OPC UA Adoption by Honeywell Process Solutions
By Bill Lydon, Editor
It is clear that OPC UA is transforming the architecture of industrial automation systems and providing a bridge to enterprise systems. By leveraging the Internet Protocol (IP), OPC UA provides an open architecture transparent mechanism to link information throughout an automation system from sensors to enterprise and Internet. With MatrikonOPC as part of the company, Honeywell is in a unique position as a user and supplier of OPC UA software and embedded OPC UA stacks.
At Honeywell’s User Group (HUG) 2013, I met with Paul Hodge, Product Manager of Experion Infrastructure & HMI, and Jeff Gould, MatrikonOPC General Manager, to discuss the company’s OPC UA activity.
Paul Hodge coordinates the OPC strategy for the Experion platform. I asked Hodge about Honeywell’s approach to incorporate OPC UA into the Experion platform. He stated that they continue to monitor the adoption of OPC UA and developments will be pursued to solve particular problems on a case by case basis to meet customer demand. Hodge also noted that they continue to develop software to meet customer demand for OPC “in the COM world.”
Embedded OPC UA
OPC UA is the next generation of OPC built on software industry standards. The intent of OPC UA is to provide automation systems with open standard connectivity regardless of the operating system. In addition, OPC UA allows open standard connectivity to low-level embedded devices that do not even use an OS.
On May 23, 2013, Embedded Labs sent a letter informing customers that MatrikonOPC acquired their OPC Unified Architecture (UA) Embedded Server Software Development Kit (SDK) technology and that founder Liam Power will continue to lead embedded product development for MatrikonOPC. Jeff Gould noted Embedded Labs technology complements MatrikonOPC’s existing offerings by extending data connectivity offerings from the desktop down to the micro-controller level. The company is pursuing sales of the OPC UA SDK and stacks to OEMs for an upfront fee plus royalties. They plan to sell hardware modules with the OPC UA stack to developers for incorporation into products.
MatrikonOPC is releasing an OPC UA Linux toolkit in June to provide a proxy for OPC Classic clients to connect to OPC UA servers. I asked Gould if they have support for real-time embedded operating systems and they are not at this time. Gould noted that as a new application area they are just “testing the waters” of the embedded markets. Pricing is quoted on a project-by-project basis.
The following video provides an overview of Embedded Labs vision for embedded OPC UA:
The first Honeywell Process Solutions implementation of OPC UA is in the HC900 Modular Process & Logic Controller. It has not yet been release but a pre-release version was demonstrated in the exhibit area at HUG. The Honeywell trend recorder is on the roadmap for embedding OPC UA. I asked if Honeywell is embedding the OPC UA Information Model for Analyzers into their devices and this had not been done yet. Gould does not believe that OPC UA is a fit at the fieldbus level for instruments.
We discussed the fact that OPC UA leverages accepted international computing standards to transport information from controller to the enterprise directly. But with the propriety Ethernet network of Experion, Honeywell cannot directly take advantage of this. Hodge suggested they could create a tunneling method within the Honeywell proprietary Ethernet to accommodate OPC UA web services packets. There is no plan for this today.
Thoughts & Observations
With MatrikonOPC as part of Honeywell, the organization has deep OPC knowledge and this would seem to give them an advantage in developing OPC UA-enabled software and products. The purchase of Embedded Labs provides MatrikonOPC with a way to expand offerings beyond PCs to real-time devices.
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