OPC Standard Offers New Horizons for the Industrial Internet

OPC UA Standards

One of the biggest challenges of the Industrial Internet has always been interoperability. Different vendors employed various types of controllers and each had their own unique protocols for communicating back and forth, making connectivity and security between them difficult. Many customers have multiple vendor technologies within their facilities and across their companies, so it’s not surprising many organizations struggle to integrate systems across various devices and equipment.

The good news about having a problem is that smart people are always eager to solve it, right? Industry-savvy technologists at the OPC Foundation (OPC) tackled the issue and created a standard protocol for how machines and software systems could talk to each other in the same language. OPC DA was widely adopted across the world but lacked key capabilities in security and context.

Consequently, the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) standard was produced. OPC UA has a strong presence in Europe and has proven itself as a protocol with a much larger scope than just addressing issues at the automation layer. And it’s just a matter of time before we see it widely adopted in North America. This standard has evolved from just transmitting data to providing an encrypted pathway for both data and configuration, and continues to evolve with new capability around automatically discovering devices on the network and connecting them without the need for manual configuration. 

Now, the standard ensures structured efficient and secure communications, facilitating better connectivity, management of systems and interoperability at all levels—the foundation for asset performance management. Problem solved!

Not quite. The thing about standards is they can’t become standards if we don’t standardize on them. If we envision a future in which smart machines can communicate seamlessly to create an intelligent network capable of delivering rich and relevant information to infinite applications and users to improve workflow, productivity and efficiency, then designing on OPC UA standards is critical to achieving that goal.  

If you want to “live the dream” of the Industrial Internet, then a unified approach to standards is needed. Utilizing the OPC UA standard as a core protocol for all of your organization’s automation systems to improve asset performance management will help realize the full value of your system and potential services. The OPC UA standard will have significant impact for interoperability issues across many industries, but only if it is widely adopted.

Matt Wells

Matt Wells has 20 years of experience with industrial automation and operations management software. He is responsible for leading GE’s Automation Software business and understands that uptime is critical. Matt has worked with customers in a wide variety of industries including life sciences, food and beverage, automotive, metals, and pulp and paper. 

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