2017 Wrap: End-Users Pushing OPC UA

“We’re experiencing an incredibly successful rate of global adoption,” says Stefan Hoppe, Global Vice President of the OPC Foundation, looking back on the SPS show, adding: “Europe is clearly leading in OPC UA adoption, but we are experiencing the excitement of OPC UA worldwide -it has actually become kind of a movement.” The OPC Foundation booth area was expanded from 80 sqm in the previous year to 140 sqm. “Nevertheless, we were fully booked with 14 sponsors,” says Hoppe.

In North America, major corporations such as Emerson and Rockwell are now offering OPC UA products and helping the Foundation to promote the technology there. In addition to Rockwell, the companies Beckhoff, HPE, ICONICS, Microsoft and National Instruments hosted a North America seminar tour at a total of 8 events.

VDMA

In Germany, the VDMA and its 38 trade associations in particular are pushing forward the idea of OPC UA Companion Specifications. The injection molders were the pioneers followed by ‘machine vision’ and robotics, and now 11 trade associations in the VDMA are currently actively involved in the subject of OPC UA. “The real challenge of the future is to coordinate these different Companion Specs together. For example, a robot and an injection molding machine should not display completely different MES or energy interfaces – and this work is being synchronized by the VDMA,” Hoppe said in praising the activities. The VDMA has also created many short and concise films in cooperation with University4Industry. More than 9 hours of digital learning experience are now available for various target groups with overviews and technology statements. “Incredibly well made”, raves Hoppe.

End Users are Putting Pressure

Currently, the OPC Foundation is experiencing a wave of member acquisition – in the last year alone, 100 new members have joined. Christian Stickling from the East Westphalian household appliance manufacturer Miele reported on his motivation to join the OPC Foundation: “In OPC UA, we see a secure foundation for future communication, which is why Miele has decided to use the OPC UA standard consistently in device manufacturing and also from our suppliers of production technology.” This, after both Korean giants LG CNS and Samsung joined in order to optimize their own production methods.

Philip Morris International, British Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International are new members from the tobacco industry and have been very eager to create and release a “Tobacco Machine Communication” (TMC) / OPC UA companion specification in collaboration with their suppliers. “Being a member of the Foundation enables early access to documents and thus prior knowledge of future trends,” Hoppe explains.

Security and technology trends

Just in time for the trade-show, a Security Guideline was published for a target group of users: “The exemplary security mechanisms deployed in OPC UA must also be used properly in practice,” says Chairman Uwe Pohlmann, Fraunhofer IEM, “this is precisely where we provide the necessary recommendations for the users.”

TSN and 5G

The OPC Foundation has clearly positioned itself for OPC UA over TSN and showed a first demonstration on its booth even if the configuration of a TSN network has not yet been completed by IEEE. The goal was unified horizontal machine-to-machine communication. The already secure exchange of information between machines via OPC UA will then offer new scenarios with the real-time capable TSN layer. Hoppe: “The OPC UA over TSN working group is very agile with over 85 companies. TSN is not the only option for the OPC Foundation – OPC UA over 5G will also solve incredibly exciting scenarios in the future. We remain truly agnostic to the subordinate transport layers and also do not prefer one cloud protocol (MQTT or AMQP) over another. The greatest value of the OPC Foundation is its independence and being the world’s largest ecosystem for industrial interoperability.”