March/April 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 2
by Jeremy Yon, Industry Relations Leader, GE Current
Today’s world is connected, but that connectedness isn’t always as clean or tidy behind the scenes as some would hope. Whether you want to assemble information to gain knowledge or simplify requests for control, there is an overabundance of options to accomplish those goals.
While our formal wired and wireless interconnections continue to improve, a longer- term opportunity exists with semantic tagging, which acts as a means for data to be identified independently from the interconnection. Semantic tagging is a deep discipline, but one specific corner is critical now to develop: defining what is essential to tag.
WHAT IS SEMANTIC TAGGING?
Semantic tagging is the concept of assigning information, called metadata, to data. Let’s say you have a picture from your camera. Potentially helpful tidbits often are embedded in that photograph—when and where you snapped the photo, what settings you used on the camera, who is in the picture, what adjustments were applied, etc.
Let’s examine one of those fields: where the photo was taken. That data could be used to remind the photographer where she visited or to pinpoint an exact location. If the concept of “where it was taken” is decided by the creator of the software that encoded the image, the information in that field could be GPS coordinates or the street, city, state, or country; if the user entered it manually, it might even be “fancy rock in the desert.” Those all could be perfectly acceptable answers for a human to read, but if a computer consumes that information, it would be inefficient at best and very error-prone at worst.
This same dilemma confronts the world of integrated buildings. Some organizations have already created and are improving communications protocols and controls protocols such as Zigbee, DALI, BACnet, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, etc. Organizations also are developing and enhancing data modeling and semantic tagging environments with initiatives such as Project Haystack and the Brick schema.
Each of the protocols and environments was created and developed with specific objectives in mind. While some would hope for a one-ring-to- rule-them-all situation to emerge, there are valid needs for many or most of the existing systems. That creates an opportunity for a different industry approach: we can identify the most essential for us and encourage default conditions for the data.
ENTER THE ANSI C137.6 STANDARD
The upcoming ANSI C137.6 Standard American National Standard for Lighting Systems—Data Tagging Vocabulary (Semantic Model Elements) for Interoperability is the first step of a long journey. In this Standard, experts have down-selected, over several years, key interoperability concepts for lighting systems and organized them into a controlled vocabulary. Each entry term has a definition, legal tags (as they were known at the time of publication), and defaults, as well as optional additional information.
The Standard intends to acknowledge that there are multiple effective ways of organizing the data besides creating a list of mandatory tags and the related organizational hierarchy. The Standard proclaims to the other organizing structures what lighting systems require/expect and gives a default meaning. With this common foundation—even if different organizational Standards are present—the translation of meaning will be greatly simplified and more effective. Additionally, this approach respects the semantic tagging industry principle of allowing users to deploy tags as they see fit, as long as it is noted in the specific tagging that the user is not following the default.
The ANSI C137.6 lighting systems working group expects to expand the work with ideas from within the lighting world and reach further into building systems with this foundation constructed. The Connected Building Systems Section of NEMA is now collecting terms, and all Sections are welcome to nominate more. We can reach critical mass in clearly articulating our industry’s needs as the world of “data’s data” evolves into maturity. In that case, we will have helped those formalizing the groundwork and ensured a place in future work. ei