Embedding smart communications into inexpensive field devices

March 9, 2011
OPC UA now comes on a chip, allowing automation manufacturers to embed "smart communication" functionality into inexpensive field devices, without the overhead of an operating system.

What's remarkable about OPC Unified Architecture (UA) is that not only is it OS-independent, it doesn't even care whether a device even has an operating system. To this end, some companies are beginning to embed OPC UA on chips, which are now being incorporated into low-cost field devices such as smart meters or valves. PLC manufacturers too, are beginning to incorporate OPC UA chips into their devices. This functionality isn't limited to industrial automation; building automation devices and other domains outside of industrial and building automation can also take advantage of it.

OPC UA embedded into field devices such as smart meters, valves, pumps, or any other device, confers a robust interoperability upon such devices without the burden of having to develop or support such functionality from scratch by the industrial automation supplier.

With OPC UA built into field devices, controllers, and now smart phones and tablet devices, it becomes much easier and faster to write applications that allow back-and-forth communications from the field device, to the controller, to the smart phone, and back. Much the way the Universal Serial Bus (USB) hides the particulars of how to print to a given printer from any application, OPC UA hides the details of the hardware when it comes to writing applications that communicate up and down the industrial automation network.

With OPC UA, industrial automation suppliers can now spend valuable product development time creating best-of-breed products rather than reinventing the wheel by developing proprietary mechanisms for data transfer.

Best-of-breed products with OPC UA built into them actually expand the potential market for such products, satisfying both industrial automation suppliers and end users alike.

For more information, visit www.opcfoundation.org.

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