The OPC Foundation has its first Independent Certification Test Lab to validate and certify products that are designed to comply with the OPC open communication standard, which is used widely in industry to link devices supplied by different vendors.
The lab is located at Ascolab in Erlangen, Germany. “The Ascolab staff members have been designers and developers of OPC Certification tools since our earliest days. They are widely acknowledged as ‘the experts’ in OPC Certification, and they provide a solid foundation on which to build our certification program,” noted OPC Foundation President and Executive Director Tom Burke.
“Companies who purchase OPC-compliant products expect secure, reliable interoperability in a highly plug-and-play fashion,” Burke continued. “All products newly certified by the Test Lab will carry a new ‘OPC Foundation Certified’ logo, thus providing end-users with assurance of excellence. The Certification program means that users can expect reduced system installation costs and products that will perform reliably in multi-vendor installations.”
Craig Resnick, research director at the ARC Advisory Group Inc., a Dedham, Mass., analyst firm, applauded the new Lab designation. “Compliance certification will provide manufacturers with the confidence that their suppliers’ products will work right out of the box with any other suppliers’ product that's compliance tested,” Resnick observed.
Less finger pointing
“Too much time has been spent by us in the past playing referee between suppliers who point fingers at each other instead of coming together to deliver solutions,” said Bruce Honda, process control advisor at pulp and paper company Weyerhaeuser Co., Federal Way, Wash. “Certifying to a common set of functions and features should assure that manufacturers like us get true compatibility between different supplier's products.”
John Weber, president of Software Toolbox Inc., a Matthews, N.C.-based OPC Foundation member company, added, “End-users want quality products, and one of the primary OPC Foundation goals must be to ensure delivery of the highest quality OPC products. End-users already expect, at a minimum, that products will have been through existing OPC Foundation self-certification testing. In the long term, as our Test Lab program rolls out worldwide, they will also look for the independent OPC Foundation Certification logo.” Software Toolbox is one of the first companies certifying its products through the new Test Lab.
Paul Hunkar, OPC Foundation director of compliance & certification, and consultant engineer at controls supplier ABB, in Cleveland, commented, “To successfully integrate complex systems using products from multiple vendors requires that products be completely interoperable and simple to maintain, while providing plug-and-play configuration and high reliability. The Independent Certification Test Lab system provides the infrastructure to ensure that vendors are designing and shipping high-quality, high-performance and high-functionality products.”
The backbone of the Independent Certification Test Lab is the reference hardware/software that is the basis for testing all other products. The following companies have provided hardware/software to the lab as part of this program: ABB, Beckhoff, Cyberlogic, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, Iconics, Kepware, Matrikon, OSIsoft, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Softing, Software Toolbox and Wonderware.
All successfully tested products and their certification details will be posted on the OPC Foundation Web site. End users will be able to use the online product catalog as a tool to make intelligent purchasing decisions.