President’s Welcome – March 2020

Welcome,

The year 2020 started with a brainstorming workshop on “Harmonization for Asset Management” on January 30-31 in Frankfurt, Germany. For me it was not only a pleasure to welcome the 45 participants from across the world – the participants also learned the phrase “asset management” has multiple different flavors scaling from very hazy “asset could be software or hardware” to “asset management from a business-enablement point of view” which was one of my favorite presentations from Rüdiger Fritz of SAP. This first workshop was perfectly organized and moderated by Dr. Mahnke and we will continue hearing from him on this complicated topic.

ARC Forum 2020 – OPC UA Everywhere!

My first journey outside the country in 2020 was to warm Orlando, Florida, USA joining the ARC Forum in early February. Participating there for the first time in my role as President, it provided incredible value to meet a lot of leadership within 2 days. So ARC Forum is definitely a perfect meeting place in North America and we will be much more active in 2020 with ARC in general but also in 2021 at the next ARC Forum. The OPC Foundation did not have its own booth this year, but OPC UA was mentioned everywhere as a base technology:

  • In presentations from ExxconMobil pushing OPA
  • The company Evonik reporting about NAMUR pushing NOA and MTP
  • MDIS using OPC UA as a base for interoperability
  • ABB showing the world’s first product with OPC UA over Ehernet-APL at their booth (photo)

Corona Virus Rescheduling Everything

After the workshop in January we noticed the effect of Corona virus more and more. We canceled our booth at embedded-world and Hanover Messe has been canceled. The OPC Foundation proudly announced its participation for the first time at SPS Italia in Parma in May, but today Parma is also affected by the virus so the show is postponed to September. Instead traveling to Asia, the Foundation’s Board of Directors will meet in a series of of web conferences. All our expertise is technical and so we should not be concerned if “it’s just hype” or not. However, it is crazy to find meters of empty shelves of toilet paper in all 3 supermarkets in my hometown and also pasta getting more and more rare (photo).

OPC Foundation Membership: Europe and Asia Growing Faster

Looking at the publicly available information regarding the top 50 automation vendors sorted by their worldwide revenue it’s interesting to notice that 46% of the vendors are from Europe, followed by 32% in North America and 22% from Asia. Even more interesting is to learn that from this base 74% of the European companies and 82% of the Asian companies are OPC Foundation Class A members of the OPC Foundation. This, compared to just 44% of North American companies as Class A members!

Today OPC Foundation is a worldwide, neutral association and an international movement with experts and volunteers. It is interesting to note that at the beginning, the OPC Foundation was founded in the USA with a majority of the smart engineers designing and defining the OPC UA standard also from North America. It looks like we need to remind North America companies about the technology’s benefits!

FLC Initiative: OPC UA Safety Released / Co-funding OPC UA Safety Software Stack

Congratulations to all participants taking care of functional safety! I invite you to read Peter Lutz’s article regarding progress of release 1.00 of OPC UA Safety to learn about all details. Originally started as a joint working group initiated by PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI), the working group has now been merged under the roof of the Field Level Communication (FLC) initiative to combine forces and avoid double work. I would also like to encourage interested parties to join the call for participation to co-fund an OPC UA Safety software stack. Please register for the webinar here on March 27.

“Let’s do something on our own!”: the Downside of the User Group Boom

Politics and technology are two completely different worlds, aren’t they? It is often criticized that politics tends to consider the interests of those shouting the loudest or those with ‘connections’. But this is absolutely not true for us automation engineers. After all, everything here is subject to the goal of higher efficiency and, on top of that, mathematically calculable – isn’t it?

But it seems to me that politics and technology do have something in common at this time. In politics, splinter groups with sometimes very particular interests are forming. They believe that their concerns are not represented by the major parties or think that an independent group could solve “these little problems” much faster. Sometimes this is true – but often only isolated solutions emerge, and it becomes clear that many parameters are interdependent for the big picture.

Aren’t we experiencing these parallels in the world of technology?

The OPC Foundation has been pushing industrial interoperability for years and has already achieved incredible successes: OPC UA now scales from the sensor (e.g. AutoID) to the IT world of the cloud and supports various protocols (TCP, UDP, MQTT). New infrastructures such as TSN, Ethernet-APL, or 5G are also compatible and serve as a platform for the exchange of information. Technology extensions like deterministic communication, functional safety, and motion control are on the road to cover ever more deployment scenarios. The standard has also arrived in industries far removed from the factory automation or process control industries, (e.g. commercial kitchen equipment).

However, completely new consortia are also taking up the cause of “interoperability”. The creation of new user groups and cloud eco-systems is booming, and everyone wants to invoke their own justification (of course being “open” and “neutral”). Then after some effort, new organizations are founded. Often the same experts who already meet in other consortia meet there too. Finally, many realize that nothing new is being created or really regulated except isolated solutions.

So instead of investing a lot of effort in the foundation of new organizations, I invite you to join the OPC Foundation directly and purposefully in the development of technology or new user groups. Groups like OPEN-SCS (for track-&-trace) or the FLC initiative are very independent groups that also collect additional money for their own goals. However, they agree to uniform, modern legal regulations. The OPC Foundation acts like a quasi- United Nations of automation, in which each ‘country’ (working group) continues to be autonomously represented by its own ‘government’ (committee).

With this in mind, I warmly encourage all readers of the OPC Connect newsletter to consider whether we all still need the new, but also the existing groups, or whether we should simply work together and merge more. It is not because of missing technology! It will continue to be driven by innovative, creative minds and market competition.

Stefan Hoppe
President OPC Foundation