In our June edition of The Gateway I wrote an article about our S4 Open Appliances that painted a picture of their history and provided a broad brush overview of where we are going hhtps://www.thes4group.com/articles/the-chameleon-in-s4-clothing. In this article I’m going to zero in on our impending release 1.40. This has been a work in progress under various names for over a year. When Advantech announced that our current hardware platform, the UNO 2059GL, had reached EOL and was no longer going to be manufactured it was a call to action, including committing to a final purchase of a large number of systems to last until we had a replacement available. We did a pretty thorough market survey investigating various manufacturers and their embedded PC / industrial PC offerings to find a replacement hardware platform. We test drove a number of offerings but couldn’t find one that measured up to our requirements.
Since we have had a strong relationship with Advantech B+B SmartWorx they were one of the first companies that we asked to propose a hardware platform. They recommended the Advantech UNO 2362G and their expansion iDoor I/O modules to provide the required isolated RS-485 ports to support the N2 bus. In a break with past tradition of having a single hardware model supporting all of our system models, there will be two variations offered. One with two RS-485 ports in a standard case and a larger model with four RS-485 ports in a double depth case. If you are interested in specific speeds, feeds, CPU, Memory, I/O capabilities, etc. or a comparison to the UNO 2059GL, you are free to visit Advantech’s website for those details. Suffice it to say, in every way this hardware platform is far superior to the previous product. The UNO 2059GL was a workhorse that served us well for many years and that only gets better with the new platform. The physical dimensions change with the 2362G platform so I recommend that anyone working on panel layouts go to the Advantech site and look at the physical dimensions in case you need to make some adjustments.
The functionality is what’s important. With Release 1.40, we move the OS from Windows CE 5.0 to Windows 7 Embedded Standard. The new OS provides a much more robust environment that better isolates parallel processes from each other, provides a hardware watchdog service, and simply incorporates advances in near real time OS technology that have been introduced since Windows CE. This won’t eliminate bugs from ever creeping into the system but it does serve to minimize the impact and vulnerability of the entire system of any one incident. The development and debugging capabilities associated with the new OS will greatly improve our ability to isolate and fix issues that are encountered in production installations. We are looking forward to being able to improve our responsiveness to users of the S4 technology.
Security is a big topic in the building automation world of today and the new OS allows our appliances to participate in Windows domains providing a much higher level of security, user access control, and consistency with current IT standards and policies. One of the major advances in technology is the introduction of Web Services / JSON protocols between the S4 Open Management Console and the S4 Open Appliances. This replaces the Microsoft DCOM technology which had many inherent limitations. This change has allowed Obermeier Software, our development partner, to run the Management Console in their offices in Verl, Germany and securely connect to the 1.40 S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router located in the S4 test lab in our offices in Ogden, UT, USA. As soon as this feature started working we experienced a huge productivity increase in the development / test cycle. This Console is backwards compatible with our 1.30 release (using DCOM), supports release 1.40, and will continue to support 1.50 which will be the upgrade path for the installed base of UNO 2059GL installations. Release 1.50 will be down the road a way. We need to get Release 2.0 out the door before we come back to 1.50. More on this in a future article but Release 2.0 is the baseline for many new capabilities.
The 1.40 firmware is a port of the latest 1.30 maintenance release, so all of the current core system features will be identical to what you have seen in 1.30. The Upstream N2 interface will not be in 1.40 but will be available with 1.41 which will be released very soon after the initial 1.40 release. This is simply a way to deal with the EOL of the 2059GL and minimize the amount of time that we have a delay in filling orders.
Current testing of the new product is showing very good results and is very close to being ready for release to first customer sites. In fact, the hardware to fill these orders has already been ordered. So, a big thank you to our customers and partners who have been patiently waiting to have their systems delivered. We understand that the delays were, and continue to be, painful. But we believe that you will like what you see in the very near future.