Upgrading Johnson BAS to Tridium or J2 Innovations

For those JCI BAS system owners or property managers that are interested in migrating or upgrading their legacy Johnson Controls BAS systems to a more updated and non-proprietary control system like Tridium, or J2 Innovations, the process is completely possible. This migration can produce a system that is far superior, up to date with current technology, and capable of moving forward as technology improves in the future.

For those unfamiliar with J2 Innovations, here's a brief video about the company:

Johnson Controls Systems can range from some of their oldest DSC-8500 systems through the Metasys line that included JCI NAE, NIE, NCM’s (Network Control Modules), N30, Companion, VAV, VMA, DX9100, UNT’s and into their present line of Metasys BACnet compatible controllers. If your facility has an existing PMI PC connected to NAE’s or NIE’s connected to NCM’s you have several potential non-serviceable single points of failure. By integrating directly to the N2 or BACnet controllers these unsupported components are eliminated.

Front End BAS Products

Johnson Controls product line also include the availability of a front end product from Tridium in the AX product line that is private labeled as the Facility Explorer FX70, FX60 and FX30. These are the equivalent of the Tridium JACE’s J-700, J-600 and J-300 respectively except these particular JCI products come with a JCI developed communications driver that allows the Facility Explorer to communicate with the legacy JCI Metasys controllers that communicate on their proprietary (also referred to as open) N2 communications bus.

N2 Communications

JCI advertises the N2 communications bus as an open protocol because many 3rd party equipment vendors like chiller manufacturers, variable frequency drive manufacturers (VFD’s) , and probably hundreds of other devices utilize the communications protocol. The protocol is open in the sense that anyone that wants to use it has to sign a non-compete agreement with JCI that they will not develop any products that compete with JCI using their “open” protocol.

Tridium JACE

What they cannot do is use that open protocol package to develop a competing product like a communications driver that can be installed on a non-JCI branded Tridium JACE. This is considered a competing product and is not allowed by their open protocol agreement. This explains why the protocol is both open AND proprietary.

However, as indicated above, the Facility Explorer JACE product is available to anyone that wants it and can be used to interface to their N2 bus controllers. Additionally, some creative developers have written a competing N2 driver protocol as good as the one available from JCI that was developed without the use of their published protocol and thus not controlled by their agreement of use for that protocol. Either way the legacy JCI controllers can be migrated to an “open” Tridium based network area controller like the JACE.

Real Time Analytics from Tridium:

Some JCI Systems That Aren't Worth Migrating to Tridium

The very old JCI DSC-8500 systems are not capable of migration to Tridium and actually not worth migrating to a Tridium system because of its age, availability of spare parts and service, and its capabilities. It would be less expensive to replace them than to upgrade them because the same quantity of points would cost a fraction of what those points cost initially.

Current JCI controllers utilize industry standard open BACnet or Lonworks communications protocols. Both are open protocols however their BACnet line of products require a proprietary programming tool only available from Johnson Controls or their distribution network. This sometimes makes it difficult to re-program these controllers once installed but not impossible. This programming tool is available and this is something that should be obtained in order to properly maintain the system long term.

Choosing the Right BAS Contractor to Perform a Legacy Upgrade

Finally, the choice of contractors that can perform the migration and legacy upgrade should be considered carefully. Many contractors can claim they have the capabilities to perform the upgrade but few actually do and can do it properly. The upgrade will produce the best results if the performing contractor is familiar with the legacy products, done similar upgrades before, and is very proficient in the use of the Tridium or J2 products used to perform the upgrade.

Need Help Upgrading a Legacy BAS System?

Mid-Atlantic Controls (MACC) has all of the ability to upgrade legacy Johnson BAS systems and more. We can help with the modernization of equipment and provide service and maintenance to the system after the upgrade is complete. Contact us and we will guide you through the process and help you decide the best migration path for your legacy JCI BAS system.

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