Well, folks, it’s time. Time for me to update one of my most popular posts. A lot has happened since I wrote my two-part series on Tridium.
I initially wrote the series as a way to solidify my knowledge around Tridium. Little did I know it would become one of my most popular posts and also a top ranking Google search.
Well, a lot has changed since I wrote those articles. Tridium released a new solution called N4 (Generation 4 of Tridium essentially), and to answer a ton of questions I am updating my series.
High-Level Niagara Video Overview
If you are a technician, engineer, operator, or programmer this guide will be very informative for you but you also need detailed training that provides guidance on how to do all of the common tasks in Niagara. Normally this requires you attending a $2,800 Niagara Certification Course and then hoping you remember what you learned.
Our online, on-demand, Niagara Basics course will teach you everything you need to know and because it comes with lifetime access you can continue to watch the course videos any time you need. Click here to learn more.
The History of Tridium
Tridium is the company behind the Niagara Framework. When folks refer to Tridium they are referring to the company that produces, markets, and sells the Niagara Framework. The Niagara Framework was developed in 1999 and was released on the Vykon Platform. In Niagara circles, Vykon is often called “vanilla Tridium” as it is the “pure” implementation of the Niagara framework.
This doesn’t make the Vykon solution any better or worse than the other solutions that have been implemented on the Niagara platform.
What is the Niagara Framework?
The Niagara Framework is an architectural and software “reference model” that companies can use to implement a building automation system. Essentially the framework dictates how to implement several portions of the Niagara architecture. I will dive much deeper into the framework from a technical perspective in later sections so let’s leave it at that.
What was Niagara R2
My first exposure to Tridium was with the R2 platform. Was there an R1? Not sure, honestly I don’t care. At this point in the game, R2 has been discontinued, and it is recommended that folks embrace the AX or the N4 solutions.
R2, as far as I can tell Niagara started with R2. Unfortunately, the information on R2 is spotty at best so I only have my experience with the solution to go on.
What is Niagara AX
AX provided multiple enhancements over the R2 platform. When you think about it, this makes logical sense. Back in 1999 when R2 was released most folks were still using modems and DSL/Cable connections were just coming out. Fast forward to 2005, and you have the release of the AX platform.
Things were quite different in 2005. We were on the cusp of a social media and telecommunications revolution. Think about it, the first I-Phone, which brought mobile into the mainstream, wasn’t released until 2007 and Facebook was only a year old!
AX provided a series of enhancements, the most notable of which were:
- An API and SDK
- Extensible Component Model (being able to add capabilities to the framework)
- A reporting engine
- Java UI’s for Mobile Displays
- Low-Cost processor support
These capabilities would continue to be expanded for years.
What is Niagara Version 4
On September 8th, 2015, Tridium released version for of the Niagara Framework. At the time of this publication going live Niagara Version 4 (also known as N4), is at version 4.2.
At release, Niagara Version 4 supported the following capabilities.
- HTML/5 Graphics GUI
- Newer Security Model that brings the solution up to speed with the IT industry
- Expanded API Library
- Device Templating
HTML/5 Graphics GUI
The new graphical user interface utilizes HTML\5 which provides interoperability with current web design standards. The use of HTML allows developers to modify the graphical layout of the GUI.
Finally, the HTML\5 aspects of the new GUI, when used properly will allow the GUI to be utilized on mobile devices.
Newer Security Model that brings the solution up to speed with the IT industry
All that is new here is that the model is adopting what the rest of the IT industry deems as best practices in regards to security. There are five features that pop out:
- The login and passwords that users can select are now required to meet a specific level of complexity
- Data that is being moved around the system and data that is sitting in the database is encrypted, this is a common feature of IT systems
- The solution supports user roles, which allows administrators to limit the tasks that certain users can perform
- User actions are logged and recorded in an audit log
- Enterprise login systems like LDAP and Kerberos can be used. This means that the same login that is used by the business systems can be used by the BAS. I’m on the fence as to whether this is a good thing.
All-in-all, these capabilities are what you would expect from any modern IT system.
Expanded API Library
The bajascript API, which is the API Tridium uses, has been updated to version 2.0. There are three changes you should know about:
- The new version of the API has a different data model that should make working with data easier
- There is a list of new functions (actions you can perform) using the API
- The API is supposed to be implementing tagging, which should allow the end user to search for and share data easier
This is a pretty cool feature in that you can create device templates and deploy these “devices” to your system. You then will assign the device to a controller.
A template, is a list of predefined points, with tags (this is what Tridium uses to describe its data model).
By the way, if you want a full list of the capabilities of the individual Tridium versions click here.
The Version 4.2 Update
With the version 4.2 update Tridium released the following capabilities:
- Linux support
- Alarm portal
- Improvements to the Niagara 4 Supervisor data management
Linux is an operating system that is used for both servers and desktops. Linux is what is called an open source operating system. This means that you do not need to purchase or “license” Linux.
Linux is popular in the embedded controller world because it is both open source and lightweight (meaning it doesn’t have a lot of extra capabilities). For those of you who understand how to use Linux, you will be excited about this new capability.
This portal is a set of software that can be utilized on a remote PC to monitor alarms.
Improvements to the Niagara 4 Supervisor data management
N4 released a new data model. The new data model along with the new GUI allowed Tridium to provide tagging and search. Well,
Niagara Analytics Software
In the version 4.2 release of N4, Tridium also released version 2.0 of the Tridium Analytics solution. This added several capabilities to the Tridium Analytics software before I cover that I am going to address what the analytics software suite is.
The analytics software suite is a set of software included with N4 that allows you to analyze data that is pulled into your Tridium system.
Essentially you pull in points into this module, and then you can either apply algorithms and rules to the data, or you can create your logic flows using the graphical logic builder.
The main capabilities that came with 2.0 are:
- Pre-existing analytics data model
- A base algorithms library
- Real-time, on-premise analytic control
Pre-existing analytics data model
You can use the existing data models from Niagara 4 to help you automatically apply analytics. With analytics in the past, you would have to normalize data to fit a certain data type before you could feed it into the analytics algorithm. The promise of the N4 data model is that you will be able
The promise of the N4 data model is that you will be able to feed data from N4 devices directly into the algorithms if the data types match.
A base algorithms library
The analytics solution provides a base set of algorithms that you can use to perform analytics. On top of this library, there is a logic block builder that will allow you to build out your algorithms and controls logic.
I would imagine that there is a line editor for code similar to SkySpark.
This solution is so new I haven’t had any chance to play with it yet. Come back in a couple of months when I’ve had a chance to review the solution.
Real-time, on-premise analytic control
The capability to provide the analytics solution on-site using local servers. It will be interesting to see how this is implemented and if the resources at local sites can handle the analytics load. I’ve argued for a long time that analytics could be handled onsite.
I guess we will find out as the reviews of the platform start coming in.
Tridium’s API and SDK
One of the things that have helped Tridium to spread throughout the market was its application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK).
The Tridium API is called BajaScript 2.0, and it enables developers to access the data from the Tridium platform. Essentially you will download the SDK which tells you what capabilities (functions) the API has and then you can write software to read or write data to and from the Tridium platform. The SDK and the Tridium support site has multiple examples of code snippets that you can use to write integrations to and from Tridium.
Are You Facing an Upgrade?
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that upgrading BAS systems is challenging! I really want people to be successful, that is why I share my best content for free.
One of the pieces of content I am sharing is Chapter 9 from my new book.
In this chapter you will learn:
- How to know if you need to upgrade your BAS ( if you don’t ask yourself these four questions you could be upgrading a perfectly good system)
- Why so many upgrade projects fail (and the five planning steps you can take to make sure yours doesn’t)
- Twelve steps that every upgrade project should include ( step number seven, writing out your upgrade plan and how to roll back the upgrade will keep your building running in case something goes wrong)
Are you struggling with Niagara?
If you find learning Niagara difficult and the idea of shelling out $2,000 to $3,000 dollars to attend a certification class seems like too much then you need to enroll in our Niagara Basics course. Niagara Basics is an on-demand video training course that guides you through the most common Niagara tasks! Click on the image below to learn more.
Ok folks, there you have it. That should update you on most of your questions related to the Tridium solution. I’m not endorsing any particular product, and the above is simply to help folks who want to understand the solution.
I hope this post was informative to you. I highly encourage you to check out my other posts here at Building Automation Monthly. You can see my top posts by going to the best of page.
So, what are your thoughts?
What else would you like to know?
Let me know in the comments below.