Standards

OPC Foundation Interoperability Standard Seeks to Unlock Full Potential of Industry 4.0

In an announcement published today by the OPC Foundation, the organization stated its vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard. This seamless IIoT communication standard, called Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture will apply for all levels of industrial automation. Combined with Time Sensitive Networking (OPC UA over TSN) it will be able to replace a myriad of different fieldbus systems.

Forecasting the end of disparate protocols, it will enable devices from different vendors to talk to each other – from the field level to the controller level all the way to the cloud. Just as HTML spurred growth of the Web, the new Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture (OPC UA) interoperability standard is expected to enable industrial players to unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0.

Also today, ABB announced its support the industry-wide adoption of OPC UA over TSN. At the vanguard of driving interoperability in industrial automation, ABB and B&R – the acquired and integrated solutions provider for machine and factory automation – have played a pivotal role in bringing together industry stakeholders to establish an open standards-based communication for Industrial IoT. Additionally, ABB will take up a designated seat on the board of the OPC Foundation in 2019 to further help accelerate development of the new technology.

As OPC UA over TSN is vendor neutral, customers will no longer see their efforts complicated by incompatible protocols or proprietary ecosystems. This will facilitate integration and spur innovation - an imperative as the Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerates digitalization via the interconnection of billions of smart devices worldwide.

A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including:

  • harmonization and standardization of application profiles e.g. IO, motion control, safety, system redundancy
  • standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline e.g. device description and online e.g. diagnostics
  • mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on ethernet networks including TSN
  • definition of certification procedures

The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.

This initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification e.g. description of machines.

Stefan Hoppe, President of the OPC Foundation said "The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate".

Thomas Burke, Strategic Marketing Officer of the OPC Foundation, "We are very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN."

“ABB has long been a pioneer within the automation industry developing leading-edge technologies to deliver solutions to some of industry's greatest challenges," said Peter Terwiesch, President, ABB Industrial Automation Division. "That we have taken a leading role in reaching this historic milestone for open standards and interoperability in industrial automation, which will see major dividends for both customers and suppliers alike, is further testament to our commitment, expertise and vision to unlock the full potential of Industry 4.0."

Adoption of the OPC UA over TSN standard will allow companies to leverage the benefits of multi-vendor, peer-to-peer communications and control between sensors, control devices, programmable logic controllers and distributed control systems without the need for costly and time-consuming software development and cumbersome gateways and bridges.

“Customers across the industrial landscape will no longer be bound to suppliers based on the communications protocol used,” said Bernhard Eschermann, CTO, ABB Industrial Automation Division and designated board member of OPC Foundation. “Adoption of the new standard will open up cross-industry collaboration and encourage partnerships driven by what creates the most value for customers.”

ABB Group , OPC Foundation
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