Communication in one form or another is commonplace throughout the natural world. Animals of all colours and creeds have different ways of communicating that allow information to be accurately portrayed to other members of the same species. However, when it comes to interspecies communication, comprehension is often far more difficult. In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, this trait applies to machines as well. One vision of Industry 4.0 is of a highly automated, harmonious production line that relies on minimal human intervention. This goal requires seamless communication between different machines, networks and applications. One of the most important aspects of control system operation, especially when managing distributed functions, is the ability of the system to act holistically, akin to a living organism or ecosystem. Luckily for industry, that’s where the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) protocol comes into play. In this special industry report, obsolete automation spares supplier European Automation explores OPC UA and the crucial role it plays in Industry 4.0.