The year 2020 remains crazy – probably like me, many believed or at least hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic would peak in the middle of the year. But the pandemic continues to move around the world and is testing the solidarity of the global community – no country alone can solve its challenges.
What does the pandemic actually mean for the diverse international work of the OPC Foundation?
OPC Foundation has been managed and OPC UA developed over many years in a virtual environment, bringing together experts from every continent to work toward a common goal. In these extraordinary times, we are bringing these skills to our user facing activities so that work-from-home can mean work-with-OPC UA.
After participating at the ARC Forum 2020 in Orlando, Florida in early February, I have not make a single trip (and now lost 12kg with a regular rhythm of life and without permanent access to food and business lunches).
All OPCF conferences like the successful “OPC Day Europe” – first in 2011 at SAP with 210 participants – were cancelled. Instead we held a virtual conference “OPC Day 2020 – International” for the first time where the leaders of the working groups explained results transparently and gave an outlook to the future over 4 days for 2 hours each. I would like to thank not only the more than 3,000 registered participants but also the speakers who spoke twice for different time zones in each session and therefore some of them had to speak at night from 02:00 – 04:00. A great load – but also a great opportunity that was very well used and scaled around the world much more than a local OPC Day.
The world will certainly change and you will have to check more often if a trip is really appropriate. But I also remember people I was able to meet by chance through traveling and incredible spontaneous new activities have resulted from these meetings. The list is so enormously long, but I would like to give only 2 examples:
Without traveling I would never have sat by chance in Cologne at an Industrie4.0 event next to Clemens Vasters from Microsoft. I only noticed him when he explained to the auditorium from his seat after a lecture by another speaker that VPN itself does not stand for dedicated security, followed by many more logical explanations about protocols in the automation world. We exchanged contact information – Clemens was later a key member of the OPC UA core team and was instrumental in determining the right technical strategy for OPC UA PubSub via MQTT and AMQP. Microsoft itself has understood the value of bi-directional end-to-end secure OPC UA communication to the cloud, has been on the board of directors of the OPC Foundation for many years and is now starting the “OPC UA for Cloud Library” project with many other IT companies.
Without traveling I never would have met Dr. Day from Foxconn FII by chance in Chicago at the IMTS trade show in April 2019. Only 10 weeks later in July was I able to learn at an OPC Day in Shenzhen with Cheng Brand, CEO, Foxconn FII, and Dr. Day that one of the world’s largest consumer product manufacturers operates 110,000 CNC machines worldwide using OPC UA-based information models. As a commitment to industrial interoperability, Foxconn FII then joined the OPC Foundation as a corporate member.
This list of chance encounters could go on for a long time!
Looking to the future
I am able to proudly announce 4 big news items in this issue that are really fundamental and will give great momentum for the future:
- We are happy that with Google Cloud, another IT giant is now a full member of the OPC Foundation. Besides the announcement itself we will certainly hear more in the future.
- The OPC UA Motion working group has been initiated. To achieve success faster we have partnered with the ODVA and Sercos International who bring their established technologies to move the OPC FLC Motion work along. This idea of cooperation has already proven itself in the past when the OPC Foundation together with the PNO started the “UA Safety Group”.
- The entry of the OPC Foundation into the Ethernet APL group is a decisive signal to the market that the OPC Foundation FLC Initiative is taking a holistic approach to process and factory automation. But the underlying transport technology is interchangeable. We expect a great future with OPC UA over APL, enriched with many information models that will be designed together with other associations like VDMA, FCG, PNO, ODVA, OPAF, NAMUR, ZVEI, WCI and others.
- Extension of the OPC Compliance Test Tool (UACTT) with the validation of information models of Companion Specifications – initially for PA-DIM, PLCopen and MDIS is exciting news for many different vertical markets.
The OPC Foundation is home to the promise of OPC UA-based industrial interoperability, consisting of 4 pillars:
- OPC UA technology which consists of many modular ‘Lego’ building blocks
- Information models which are created with partners for various markets – currently there are over 53 groups
- Harmonization, validation and certification: The OPC UA harmonization group harmonizes information models so that the same interfaces are used across industries. All this is validated and certified by the OPC Foundation.
- Publishing all information models on the public web so others avoid duplicate specification
So there is a lot going on, despite the difficult situation for many. In this sense I wish us all the best and to stay healthy!