ABB i-bus KNX and Sir Isaac Newton – an unlikely duo

ABB i-bus KNX and Sir Isaac Newton – an unlikely duo

How do we connect an idea from a famous scientific mind from the 17th century to ABB i-bus KNX in the 21st century?

By Ian Richardson, Building Solutions Technical Specialist within ABB Australia's Electrification business.

One of the most famous names in the scientific community is Sir Isaac Newton. Born in 1642 in Lincolnshire, England, Isaac Newton is renowned as a mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian and author and was recognised as one of the most influential scientists of the era. His work on his now famous Laws of Motion and gravitation theory remained a cornerstone of the scientific community for over 200 years.

Isaac Newton published his Laws of Motion in his book “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) in 1687 and this laid the foundations of classical mechanics in physics. The Newton third law is loosely translated to the often quoted “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

So how do we connect an idea from a famous scientific mind from the 17th century to ABB i-bus KNX in the 21st century?

ABB i-bus KNX is an event driven bus system that makes your buildings smarter. Establishing intelligent building control, a telegram is only sent on the ABB i-bus KNX bus when a signal or request is generated, resulting in low levels of communication traffic and the need for high speed communications. In line with Newton’s third law, the ‘action’ of a telegram from a device is met by the ‘reaction’ from the device that the telegram is directed to. The ABB i-bus KNX system is set up so that a telegram is addressed to a particular device or devices that are configured to accept a request only from defined senders, ensuring that there is reliability in the system. 

This simple procedure naturally limits excessive traffic on the ABB i-bus KNX network. As an added precaution, ABB i-bus KNX utilises a carrier-sense multiple access with collision avoidance (CSMA/CA) methodology for telegram traffic and bus access. If two devices are attempting to send simultaneously, a collision is detected and the transmission from one of the devices is interrupted. Through the acknowledgement receipt process the interrupted device realises the loss of the telegram and will resend its telegram.

ABB i-bus KNX networks have a topology of devices, lines and areas ranging from lighting and shutter control products to heating, ventilation, security, energy management and many more. There can be up to 255 devices in a line structured as 64 devices on a line segment and four segments in a line. This means in one ABB i-bus KNX system there can be almost 58,000 devices. An ABB i-bus KNX device can perform a variety of functions depending upon the device chosen from the many solutions provided in the ABB range.

These capabilities add better control and flexibility to building management, leading to more efficiency, safety and productivity. The new Calvary Adelaide Hospital, the largest private hospital in South Australia, has adopted ABB building automation solutions to deliver critical support to staff and patients.

Systems like ABB’s open-standard i-bus KNX reduce staff workload by automating core building functions such as lighting, shutter control, heating, ventilation, security, and energy management. Delivering a key component of building automation, lighting management, the solutions connect all of the building’s lighting and energy systems, allowing them to be automated or controlled at the touch of a button. With this smart building technology, the hospital is estimated to save up to 60 percent of energy costs.

ABB’s intelligent building control system enables the realisation of a complete, customisable solution. The separation of the network into lines and areas offers clear advantages, notably optimal, energy efficient interaction of the subsystems. Main benefits include:

  1. Increased operational reliability: As the lines and areas are equipped with their own power supply and therefore electrically isolated by the coupler device, the remaining system will continue to operate in the event of a failure of one of the power supplies.
  2. More efficiency: Local area traffic of a line or area does not influence the data throughput of other lines or areas. The coupler device acts as a gateway, only allowing telegrams through that need to ‘talk’ to devices in other lines or areas, which further reduces traffic on the network.
  3. More user-friendly: The system can be logically laid out to provide a clear overview of the KNX installation for commissioning, diagnostic and maintenance purposes.

So would Isaac Newton ever have considered that his fundamental third Law of Motion, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, would find a relationship to a modern home and building automation solution….probably not!

relationship to a modern home and building automation solution….probably not!  The Newton Laws of Motion relate to the physical world, however these principles stimulated later scientists and physicists to continue Isaac Newton’s great work in many branches of physics, maybe even to home and building automation.   


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