Today, most IT directors are now looking for as many systems as possible to be supported on Ethernet. By combining Echelon’s flexible 6050 processors, we can harness IP connectivity in a single product to deliver a superior experience. Related Stories ...
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Rick Ashmus of Abba Logic discusses the future of Security and Programmable Logic Controllers and more...

Rick Ashmus of Abba Logic discusses the future of Security and Programmable Logic Controllers

Abba_Logic_Logo_web_250We recently sat down with Rick Ashmus of Abba Logic to discuss how their recent advancements with the MAC-4Rx MASC Access Controller are revolutionizing the Security and Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) marketplace. 

How did Abba Logic get started with PLCs?

Abba Logic started supplying products to security integrators in 1999 by introducing an Echelon based Access Controller into the market. We decided to build quality products that would provide reliable, long-lasting service without requiring a large service commitment. To date, we have hundreds of systems all over the world operating 24 hours a day without any problems. In fact, one police station deployed an early version of this solution in 1999 that’s still in operation. Over the years they have continued to expand their system by adding new buildings, software updates, cameras, and IP connections to their City Hall and the Department of Public Works as needed. Our goal is to provide the marketplace with standard off the shelf controllers that can be used in a variety of software front-ends and applications, across any of the leading Access Control software available.

Where is this technology used today?

Our customers include Correctional Facilities, Police Stations, Courthouses, Airports, County Jails, Military, Schools, Healthcare, and Government to DoD Contractors. Really, anywhere that security is central to operations. We’re also seeing a trend these days where the IT Directors of these facilities are becoming more involved in these upgrades and project implementations.

How do your products help accentuate safety, security, and convenience?

We're the only company in the market that has combined Access Control and PLC control into one unified control panel. So, why do this?It's like having open-ended firmware. Let's say you need something special to happen upon someone coming into work. The first read of the day when the system detects that person entering the building could be to turn on the lights, start the HVAC control system, and disarm all the motion sensors.

Abba Logic 1

It can also be connected to the intercom system so that in an emergency situation, a public announcement can be made while doors are being locked and lights are being turned on. Another example of increased safety is that the solution allowed one customer to create a database link to the jail management system and allow operators to flag inmates as high-security threats, so when a new security guard comes onto their shift, they can see a red box around the cell where an issue occurred during the last shift. This increases reliability and safety because it eliminates human error by not requiring information to be exchanged during a shift change.

We hear that you’re working on IP connectivity solutions. What prompted you to seek alternatives to Power over Ethernet (PoE)?

Unfortunately, most commercially-available locks draw too much power to be supported over PoE cabling infrastructure. Many of the locks are 24v or have a power requirement over 13 watts. So a PoE switch cannot provide power to both a control panel and lock over the same line. Right now, the current offering for PoE solutions for Access Control applications is limited to one lock per wire run at 12vdc power. Because of the power draw, the only kind of lock supported is low-power door strikes.

We believe we can supply a better and more versatile solution by combining IP connectivity with the Echelon communications. We can provide all the functionality the IT directors are asking for and add needed features like peer-to-peer (P2P) communications between controllers, support of 24v locks, and support of multi-drop lines. The industry has been looking for a solution, but the problem is over 90% of all the locks are 24v and the switch doesn’t have enough power to support the lock.

So for example, with one customer, the P2P communications eliminated the need to run cable to the roof where the controls are located so Access readers mounted on a floor by floor basis were tripping relays on the roof. IP also enables WAN capability which provides a tremendous value to a water utility customer that has buildings across the state.

How did Echelon help you change the PLC landscape with your latest Access Controller?

By using Echelon’s 6050 processors and IzoT hardware to create a subnet off the customer’s network we dropped the number of processors needed from 4 down to 2. This increased the speed of operations and we saw a 50% reduction in the overall cost of the product.

Mac-2rx_rack_sm_crop2This was huge. The controller is smaller, faster, and easier to manufacture. This means that we can give the customer all the advantages of PoE Access Control while still using a single Cat-6e cable and combining that with a separate pair for power. Running the cable this way allows you to extend the line and put multiple controllers on that line. For instance, the MAC-4Rx MASC Access Controller was originally started with a goal of creating a 2-door controller, but we ended up with a 4-door controller.

IT Directors can now have IP connectivity between buildings and areas of control, accessing their central computer from virtually anywhere and distributing user roles and access. As the systems grow larger, Efficiency is also a huge benefit. There might be as many as 10,000 points to monitor. The Echelon solution broadcasts out all changes immediately and tells you if there is a change at one point so you don’t have to continuously monitor each one.

That all sounds amazing. What room is there for further advancements using this technology?

With the new processor, we plan on creating a single door controller that can be located at the door to eliminate all the home run wiring. Today, most IT directors are now looking for as many systems as possible to be supported on Ethernet. By combining Echelon’s flexible 6050 processors, we can harness IP connectivity in a single product to deliver a superior experience.


Echelon's response to AMA policy statement, solutions currently exist

The recent American Medical Association policy statement related to high-intensity streetlighting evoked a wide range of responses and opinions from all sides. This development reflects a growing recognition of the unique relationship that humans have with night lighting. While concerns about intensity, glare and light trespass are not new, the rapid transformation to LED streetlighting is prompting new attention to these topics.

Echelon has recent and substantial experience with these emerging dynamics, having deployed two complete “border-to-border” solutions in the U.S., in Cambridge Massachusetts and Bellingham Washington. In both cities, the installation of high-intensity LED lighting plus intelligent networked control has provided a unique opportunity to collaborate on the development of new best practices when faced with resident feedback about the intensity and color of new LED streetlights or the at-times undesirable light trespass into living spaces.


Our experience in these two cities with the state of current adaptive control technology is that solutions currently exist to satisfactorily address many of these concerns on a dynamic, real-time basis. Adaptive control technology refers to the ability to dynamically adjust light levels, either pole-by-pole or by groups or zones of lighting. Such light level adjustment can occur throughout a nighttime cycle based on a schedule or in real time in response to an environmental trigger such as motion. Using Echelon’s technology solutions, city managers can balance energy savings, safety, and citizen comfort on a dynamic basis.

For instance, in Cambridge, specific neighborhood profiles have been created that turn streetlighting on at 70% or 50% of full output, depending on the characteristics of the neighborhood. Further light level adjustments can occur throughout the nighttime cycle, such as dimming light levels to as low as 35% and then ramping back up to higher levels in the pre-dawn hours when vehicular traffic increases. This provides responsiveness to suggestions such as the AMA’s observation that “consideration should be given to utilizing the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods.”

Not only does this dynamic control capability give municipalities more flexibility in responding to resident feedback swiftly, it can be continuously modified from a web-based dashboard that minimizes deployment of valuable public works resources.

For more information on this topic, the following resources can be of great value:


Lighting up data - Visible Light Communications (VLC) by Sohrab Modi

The old proverbial saying “what goes around comes around” has special meaning to me. Not wishing to date myself, my Thesis about “Free Space Laser Communications” was close to 27 years ago. With the emergence of visible light as a vehicle for communications (VLC) I now, somehow, feel vindicated.

Why visible light communications?

The exponential growth of data has placed significant demand for a flexible, reliable, secure, high-bandwidth, low-cost network medium. While wireless provides flexibility, radio does not have unlimited bandwidth. Also, the cost, security and reliability requirements of radio remain a challenge.

Visible light communications may provide us with an answer to this conundrum with 4 unique characteristics.

1. Visible light has much higher available bandwidth than radio frequency (RF) systems (Wi-Fi, cellular,…). The spectrum graphic below from an article by Harald Haas, shows the visible light spectrum to be 10,000 times larger than the entire radio frequency spectrum.

Light spectrum

2. Visible light exhibits higher security than radio frequency (RF) systems. Unlike RF systems which broadcast their communication to anyone listening (even through walls), visible light communications can be easily confined. Also visible light communication is currently considered point to point and interference with the light beam can alert for the detection of eavesdropping.

3. Like all wireless, visible light is flexible. Unlike the current use of light as a form of communications propagating within fiber optic networks (and now through the promise of silicon photonics), Visible light based communications are wireless.

4. Has lower deployment costs. By leveraging the use of existing lighting infrastructure (in your house, on the streets, in your car,…) visible light communications reduces the need for new infrastructure deployment. Lights exist in massive numbers and are considered pervasive, making the visible light network pervasive.

There are 2 other significant benefits of visible light communications that should be mentioned:

1. Safety. Devices using radio gear can be dangerous in places like :

Oil platforms (where it can cause sparks) and underwater (where the salt conducts electricity),
On planes (where it may interfere with other equipment on the plane),
In hospitals which use apparatuses that are sensitive to radio interference.
Visible light communications have a significant advantage over cellular and Wi-Fi in that visible light transmission does not cause electromagnetic interference.

2. VLC as an indoor GPS. Philips developed a “connected lighting system” that it demonstrated in 2013 at EuroShop and LIGHTFAIR. Phillips placed LED luminaires in a dense network that provided illumination while also functioning as a positioning grid. Each luminaire was identifiable and able to communicate its position to an application on a shopper’s smart device. The light fixtures themselves communicate this information by virtue of their presence everywhere in the store as discussed in this article.

What is Visible light communications?

The VLC acronym commonly refers to an illumination source (like a light bulb), which in addition to providing illumination can also become a vehicle for transmitting data using the same light source.

VLC = Illumination + Communication

Imagine a flashlight sending a Morse code signal. While such flickering of light would not be a good “illumination”, one could send signals by flashing the light so quickly, that the eye cannot see the flashes (representing data that is obscured from humans because of the human eye “flicker fusion threshold”). The result is that VLC technology can be applied in “any” environment that is currently lit.

The communication aspects of VLC essentially makes VLC another wireless access method that uses light emitted by LEDs to deliver networked, mobile, high-speed data similar to Wi-Fi (leading to a newly coined term: Li-Fi).

Most people do not realize that Visible Light Communications (VLC) pre-dates the transmission of speech through radio. The first of what you could reasonably call a VLC apparatus dates back to 1880 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the “photophone” on June 3rd, 1880; which transmitted speech on modulated sunlight over several hundred meters and received a US patent. Unfortunately, the unpredictability of weather phenomena and the necessity for bright daylight greatly diminished the practicality of this technique. From that point on, VLC has been extremely slow to develop until recently.

Why Now? (Is an obvious question, asked by most people).

The exponential growth of LED light bulbs driven by energy savings and a longer life expectancy is enabling a transformation in the general lighting industry. While such monitory benefits are obvious to most people, the technological opportunities presented by LEDs are not quite as apparent.

One factor for the rise of visible light communications is a result of another important property of LED bulbs. Unlike incandescent bulbs, LED’s use semiconductors to create light. It's this electroluminescence source of light that can easily be modulated for seamless integration into digitally communicating networks.

This Trojan horse approach of extending the utility of a simple light bulb is a timely intervention as we propel headlong into the Internet of Things. Now signals can be piggybacked on lights that are already in use — street lamps, car headlights, room lighting, signs, televisions, etc. to transmit data to gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets, and wearable devices. Such capability is already showing up in products as was recently demonstrated by multiple vendors at the Light and Building fair in Frankfurt, March 2016.

This is just the beginning! VLC along with LED technology is rapidly evolving, allowing faster speeds, increasing functional capabilities, more cost effective architectures and ever expanding reach.

Now, with the advent of smart cities, smart homes/buildings and even smart cars (communicating with other cars through headlights, running lights, turn signals…), VLC is extending the reach of the internet of things.


Visible light communications will become a significant driver for the final stage of the Internet of Things; one that completely ushers in an age of constant connectivity for people, places ...and now things!

It has the potential to completely disrupt the communications industry through lighting deployments, as well as utilizing any illuminated surface, to provide ubiquitous high-speed access to Internet and telecommunications services. As the enormous VLC opportunity unfolds, multiple organizations are rushing to create standards (IEEE, ANSI, JEITA, Li-Fi consortium,….). In fact, evolution is already underway in one market segment as mobile networks are now considering VLC in their 5G standards

It is also no surprise that VLC and IoT are maturing within the same time frame. They are highly synergistic and enable each other. More importantly, as “things” become ever more mobile we can expect VLC to not only extend the reach of IoT but greatly enhance the overall capacity of future networks.

One expectation is that deployed networking solutions will evolve their current networking environments to embrace expanding usage of VLC (in fact mobile networks are now considering VLC in their 5G solutions).

This unprecedented convergence of power, lighting and networking will also force a convergence of IT and facilities departments.

This convergence is something that has already begun with Lighting/Building Automation control systems and ends up impacting business property owners (CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, Kimco realty,...), municipalities, and ultimately even the homeowner.

While the technology is disruptive, a second possible consequence of this disruption is the potential impact to the well-established verticals and the key players in those verticals.

On one hand, embedded network technology manufacturers are expected to grow their existing networking footprint to include the massive footprint of deployed lights.

Do the CISCO's, Juniper's, Ericsson's, Huawei's... become lighting companies as well?

On the other hand, VLC is also an important extension to the lighting industry to leverage their ubiquitous physical presence and drive the conversion of a 100+-year-old lighting technology into future market opportunities.

Do the Phillips, OSRAM'S, Zumtobel's, GE's, Acuity's, CREE's,... become networking companies as well?

This opportunity to approach IoT through networking or lighting is unprecedented in that two massive and entirely diverse industries are now innovating and furiously competing to capture the IoT opportunity. This competition is expected to produce life to change technology breakthroughs as this marketplace battle will continue for many years to come!

For more great industry insights follow Sohrab at


Interview with Ron Sege by Randy Reid, Editor of the Edison Report

Ron Sege, our Chairman and CEO, was interviewed recently by Randy Reid, editor and founder of the Edison Report.  Randy and Ron sat down at the Light + Building conference in Frankfurt, Germany and talked about Echelon, our recent streetlight deployment in Cambridge and the future of lighting controls.  Below find a sneak peek of the Q&A.  If you want to read the entire questions & answers, click here.

Randy:  We saw a press release about a large job in Cambridge. 

Ron:  Cambridge, MA deployed about 5,500 lights, which was a combination of cobraheads for street lighting as well as many decorative luminaires.  We created one system with multiple controllable zones.  In addition to turning on and off, we dim the luminaires for additional savings. The city retrofitted their existing luminaires with LED and deployed Echelon using a combination of wireless and power line carrier communications.  We used wireless on the cobraheads and PLC on the decorative, as our system supports both.  This way no one has to drill holes in the decorative fixtures and add antennas. 

Randy:  If a customer typically saves 50% with LED, how much additional can they save with controls? 

Ron: Typically Echelon will save about an additional 35%. In Cambridge, when the lights turn on at sunset, they start out at about 50% and then the intensity changes at various times during the night based on whether it is a residential area or industrial area.  Also, as the LED output degrades over time, which they do, the city turns the lights up to maintain a constant light level.

Randy: What are your LIGHTFAIR plans in San Diego?

Ron: We are very excited about LIGHTFAIR and we will be exhibiting our Cambridge applications where cobraheads and decorative will be together. We want to show that Echelon allows customers to really connect anything to anything.




Developing IoT Devices With Future Flexibility In Mind

By Rich Blomseth – Software Product Manager at Echelon

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will become that next great convergence in tech. Bringing together control systems for lighting, HVAC, security, manufacturing, and countless others will unlock new and greater improvements in quality of life, efficiency, safety, and more for people across the globe. And those companies that are prepared and willing to pivot and adapt to this convergences will see great value.

According to the “IHS 2013: Internet Connected Devices” report, a predicted 50 Billion IoT devices will be installed and shipped by 2025! And what is the largest share of that market? Industrial devices.

IHS Report 50 Billion

Crossing this divide won’t be without its unique set of challenges, though. Companies looking to capitalize on this opportunity will need to be prepared to deliver the newest solutions and backward-compatible IP solutions for open system retrofits. This begs the question: How will all of these devices connect and communicate with one another?

There are numerous protocols available for wired, wireless, and IP connectivity. As part of the IIoT revolution, you will need to deliver what customers are asking for today while reducing installation costs and ensuring future flexibility for emerging networking solutions.

Solutions such as our smart building technology are here to help you cross this divide and thrive with any installed base. For example, our rock-solid protocol stack-on-a-chip solution (FT 6050 Smart Transceiver) supports multiple feature-enhanced protocols (BACnet/IP, BACnet MS/TP, LonTalk/IP, and LON) and applications, with simultaneous support for all the protocols, for the flexibility customers need. This will allow you to reduce development costs with the lowest-cost single chip solution, reduce installation costs by leveraging the best of each protocol, and expand into new regions with the same product.

My team will continue to develop products with these challenges, and others, in mind so that companies can build the ideal platforms for capitalizing on the future of converged IIoT. Stay tuned for more.


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