Expert Predicts 50 Million Embedded OPC UA Devices by 2020

March 12, 2012
In Session One of the OPC Foundation Workshop “Transforming Manufacturing with OPC UA: From Embedded to the Enterprise,” speakers from five companies, including Schlumberger, addressed how OPC UA solves integration challenges from embedded systems to machine-to-machine.

At last month’s ARC Forum, held in Orlando, the OPC Foundation hosted a two-part workshop, “Transforming Manufacturing with OPC UA: From Embedded to the Enterprise.” The workshop, organized by the ARC Advisory Group and Tom Burke, president of OPC Foundation, addressed how OPC UA solves interoperability challenges at all levels of the organization. This article is an overview of the first session, in which five speakers focused on OPC UA applications from embedded systems to machine integration. The second session (see next article) featured six speakers who addressed OPC UA in process automation, historians, security and enterprise systems. At the end of the workshop, additional industry experts joined the speakers for an informative question-and-answer panel.

Kicking off Session One was Liam Power, technical director at Embedded Labs, in Waterford, Ireland. His endorsement of OPC UA included the prediction that by 2020, the installed base of embedded OPC UA devices will exceed 50 million units.  “Where today we need a personal computer gateway to connect a micro controller to the factory LAN, in the future that microPLC will have OPC UA on a chip embedded inside.” Even now, OPC UA chips are available for $5-$6 dollars a chip. “OPC UA will provide authenticated, secure communication from the I/O cabinet to the IT layer,” said Power.

Christian Schulze, business development manager at Beckhoff Automation, in Verl, Germany, discussed Beckhoff’s OPC UA commitment, with the integration of OPC UA clients and servers into its automation controllers. “Our motivation was a common abstraction layer for diagnostics and configuration, and a common information model,” noted Schulze. In discussing the collaboration work between the OPC Foundation and PLCOpen in manufacturing execution solution (MES) connectivity, Schulze commented, “We are not defining new MES standards. OPC UA just provides transport and security.” Collaborative work with PLCOpen facilitated the mapping of IEC 61131-3 onto the OPC UA namespace, and the creation of OPC UA function blocks for connectivity.

Siemens utilizes OPC UA at multiple levels of the automation hierarchy, according to Mitch Vaughn, chief technologist, HMI Center of Competence, for Siemens Industry. “OPC UA benefits include a standard interface across all levels, operating system independence, platform independent deployment and better interoperability through certification,” said Vaughn. This allows customers to create best-of-breed hybrid solutions and to easily integrate point solutions.

Automation cuts well drilling time by one-third

OPC UA is a key enabling technology in drilling automation, as outlined by Clinton Chapman, Ph.D., the drilling automation program architect for Schlumberger. Chapman showed well drilling plots that demonstrated a dramatic decrease in time to drill a trajectory (8.5 days vs. 5.4 days) when using an automated process called ROP Optimization. For the project, OPC UA was selected as the communication interface because of a push from Shell and general agreement that OPC was backed by a strong organization with broad industry support. Other OPC UA benefits Chapman cited include: off-the-shelf components available for clients, servers, and software developer kits; a security model without the limits of COM/DCOM; compatibility with multiple SCADA systems; and an information model that supports the Well Information Transfer Standard (WITSML) used throughout the drilling industry.

Closing the first session was Katherine Voss, executive director of ODVA, who gave an overview of the Machinery Initiative, announced in March 2011, between ODVA, OPC Foundation and Sercos organizations. The goal of the initiative is to jointly develop a Unified Integration Model for Machine Optimization that addresses four key machinery challenges: 1. A proliferation of automation networks that are not interoperable at any level of the OSI 7-layer model. 2. Long life of machine assets, resulting in numerous legacy networks. 3. Machine builders who compete on initial price and performance, not overall equipment effectiveness. 4. A lack of secure, remote access to machines for maintenance and information sharing.

See the next article in this issue for an overview of Part 2: “Transforming Manufacturing with OPC UA: From Embedded to the Enterprise.”

Download an ARC Insight article on the workshop.

Visit OPC Foundation web site for more information on OPC UA.

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