The OPC Foundation, which oversees the OPC industrial open communication protocol, has created a new membership class for system integrators and distributors. The original focus of the OPC Foundation was on vendors who develop shrink-wrap products, and on providing specifications, technology and certification to facilitate multi-vendor interoperability.
But the trend among end-users is to leverage system integrators and distributors who build custom systems using products from multiple OPC vendors. OPC saw a need to provide a mechanism and membership class to facilitate the system integrators and distributors being able to design, develop and certify the custom software. End-user expectations are that system integrators should increase their proficiency of the use of the OPC technology, and OPC has deliberately created a program to address this requirement, according to the Foundation announcement.
“Initially, the system integrator makes the end-user happy by putting together a system that consists of certified OPC products from multiple vendors” stated Thomas Burke, OPC President. “However, problems sometimes arise as small pieces of custom software are developed to extend the functionality, which then compromise the integrity of the system. Frequently, that simple little OPC component was not developed exactly to specifications, so making things
work together is difficult.”
End the suffering
Often, OPC gets the blame, but regardless, it is the end-user who suffers. “The Foundation wants this to stop, for the benefit of all,” Burke said. “So we are calling on the myriad of OPC system integrators out there who routinely use OPC to solve problems in the field to sign up and help raise the overall quality and reliability of OPC products.”
“OPC Foundation membership fees are traditionally correlated to company annual revenue, but project values tend to be high in the automation business, necessitating a different pricing model” said Burke. So the Foundation is creating a new SI&D membership category with a fixed fee of $1,500. “For this, the SI&D member gets access to OPC specifications and reference implementations (sample code) on which to base his products. Our free Compliance Test Tools are also available to him so he can self-certify his own custom OPC components. A special listing of SI&D members will be kept and end-users will be actively encouraged to use these members for their projects.”