Design thinking, agile development at heart of building control system

Development of Honeywell's Command and Control Suite was driven out of the company's Sydney software centre

Honeywell last week unveiled its Australian-developed 'Command and Control Suite', which employs a touch-based interface to draw together building data from across large facilities, such as hospitals, universities, prisons and industrial refineries, and centralise manage of building systems.

The 'Command Wall' at the heart of the product is a large-format touchscreen intended to provide an overview of data drawn from existing building control systems and manage incident response.

The Command Wall relies on standard x86 hardware and its interface is based on HTML5 and uses standard map server technologies.

"Traditionally in buildings today there are lots of different systems to manage these complex environments," said Graeme Laycock, experience design leader at Honeywell's design studio in Sydney.

"What we're really doing is giving a high-level overview that brings it all together in a very accessible and immersive experience that anyone can walk up to and see what's going on and start interacting with it just as easy as you would use a consumer device."

"There's focus towards making it easier to use for me, the marketing guy, or the finance director or the CEO, all the way of course down to the traditional security guards or facility managers who might be operating these facilities," said Paul Meikle, Honeywell's marketing manager.

"It's a layered solution, which simply means it connects to customers' existing building management systems and of course into their business information systems," Meikle said.

"So it's a value-add — it's not a replacement; we're not ripping and replacing our solutions from the past."

The new system includes a software component dubbed 'Incident Workflow' to help ensure approved incident-response procedures are followed.

"Today in a lot of cases you are relying on the experience of the people that you have working on the day," Laycock said.

"What we're doing is packaging [incident response] so that with a higher turnover of staff you can depend on standard procedures being followed correctly and having them visible — you don't have to go searching for them; they're right there [on the Command Wall] where you can see the incident unfolding and know that they've been followed, they've been checked off."

The system is the product of a year and a half of development driven out of the Sydney Honeywell Software Centre.

Last year the company launched the Honeywell User Experience (HUE) with the aim of becoming the 'Apple of the industrials'.

"The Honeywell User Experience is a big initiative that Honeywell has undertaken to really apply design thinking to how we develop all of our products," said Laycock.

The HUE informed the user-centred design process at the Sydney studio, which is one of Honeywell's nine studios around the world.

"This particular product was born out of the Sydney design studio," Laycock said.

"We're here with a team in the local Honeywell Software Centre of more than 150 developers. The software development was primarily done from the location; the design team was located here; the actual innovation of that large touchscreen, standup solution was born from the Sydney design studio as well.

"It's just another piece of the design story that we've contributed towards Honeywell's flagship products over many years."

The development process involved working with a number of Honeywell customers and the new system is running in a number of facilities in Australia, as well as in North America, Europe and north Asia.

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"Part of our development process here is to get real users involved, partnering with us in a way and getting involved in using the product during the development process so that we can make sure that it's going to meet their needs," Laycock said.

"We've got early adoption in airports and in large commercial buildings and hospitals, and a range of different types of single buildings, through to campuses, through to large, complex facilities, just so that we knew before we came to release the product that it was going to be able to work really effectively in all those different environments."

"This project has been one where we have been using Agile development — iterative development — working and iterating the drops over the last year with customers," Meikle said.

The team worked on three-month iterations.

"Every three months we've got the new version and we take it to our technology preview customers, they give us feedback, positive and negative, and we keep improving it," Meikle said.

"We've been doing Agile development for the last three or four years," he added.

In addition to using Agile development methodologies, Honeywell adheres to a number of quality management standards including ISO 9000 to ensure the end product is fit for customers, he said.

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