This article first appeared in the Winter issue of The Record.
A growing number of manufacturing and automation companies are looking to lower the cost of system integration by incorporating asset management with devices – this includes all types of industrial automation devices such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, programmable logic controllers and distributed control systems.
There is significant business value to integrating industrial automation device data into IT. Leveraging the OPC UA specification allows vendors to model device data in a consistent standard way for information integration between typically disparate devices and applications.
OPC Foundation collaborates with consortia and suppliers to help them develop OPC Foundation OPC UA companion specifications that allows them to map their data models into an OPC UA information model. Suppliers build OPC UA servers that understand the information model, and OPC UA client applications can seamlessly connect to the OPC UA server and understand the syntax and semantics of the data. This allows for true ‘plug-n-play’ interoperability.
Suppliers are leveraging the OPC UA architecture as a mechanism for moving data and information from embedded devices to the cloud.
OPC UA is the infrastructure and solution for the ‘internet of everything’, which includes industrie 4.0, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), and machine to machine. OPC UA provides multivendor, multiplatform interoperability for moving data and information from sensors to the cloud.
It provides a significant opportunity to reduce costs around system integration and writing custom software components to connect data and devices together. Suppliers can take advantage of the rich set of services at OPC UA provides, which go beyond simple connectivity.
With OPC UA, an RFID reader can easily be connected to a manufacturing execution system and cloud systems like Microsoft Azure. This makes it easy to share data and information securely, expand the business value proposition of being able to use the data and information for management of resources, and increase profitability.
Manufacturers and suppliers are no longer limited and constrained by having to write custom software and use custom hardware for all the different connectivity protocols and connectors in their systems. OPC UA provides the easy plug-and-play infrastructure to truly enable information integration and connectivity across devices and machines with the same interface.
I see big changes happening in this space, as more companies realise the obvious benefits – particularly around industrial automation.
Stefan Hoppe is global vice president of the OPC Foundation
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