Certification: When it absolutely has to work as promised

Interoperability can and should be certified. A quick look at what industrial automation suppliers and end users should know about certification.

The majority of the consumer electronics industry seems to be plagued with high levels of complexity for configuration and high degrees of unreliability at the most important times. End-users tolerate the flaws in the consumer electronics because their expectations are lower based on the cost of ownership of the electronic products.

But failures of products and systems in industrial automation cannot be tolerated. A much more robust design and testing environment must be put in place for products that are developed for industrial automation system. A complete certification authority must be established to facilitate multivendor product interoperability.

Many of the industrial Ethernet organizations have a very rich robust certification for all of the products that are developed based on their technology. Product manufacturers send their products to the industrial Ethernet organization certification test lab to have the product tested or adherence and conformance to the corresponding industrial Ethernet specifications.

The OPC Foundation has modeled a similar certification program based on the industrial Ethernet organizations that it works closely with. Suppliers must certify their products through the OPC Foundation certification lab. End-users must motivate their suppliers to make sure that the products that they are buying are certified and have been tested by the OPC Foundation.

Certification is the best way to assure that a device adheres to OPC Unified Architecture (UA) and delivers the promised and intended interoperability.

Certification is one of the significant benefits for suppliers who join OPC Foundation as members. While other organizations require vendors to actually come to the testing lab and perform the actual testing, the OPC Foundation certification lab in Scottsdale, AZ provides a complete infrastructure that enables OPC members to remotely test their products. The testing methodology is actually an auditing process performed by the highly trained OPC staff in the testing lab. The result: a certification process that maintains its commercial rigor while making the process as painless as possible for suppliers to get their products certified.

For more information, visit www.opcfoundation.org.

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