD. Information was gathered in real-time without the need for a configuration file or any other system knowledge. Note that the left and right arrows allow the user to quickly and easily navigate between all of the controllers on the network, regardless if they are masters or slaves.
Another feature is the ability for the BBC-SD to seek out and find the time on the network if no time-server is specified. Once the display is attached to the network and given a token, the display will find the network time and automatically update the clock and calendar on the home screen. If you want to force the display to use a particular unit as its time server, that can still be specified in the configuration file. If that unit goes offline or the display is moved to another network it will update automatically.
Also new is the powerful feature called “Temporary Address Overwrite.” This allows you to redirect slots to a different controller than the one they are bound to in the configuration file. As an example, if you have 10 slots that are all assigned to a device at MAC address 17 and you want to view the same points on the device found at address 121, you can ask the display to temporarily reassign all device 17 slots to device 121. You can override as many points as you desire and all overrides are cleared by simply rebooting the device. One last noteworthy new feature is the ability to change the “default” screen on the fly over the BACnet network.
The default screen is the screen that is set to be displayed when enough time has elapsed since someone last touched the display’s interface. By default this is set to the home screen but it can also be set to any of the 150 data slot screens. Now that this configuration point is exposed to the BACnet network, other controllers or operators can make the display cycle through screens deemed important.
As an example, one of our displays is mounted outside of the Auto-Flow lab here at AAM. We assigned a controller in the building to send a new value to this parameter on the BBC-SD every other minute. This way we were able to have the display rotate between showing the current system time, the temperature in the room and the humidity in the room. Of course if someone was to touch the display, everything responds as usual, but once left alone the screens go back to scrolling through data points as directed by the network.
What are the new potential uses of the BBC-SD?
The inclusion of the advanced network scanning and diagnostic functions make the BBC-SD suitable for a lot of troubleshooting, even if it’s not permanently mounted on-site. Even without a configuration file loaded onto it, you could attach it to any network and immediately see what controllers are online, how fast the network loop speed is, find missing slave devices, see if the Max Master and Max Info Frames parameters are properly set, etc. An even more powerful case could be made for using it as a BACnet controller tester on your bench back at the office. By combining the automatic discovery features with the new temporary address override feature you end up with a BACnet tool that can immediately find and test any BACnet controller you plug into it.
As an example, try loading the BBC-SD with a “generic” slot file that has up to 150 different points on it, each assigned to different points on the very same controller. One would imagine that this file would contain subdirectories for all I/O points, including the out of service, present value and object name properties. Similar subdirectories could look at AV’s, BV’s, MSV’s etc.
If a BBC-SD was loaded with such a generic file, then any BACnet controller could be attached to the BBC-SD for immediate interrogation. Simply plug the unknown controller into the BBC-SD, modify the baud rate as needed and then use the network statistics feature to locate the MAC address of the unknown/untested controller. Plugging that MAC address into the temporary address override allows you to immediately take control of the device, monitor or cycle the I/O, change the point names, etc.
Lastly, if a BBC-SD has been installed on a site, you could always go one step farther than I previously described when discussing the ability to redirect the default screen at runtime over the network. If a front end or a supervisory controller determined that a point was in alarm or a controller was offline, it would be simple to “hijack” the default screen on all BBC-SD’s on the network to point them to screens that show the problems. If the building was being evacuated, wouldn’t it be nice if directions to the nearest stairwell were to pop up on the screen? Of course this requires some logic at the front end to determine what to display, when to display it and when to set it back to normal, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.