Sometimes a little LESS automation works better

It's the early 1990s and this company builds a brand new campus with state-of-the-art control automation systems for each of the five buildings, says a pilot fish on the scene.

"One of the buildings, The Commons, was nicely set up with a fireplace, a view of a pond -- it looked a bit like a chalet," fish says. "It was where you could hold meetings, and it housed the cafeteria and other amenities.

"One of the ideas was to make it available for rental for parties such as wedding receptions or other similar events. When the first such event was booked, everyone hoped it would go well."

That first event is scheduled for a weekend evening, and when people arrive to start setting up for the event, on-site security escorts them to The Commons, where only the night security lighting is on.

So they look for a way to turn on the lights -- and quickly discover there are no light switches.

Someone calls the on-call building engineer. How do we turn on the lights in The Commons?

Half an hour later, the lights finally come on.

"It turns out the engineer had to use his laptop's modem -- no Internet at the time -- to dial into the building's automation system, override the settings and turn on the lights," sighs fish. "He also needed to adjust the temperature the same way, since it was in 'unoccupied' mode.

"The next week they added light switches on the wall -- and a thermostat."

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