Open Standards Mean More Options for Industrial Automation

Open Standards Mean More Options for Industrial Automation
Open Standards Mean More Options for Industrial Automation
The enhanced technologies and software offerings are opening up new options for industrial automation as well. Open system options continue to emerge from nontraditional suppliers and standards groups, and this is a trend that I expect will accelerate and enable multivendor interoperability at all levels of the system architecture. Further, this will simplify integration, expand the number  of options available for applications, and make applications portable - without engineering labor - across vendor platforms. In contrast, there are still far too many incumbent industrial automation suppliers today with highly gated automation partner programs. Selected based on protective commercial criteria, these third-party partners are technically and legally enabled to work with the vendor’s unique, tightly-bound, closed architectures. Suffice it to say, there are significantly fewer obstacles in open ecosystems.

There are some intriguing Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing open source edge platforms emerging, which are leveraging knowledge and technologies from the general computing and IoT industry. In addition to the efforts coming out of specific countries mentioned in trend #2, several multinational organizations and corporations have been driving manufacturing open architecture initiatives. Some of the more prominent examples going into 2021 include the following.


The MTConnect standard (ANSI/MTC1.4-2018) offers a semantic vocabulary for manufacturing equipment to provide structured, contextualized data with no proprietary format. The MTConnect Institute is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit standards development organization for the MTConnect standard (ANSI/MTC1.4-20. Its membership is made up of over 400 companies and research organizations in discrete manufacturing including automotive, aerospace, medical, and other industries as well as software developers, system integrators, and research organizations supporting those industries. Membership is free and open to anyone with a stake in MTConnect.

OPC Foundation

The OPC Foundation continues to add OPC UA semantic models and schema from to further the global standard for interoperability. OPC UA is becoming an important and IT/OT integration mechanism. OPC UA is a framework for industrial interoperability models that provide a syntactical definition of information that can be communicated communication methods, including modern industrial protocols, Ethernet, cellular, and machine manufacturers describe the object-oriented information of their system and rights with integrated information technology (IT) security.

Eclipse Foundation

The Eclipse Foundation’s open standards for Industry 4.0 are designed to allow for interoperable, modular and vendor independent. The following relevant standards are different open source projects:
  • OPC UA - Eclipse Milo is a full implementation of OPC UA.
  • MQTT - Eclipse Paho and Eclipse Mosquitto provide a client and broker implementation messaging protocol.
  • Production Performance Management Protocol (PPMP) is a payload specification required to do performance analysis of production facilities.
  • oneM2M – oneM2M is a service layer standard that defines common service functions shared by applications, gateways, and devices. oneM2M includes defined interworking such as OSGi, DDS, OPC UA, and Modbus so that industrial data can be aggregated applications uniformly.
  • Eclipse 4diac provides the development tools and the runtime to create control based on IEC 61499. 4diac also integrates OPC UA and MQTT into PLC to ease
  • IoT Gateway Eclipse Kura provides a portable Java/OSGi edge computing framework Gateways that can be deployed into Industry 4.0 solutions. Kura supports a wide protocols including OPC UA, Siemens S7, and Modbus. Eclipse Kura also feature adata flow programming tool called Wires. Wires allows to define data collection at the edge by simply selecting components from a palette and wiring them together
  • Digital Twin Eclipse Ditto is a framework to create and manage digital twins. Ditto resource-based API that can be used to interact with devices, abstracting from the different device types and how they are connected. It helps to structure the devices aspects of functionality and can optionally enforce data types and data validation device meta model, based on Eclipse Vorto.

EdgeX Foundry

The Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry is a vendor-neutral, open source project providing a common open framework for Internet of Things (IoT) edge computing and an ecosystem of interoperable components that unifies the marketplace and accelerates enterprise and Industrial IoT. The project is aligned around a common goal: the simplification and standardization of Industrial IoT edge computing, while still allowing the ecosystem to add significant value. EdgeX Foundry leverages cloud-native principles, including microservices and platform-independence, but is architected to meet specific needs of the IoT edge. This includes accommodating both IP- and non-IP based connectivity protocols, security and system management for widely distributed compute nodes, and scaling down to highly- constrained devices.
EdgeX Foundry has gone through rapid refinement as illustrated by the reduction of computer resource requirements from the initial 2.5 GB to 128 MB memory requirement suitable for embedding in sensors and control devices.

This article is part of Bill Lydon’s Top Trends, his Automation & Control Trends Report for 2020-2021. Download the full report here

About The Author

Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to, 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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