OPC Foundation Empowers Sensor-to-Cloud Digitalization

OPC Foundation Empowers Sensor-to-Cloud Digitalization
OPC Foundation Empowers Sensor-to-Cloud Digitalization
OPC Days 2020, a virtual event held June 22-25, provided the latest information about OPC UA (Open Platform Communications United Architecture), the protocol-agnostic framework for the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 initiatives. A wide range of users looking to improve engineering efficiency, quality, reliability and productivity in the digitalization of industry have been adopting OPC UA. Stefan Hoppe, OPC Foundation President and Executive Director, emphasized that the OPC Foundation’s goal is to enable secure and reliable interoperability across industrial systems—including sensors, controllers, business systems, and cloud-based systems—with open architecture standards.

OPC Foundation guiding principles:

·       Independent
·       Neutral ground for cooperation
·       No company, no country can dominate OPC Foundation
·       Collaboration: standards developed jointly
·       Openness: open released specifications, open source code, open certification lab

OPC UA encompasses an internationally recognized standard, IEC62541, that users, automation vendors, and the IT community have embraced. OPC UA specifications are openly available, as are open-source tools and code examples (in ANSI C/C++, C# .NET Standard, Java) to enable faster, easier adoption. A repository of OPC UA resources is available on the GitHub website. OPC certification labs also are open to anyone, because certification is such an important part of guaranteeing multivendor interoperability.

OPC UA provides a way to communicate information using common data models over virtually any networking media and protocol.

GoogleCloud Joins OPC Foundation

The Google Cloud as the latest addition to its 773-member community. Google Cloud delivers enterprise-grade cloud solutions that leverage Google’s technology providing interoperability, infrastructure, platform capabilities and industry solutions. This is part of the Google Cloud Industrie 4.0 initiative. Google Cloud will use the OPC UA open standard to incorporate machine data into analytics and AI solutions. 

“We’re honored to join the OPC Foundation,” said Dominik Wee, Managing Director Manufacturing, Industrial and Transportation for Google Cloud. “Our membership underscores Google Cloud’s commitment to openness and industry collaboration. OPC UA will be our way of incorporating machine data into our data analytics and AI capabilities, to ultimately drive new capability and performance within the factory. By driving AI across the value chain, our goal is to provide flexibility and choice at industrial scale.”   

This appears to be part of Google’s Cloud IoT Core, a fully managed service to easily and securely connect, manage, and ingest data from globally dispersed devices. The Cloud IoT Core in combination with other services on the platform, provides a suite of features for collecting, processing, analyzing, and visualizing IoT data in real time to support improved operational efficiency.

Google also provides Cloud AutoML, which is a suite of machine learning products that enables developers with limited machine learning expertise to train high-quality models specific to their business needs. It relies on Google’s state-of-the-art transfer learning and neural architecture search technology.

Cloud platforms Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are becoming the new industrial automation application platform for a variety of functions including predictive maintenance, historians, advanced analytics, track & trace, and production business information. A big advantage is users and developers can draw on a large base of established and refined software tools including analytic, data refinement, business system interfaces, and timeseries databases most of which are open source.

Collaborations - Companion Specifications

The OPC foundation philosophy is to partner with subject matter expert groups that have data models that can be incorporated into the OPC UA Framework. OPC UA has been designed for scalability and supports a wide range of application domains, ranging from field level (e.g. devices for measurement or identification, PLCs), to enterprise management support. To achieve these design goals, the OPC UA standard provides a multi-layered architecture.

OPC UA is built on the following infrastructure:

·       Discovery, which allows Clients to find OPC UA Servers, their supported protocols, security policies and other capabilities;

·       Transport, which defines protocol mappings that allow establishing a connection and exchanging well-formed messages between OPC UA Applications;

·       Information Access, which comprises the means to expose object-based Information Models in an Address Space and the Services to access this information; and

·       Security and Robustness, which are integrated into Transport and Information Access.

Information models are layered on top of this infrastructure. OPC UA specifies several base information models that define commonly used objects including both real-time and historical data variables and alarms.

New Information Models can be created based on the OPC UA Data Model and eventually derived from OPC UA Base Information Models. The specifications of such Information Models (“Industry standard models” because they typically address a dedicated industry problem) are called Companion Specifications. The synergy of the OPC UA infrastructure to exchange such industry information models enables interoperability at the semantic level. See online versions of OPC UA specifications and information models.

Users continue to join the OPC Foundation at a vigorous rate. For example, members include LG CNS, Samsung, Miele, Volkswagen and Foxconn who adopted OPC UA in their operations as a step toward realizing industrial digitalization embracing Industry 4.0 and IoT concepts.

OPC Foundation joins the APL

OPC Foundation announced that it has joined the Advanced Physical Layer Project Group (APL) project group to support the development and promotion of an APL for Industrial Ethernet. The goal of “Ethernet-APL” is to create an advanced physical layer model for applications in continuous process industries and hazardous locations. OPC Foundation joins 12 industry partners and the three leading fieldbus organizations in process automation: FieldComm Group (FCG), ODVA, and Profibus & Profinet International (PI). 

Ethernet-APL leverages the new Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) standard that integrates power and communication signals via common single, twisted-pair (2-wire) cable; and protective measures for the safe use within hazardous areas. The decision to join the APL project group is closely related to the OPC Foundation Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative. 

“APL is recognized by the OPC Foundation and particularly its Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative to be a critical important piece in the strategy to expand OPC UA to all use cases and requirements in Factory and Process Automation, supporting the vision of a fully scalable, industrial interoperability solution, from sensor to cloud,” said Peter Lutz, Director OPC Foundation FLC Initiative.

APL leveraging Single Pair Ethernet (SPE) is an exciting development connecting the IoT universe on a foundation of IEEE 802.3cg, enabling seamless Ethernet connectivity from sensor to enterprise. SPE finally is the way to achieve these same economies and unlock more information directly from sensors, actuators, drives, motor starters, and other devices.  The 10BASE-T1S part of the specification provides collision-free, deterministic Ethernet-based transmission over a multi-drop network without Ethernet switches—which means even greater total installed cost savings. 10BASE-T1S implemented without switches, requiring fewer cables and less power. Multi-drop technology already has proven advantages, including cost savings when used with existing automation networks such as Modbus, DeviceNet, Profibus, and CANopen.

OPC UA Motion Initiative

The OPC UA Motion initiative is a collaboration to develop an open flexible architecture for distributing motion control features between controllers and drives, based on a common information model for motion devices, such as PLCs / motion controllers, standard drives/frequency converters, positioning drives, servo drives, motion encoders, motor starters, and power supplies. This new motion technology will be initially published as OPC UA Motion, with subsequent updates to the Sercos technology and the CIP Motion technology for EtherNet/IP. This new motion specification will use PubSub, with and without TSN network access, and can be combined with OPC UA Safety to support all relevant use cases for centralized and non-centralized motion solution concepts.

Semantic interoperability provides a common basis for multivendor communication and data exchange between all elements of manufacturing and production including smart sensors, PLCs, DCS controllers, robots, factory middleware, business systems and cloud using unambiguous, shared meaning.

“OPC UA Motion is an important extension to the OPC UA Framework, ensuring–in combination with OPC UA Safety, Deterministic Communication and Ethernet-APL/SPE–semantic interoperability, not only for the Controller-to-Controller and Controller-to-Device use cases in Factory and Process Automation, but also supporting OPC UA as a fully scalable technology from the sensor across all levels to MES/ERP and also to the cloud,” said Peter Lutz, Director OPC Foundation FLC Initiative.


OPC UA Compliance Test Tool (UACTT) Extended

The OPC Foundation is increasing efforts to ensure industrial interoperability not only for the OPC UA core functionalities, but now also for the Sematics specified with cooperation partners in OPC UA based Companion Specifications. The new OPC UA Compliance Test Tool (UACTT) has been extended to include now more than 1,800 test scripts for the OPC UA core functionality and for the Companion Specifications.  These include Process Automation Device Information Model (PA-DIM) and PLCopen – MDIS is already available.   This is designed to ensure that OPC UA functions built into products meet the goals of multivendor interoperability.

OPC Resources include:

·       Newsletter

·       Youtube information channel

·       OPC Foundation Podcast


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About The Author

Bill Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to Automation.com, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.

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