OPC Foundation, PLCopen and OMAC start OPC UA communications collaboration

OPC Foundation, PLCopen and OMAC start OPC UA communications collaboration

September 19, 2016 - The Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC), OPC Foundation, and PLCopen are working together to help further advance the communications protocols necessary for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The three organizations are developing and promoting common standards to help improve manufacturing efficiency, but until now have been working in parallel on different aspects of automation standardization.

Interoperability between devices and machines that use different protocols is a significant challenge in realizing the full potential offered by the Industrial Internet of Things. By collaborating on companion specifications to the standards and protocols they have already developed, OMAC, OPC Foundation, and PLCopen can help advance the quality and efficiency of data sharing and communication at the machine and production line and up through the enterprise. Collaborative efforts by standards organizations, such as OMAC, OPC Foundation, and PLCopen, align with the Industrial Internet Consortium's goal to ultimately identify and define building blocks for interoperability that help make smart factories and IIoT possible.

Here is how the three automation standards organizations are bringing their efforts together. One of OMAC's major initiatives has been promotion of the ISA-TR88.00.02 automation standard commonly known as PackML. The second generation was released last year. Manufacturers and machine builders worldwide have implemented ISA-TR88 on various control platforms to help increase speed to production, ease packaging line integration, and improve reliability. While PackML defines machine modes, states and tag naming conventions, it does not specify a communications protocol.

The OPC Foundation's Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is an industrial interoperability framework. It delivers information modeling with integrated security, access rights, and all communication layers to provide plug and play machine-to-machine (M2M) communication inside factories. It is scalable across the plant floor and from sensor to IT enterprise and cloud scenarios. OPC and PLCopen recently worked together to define a set of function blocks to map the IEC 61131-3 global standard for industrial controls programming to the OPC UA information communication model. The latest version was released earlier this year. IEC 61131-3 is a global standard for industrial control programming and is recommended by OMAC in its Packaging Guidelines document.

To take their efforts to the next level, OMAC and the OPC Foundation have established a taskforce to develop a companion specification for ISA-TR88/PackML and OPC UA by the end of 2016. The task force, led by Sari Germanos, open automation manager for B&R Industrial Automation, includes members of OMAC and OPC Foundation from around the world. Participation is open to interested members of either organization.