Plugging In with the Pros

The S4 Group attended the BTL-WG meeting on October 8th and PlugFest October 9 - 11, 2018 at The University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH . The Interoperability Lab provides a perfect venue for PlugFest. This year had the largest number of teams in attendance ever. There are multiple reasons why PlugFest continues to grow every year.

The BACnet Testing Labs Working Group meeting brings the people managing and volunteering to contribute to the BTL certification process together to coordinate activities and lay the groundwork for future test packages. It is a busy day hashing out the details so that everyone comes away with the same understanding of what needs to be done. One of the most important aspects of this year’s meeting was seeing the cooperation and coordination that is being done between the BTL and RBTOs (Recognized BACnet Testing Organizations) from other parts of the world.

As always, PlugFest was an extremely intense and very productive 2 1/2 days. S4 tested with our S4 Open: BACnet-N2 Router 1.50. We participated in every test session and round table. One of the most powerful aspects of PlugFest is the non-disclosure that all attendees sign prior to attending. That facilitates a cooperative and mutually supportive environment between all attendees. I am happy to say that our testing partners were diligent and aggressive in their testing. We came away with a list of things to investigate. That is the sign of a successful PlugFest experience. The BACnet-N2 Router held up well. There were no aborts or system lockups and the system proved to be very stable. Most of the things that we found were either minor problems that can be quickly addresses or suggestions and recommendations for adding features that will improve upon the product even though those services are not required for a gateway product.

We were lucky enough to have a testing partner help us isolate a serious problem with our COV service: we were not creating notifications when a point was in a fault condition. This was a straight forward fix that has already been incorporated into the build that we consider our current release candidate. The PlugFest environment was ideal to track down and isolate this issue. That alone made the investment in PlugFest worthwhile.

PlugFest also provides the opportunity to spend time building relationships and getting to know other people in the industry on a more personal basis. Most meals are provided during the event, several group outings were held, and one evening we were on our own. I took advantage of that evening to spend time with some long term S4 partners who were also participating in PlugFest. The Culinary Arts program at the University of New Hampshire provided the on-site catering. We were well taken care of by the students.

PlugFest is always a successful technology testing event. But, the professional relationships that we develop and maintain are just as important. The focus on making BACnet work continues after we all return to our normal activities. I know that I can contact anyone who I met at PlugFest to support a mutual customer and the professionalism will continue. There will be no finger pointing. The focus will be on making our mutual customer successful.

We understand that being a gateway product brings some unique challenges to testing and customer support. Many times, you not only need the gateway itself but you also need a network of legacy field devices that the gateway is translating into emulated BACnet devices. For this reason, S4 has invested significantly in our test lab environment. We sent a follow-up message to each of the teams we tested with at PlugFest inviting them to contact us as necessary to support mutual customers. The S4 test lab can bring them into our test environment for training or to simulate almost any customer situation. So, the cooperative environment established at PlugFest continues throughout the year!