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Overcoming the shortcomings of discrete design, this product creates value for building automation controllers

[Guide]The Building Automation System (BAS) integrates lighting, energy, HVAC, safety and security into a single intuitive system to strike a balance between the best operating efficiency of the building and the productivity and comfort of the occupants. Although the building automation market is very conservative, it has achieved considerable growth. The main driving factors are rising energy prices, increased awareness of energy conservation, and increasing government initiatives in the field of fire protection and security.
New standards and regulations (such as the UL 217 smoke alarm standard) have come into effect, with the goal of making buildings safer, more efficient, and more comfortable. These trends have stimulated the development of new building automation products and solutions, prompting manufacturers to deliver new technologies in a shorter development cycle. This rhythmic change provides BAS with an opportunity to meet such needs through flexible system solutions with platform, lower power consumption and smaller size.
Some products often lack the agility of innovation that is valued by today’s rapidly changing market. Building automation controllers are a typical example. The controller is the brain of BAS, which obtains data from sensors widely deployed in the building and executes system responses. This means that the controller needs to have a certain number of input and output channels. Some controllers only provide fixed channel functions, causing the architecture to include unused channels. These additional unused channels will have some associated costs that cannot be recovered from the customer. However, if each channel has the ability to be completely reconfigured, then all channels can be utilized. Ideally, BAS should have a certain number of spare channels so that customers do not have to pay for unused functions. Making the channel function fully configurable can provide maximum flexibility for BAS design and deployment.
Traditionally, the fixed and configurable channels of building automation controllers have adopted discrete implementations. However, the bill of materials (BOM) of a discrete implementation of a configurable channel controller may contain hundreds of components. After years of development, discrete solutions have become very efficient and optimized very well, and the BOM cost has been reduced to a level consistent with the expectations of this cost-sensitive market. However, new trends and greater demands for agile development highlight some of the main disadvantages of this approach. For example, there are too many product variants of building automation controllers, resulting in extremely complicated planning, design, production, and logistics. Therefore, BAS solutions must be evaluated based on the total cost of ownership rather than the simplified BOM cost.
Integration and separation
The ability to reconfigure channels as needed is the correct way to eliminate unnecessary channels, but this alone does not solve the other shortcomings of the controller design. The key concept is integration, which simplifies channel design, reduces size and improves performance through integration. With integrated solutions, the functions of any channel can be easily configured using software commands. Software configurable input/output (I/O) technology provides the possibility to simplify design reuse and platformization, which will ultimately reduce the total cost of ownership of BAS solutions and create value for the entire product life cycle of building automation controllers (See Figure 1).
Overcoming the shortcomings of discrete design, this product creates value for building automation controllers
Figure 1. The use of AD74412R can improve the return on investment in each development stage.
The first stage of controller development is the system architecture. At this time, all customer needs must be considered and new products defined. Even at this early stage of development, the inflexibility of discrete solutions is an obvious disadvantage. Different customer needs—such as the ratio or number of input and output channels—may result in multiple designs, which increase costs and hinder agile responses to market demands. The integrated software configurable I/O supports platformization, so that a proven design can be reused in different applications. Reusability is essential to reduce design and production costs, which will be discussed later.
After the product is defined, the design starts. At this stage, design reuse has fully demonstrated its importance. Unlike discrete implementations, integrated and configurable I/O can quickly iterate, shorten development time, and free up valuable resources. Both hardware and software design have shifted from resource-intensive, lengthy, and multi-product variant development to a single design to meet many needs, which can reduce research and development time and costs, while maintaining the high reliability and robustness of a mature architecture. It is much easier to meet the needs of different applications by using the “any pin provides any function” method of integrated reconfigurable design (see Figure 2).
Figure 2. Software configurable I/O so that any pin can provide any function.
From a business development perspective, the response speed of conventional development strategies is very slow, which will bring unnecessary risks, leading to missed opportunities or missed customer deadlines. The flexibility and ease of use of integrated configurable I/O helps maximize the return on investment (ROI) while minimizing time to market and time to profit.
After completing the design phase, the next step is the production phase. Starting from the procurement and management of the BOM, the integrated solution will soon show its advantages. Discrete universal controllers often contain hundreds of components, all of which need to be purchased, stored in warehouses, and transported to production facilities. Managing such a large number of different components will naturally increase the total cost. With a single-chip solution and a reusable design, BOM logistics will be much simpler-the purchasing department needs to deal with fewer suppliers and requires less storage space.
Due to the reduction in the number of components, the PCB size can be reduced by as much as 40%, and the mounting costs in production are also significantly reduced. In addition, because software configurable I/O supports design reuse, controller manufacturers will need more PCBs of the same type. Therefore, volume discounts on circuit boards also help save costs. Figure 3 summarizes the comparison of discrete and integrated channel function implementations.
Figure 3. Comparison of discrete and integrated channel function implementations.
Figure 4. Fully software-configurable integrated I/O—AD74412R.
Last but not least, compared to discrete implementations of multiple variants, testing in production follows a uniform procedure and takes less time to set up. The increase in design complexity may even increase the risk of test failure. Integrated reusable solutions can save costs and other resources in many ways. Certification is an example. In addition, there are finished products logistics, installation, and technical support. When many different designs are based on multiple platforms, the training of sales, technical support teams, and installation technicians will be more cumbersome than a general reusable solution based on integrated software configurable I/O.
in conclusion
Software configurable I/O has brought innovation to the building automation market, which is traditionally conservative, but driven by multiple factors, it is becoming more agile and able to respond faster to changing customer needs. Integration and design reusability are key features to achieve this transition. Some people may think that an integrated solution is a simple BOM alternative, which may actually increase costs, but in fact, look at it from a larger perspective and consider the overall value it creates in the entire product life cycle. Integration The solution will quickly dispel any doubts.
In order to overcome the shortcomings of discrete design, ADI has developed the I/O AD74412R, which is completely configurable through software. The device integrates discrete signal chains in a single chip and provides four fully configurable channels. From product definition to design and production, to installation and operation, AD74412R can create value throughout the life cycle of the controller. It provides customers with an easy way to increase the return on investment while shortening the time to market and time to profit.

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