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OPC Gets Green, Goes Nuclear and Gets Embedded

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Thomas Burke, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, discusses how OPC technology is advancing cutting-edge developments—from green energy and the world’s largest particle accelerator, to embedded intelligence and OPC UA-on-a-chip.

Welcome to the May 2010 edition of OPConnect, the official newsletter of the OPC Foundation. The year 2010 marks 15 years in the development of OPC technology. What began in 1995 as a task force to standardize on a device driver solution has morphed into the 400-member OPC Foundation, whose task it is to develop, support and maintain standards for moving data and information from embedded devices all the way through the enterprise.

OPC is “open connectivity” in industrial automation and enterprise systems based on “open standards.” These standards operate across multivendor and multiplatform systems, providing secure, reliable and interoperable communications for applications in industrial automation, building automation, energy management and more.

Green energy sources, next-gen nuclear particle accelerators and embedded intelligence for smart devices—OPC is playing a critical role in these cutting-edge advancements. In this issue, read how the Matrikon OPC Server for Vestas Wind Turbines is standardizing real-time access to wind farm data sources for better asset management. And don’t miss the article on how the OPC Top Server from Software Toolbox helps cool the world’s largest particle accelerator when proton beams collide at seven trillion volts!

For demanding applications, such as a distillation refinery, read how OPC Unified Architecture (UA) solutions from Inductive Automation deliver fast update performance and reliability along with Linux support. Learn how OPC UA is deployed in Softing’s OPC Development Toolkits to assist software engineers in implementing effective OPC Clients/Servers and embedding OPC UA technology directly into target devices, such as PLCs and distributed control systems.

The OPC Vision

The vision of OPC is to provide the right specifications, technology and certification to enable the OPC community to develop products and services that support secure and reliable interoperability. For proof, read the OPC Products section in this issue, which highlights offerings from Canary Labs, Cogent Real-time Systems and Kepware Technologies. Many of the OPC vendors offer free downloadable demo versions of their software, so you can try before you buy.

The concept of developing open industrial standards and motivating competitive vendors to work together in a cooperative environment is really what the OPC Foundation is all about. The Foundation portfolio includes three main technologies: Classic OPC; OPC Xi; and OPC UA.

Classic OPC specification, commonly known as OPC COM/DCOM, is used for Microsoft platforms only. The first OPC classic specification was OPC Data Access (DA). OPC Xi is focused on providing integration of all the classic OPC specifications for the Microsoft .NET environment. OPC UA is focused on providing a platform neutral solution that integrates all the existing classic OPC specifications into a common service-oriented architecture. It extends the capabilities of OPC in the areas of security and information modeling to truly provide a robust architecture. And, OPC UA expands the reach of OPC outside of industrial automation into areas such as building automation, security and the Smart Grid. Click here for more information on the OPC Foundation specifications.

Are there real applications of these new specifications? I’ve already discussed the exciting developments highlighted in this issue, including applications of OPC in energy and nuclear applications, and OPC UA embedded in control devices. But imagine this: OPC UA on a chip! Can it really be done? One vendor has already announced a product; this could advance the whole concept of interoperability beyond where we ever dreamed we could go.

OPC Certification and Training

This is an exciting time for OPC technology users and developers, and I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for more information. I encourage you to regularly check out the OPC Foundation website, www.opcfoundation.org, and to subscribe to the OPC Foundation list servers.

The OPC Foundation is hosting three interoperability workshops in 2010. Interoperability workshops allow suppliers to test products and product development in a multi-vendor scenario to validate interoperability. There is a workshop in North America in May, in Japan in June, and in Germany in September.

OPC Foundation is conducting a series of seminars and webinars for end-users and vendors to provide training on all of the OPC Foundation deliverables, including specifications, technology and certification. There are one-day FREE seminars that include an overview of OPC specifications as well as hands-on demonstrations. Seating is limited, so click here to view the schedule and register.

As the president of the OPC Foundation, I always welcome your suggestions for future editions of the OPC Foundation newsletter and invite you to send me your thoughts and comments at [email protected].

Thomas J. Burke
OPC Foundation President

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