OPC UA Takes Center Stage at OPC Technology Summit

Dec. 3, 2012
Speaker after speaker outlined technology benefits and solutions, calling OPC UA “the glue that binds innovative devices together.”

The inaugural OPC Technology Summit, hosted by the OPC Foundation, concluded on Thursday, October 18, after a multi-day program that brought together OPC technologists, solution providers and end-users to discuss the next-generation OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) technology. OPC is the open platform connectivity standard for secure and reliable data and information integration in automation and related domains. In the OPC Foundation’s ongoing efforts to promote OPC education and awareness, the Summit speaker presentation slides have been made available for download at its web site.

The OPC Technology Summit 2012 kicked off with an OPC UA technology overview and value proposition presentation by Thomas Burke, President and Executive Director of the OPC Foundation. Following were presentations from Rashesh Mody, of Invensys, and Mbaga Ahorukomeye, of Schlumberger, that outlined key benefits of OPC UA for driving operational excellence and business results. In particular, Ahorukomeye noted, “OPC UA was a lifesaver. Adopting OPC UA in our drilling automation architecture was one of the best things we did,” citing its fast data updates and extensible security model and web services.

Just how important is OPC UA to the oil and gas industry?  In a presentation from Jeffery Cardenas, Chief Operations Officer for GenesisRTS, and Scott Kortier of InduSoft, Cardenas said: “OPC UA is critical to our success in achieving our interoperability goals on the upstream side [drilling and finishing]. Its benefits are well known, and new drilling rigs are now being OPC UA-certified.”

IT-friendly Information Model

An “OPC UA Technology Roadmap” presentation featured technologists from ABB, Rockwell Automation, Siemens and Yokogawa, who mapped out their companies’ OPC UA adoption strategies. (See photo.) Discussed by Wolfgang Mahnke of ABB was a key benefit of OPC UA: its unified information model, which provides information, not just data, in a standardized IT-friendly format.

Dave Emerson from Yokogawa noted, “OPC UA moves us from COM/DCOM of the 1990s to current-generation Web Services and reduces integration costs—making systems and products interoperable.” Thomas Hahn from Siemens, and a member of the OPC Foundation Board of Directors, says that Siemens is using OPC UA as a standard interface across all levels of automation, from the field, control and operations levels to management and the enterprise. Hahn foresees Siemens’ use of OPC UA in motion control, CNCs and embedded control. Similarly, Steve Briant of Rockwell Automation cites OPC UA’s platform independence, noting that his company has deployed OPC UA servers and clients, is moving to client and server appliances, and in time will use OPC UA in embedded devices.

In the “Shop-floor to Top-floor” joint presentation from Roland Essmann of Elster GmbH, Veronika Schmid-Lutz of SAP and Stefan Hoppe of Beckhoff Automation (and the OPC Europe President), OPC UA was singled out as a key technology in linking Elster factory-floors PLCs to the company’s ERP system. Said Schmid-Lutz, “OPC UA’s standard interface layer, standard transport and security mechanisms, and firewall-friendly port usage provide options for new innovative scenarios, such as the use of OPC UA to integrate the supply and partner chains.”

Future-proofing Automation

Mark Conde, Senior Technical Engineer for the Universal Parks and Resorts Information Technology Group, talked about the use of OPC UA to “future-proof” his applications. Conde oversees UPR’s Ride and Show Technology Group, which is responsible for the engineering of IT systems utilized by Universal on attractions throughout the world. As might be expected, he has an extensive background in cyber security and security operations, and cited OPC UA’s certificate-based security as key. Other features cited by Mr. Conde are that OPC UA is not dependent on Microsoft platforms, it provides reliability and redundancy, supports archiving historical events, and gives context to data. “OPC UA provides intelligent data handling,” noted Conde. “This is important to us, as we need to distinguish between Type 2 data, which may define an inconvenience, as opposed to Type 1 data, which impacts life safety.”

For more on OPC UA security features and the OPC Foundation Certification Program, please see the next article.

Sponsors of the OPC Technology Summit 2012 include: ABB, ascolab, Beckhoff Automation, ICONICS, InduSoft, Invensys, Kepware Technologies, MatrikonOPC, MOBIFORM Software, Online Development Inc. (OLDI), OSIsoft, Rockwell Automation, Real Time Automation, Inc. (RTA), SAP, Siemens, Softing, Software Toolbox and Unified Automation.

Plans for the next OPC Technology Summit are underway, with a date and location to be announced in early 2013. For more information on this year’s Summit, please download the speaker presentation slides from the OPC Foundation web site.

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