Breaking Down Language Barriers in Smart Buildings

Have you ever wondered why the buildings that we live and work in aren’t smarter? I have. For example, why can’t the conference room I’m sitting in sense more people entering the room and dynamically increase the airflow through the vents? And why can’t the trash bins in the restroom be equipped with sensors that can automatically push a notification to the facilities team when they’re full, ensuring on-demand versus schedule-based maintenance?

Getting building systems to communicate with each other can take a lot of effort. One of the reasons connecting building systems together can be so difficult is many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) use a homegrown data language within their system that has no meaning to the outside world. In other words, there’s a language barrier.

Let’s say we want to know the supply air temperature for an air handling unit (AHU), one vendor might term that BACnet point as “AHU1:Temperature” and another vendor might map the same BACNET point as “FLOOR1:AHU:Temperature”. Since there is no standardization at this layer, you would ultimately need a systems integrator to “map” these points together to create a consistent data model.

Also, temperature on its own lacks context, so we need additional data to decide whether anything needs to happen. Does the data reflect actual or target temperature? Which zone and floor within a building does it belong to? And are there occupants in that space?


The wheel of connectivity includes data, information, analytics, insight and action.

Standardizing system data

What’s needed is a standardized method for describing data, making it easier to analyze, visualize and derive value from our operational data. In fact, this is a main objective of Project Haystack, an open-source initiative created to streamline the integration of data from the Internet of Things (IoT).

Members of the initiative are standardizing semantic data models and web services with the goal of helping end users and solution providers unlock value from the vast quantity of data being generated by the smart devices found in our homes, buildings, factories and cities. This work currently targets applications in automation, control, energy, HVAC, lighting and other environmental systems.

I am thrilled to announce that Intel is joining Project Haystack as a Founder Member.  My colleague Rita Wouhaybi will be the technical liaison into Project Haystack, and I will serve as the business liaison and board member.


What Is Project Haystack?

Project Haystack is a community-driven standards body for defining semantic data models that ultimately bring meaning to smart device data. These efforts are also known as semantic tagging, metadata, or data modeling. The initiative is developing the following capabilities:

  • Metadata: A simple, extensible, and flexible tagging system to support a wide range of devices and setups.
  • Taxonomy: A library of tagging models to represent the data from a wide variety of equipment based on members’ proposals.
  • Communication protocol: A highly efficient REST API to simplify the exchange of Haystack tagged data among devices and across different applications.
  • Reference software implementations: Code implementations to ease integration into applications and products using various programming languages and platforms such as Java, C++, node.js, Dart, Niagara and Python.


Intel joins Project Haystack

Intel is participating in Project Haystack to help improve the data interoperability of building systems and accelerate end-user adoption of IoT-enabled smart building solutions. “As a developer and implementer of smart building technology, Intel’s involvement will raise the awareness of Project Haystack among a broader set of end users and solution providers, so they too can benefit from Project Haystack’s standardized data models,” said John Petze, executive director of Project Haystack.

“Project Haystack is the only standards body focused on defining standardized data models for building systems and objects; however, its data model framework is also applicable to industrial, manufacturing, retail, energy and other market segments that Intel serves. We will actively encourage other IoT standards bodies focusing on device interoperability to explore the extensibility of Project Haystack,” said Sunita Shenoy, director of smart building solutions at Intel.


Interoperability through standard data models

In partnership with other industry-wide organizations, Intel is working to establish IoT data standards and messaging protocols that allow vendors to provide integrated solutions. Likewise, Project Haystack is helping remove data model barriers that are inhibiting interoperability, thereby enabling more innovative, scalable and cost-effective solutions for smart buildings.

I believe that Intel’s membership in Project Haystack has the potential to accelerate end user adoption of IoT-enabled smart building solutions.

For more information about Intel’s solutions for smart buildings, visit To learn about the latest in Intel IoT developments, subscribe to our RSS feed for email notifications of blog updates, or visit and Twitter.

Published on Categories Embedded, Smart BuildingsTags , , , ,

About Shuo Zhang

Shuo Zhang is the Global Director of Segment Marketing within Intel’s Industrial Solutions Division. His team is responsible for defining and driving differentiated go-to-market plans to grow Intel’s Industrial IoT business across the manufacturing, energy, building automation, and logistics markets. Shuo’s team also partners closely with product and engineering teams to guide development of the strategy and roadmap for Intel’s Industrial AI and IoT solutions portfolio. Previously, Shuo held various engineering and product management roles at Rockwell Automation and co-founded an ecommerce startup . Shuo holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering from University of Michigan and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.