FLC: Controller-to-Controller Release Candidate in Sight

Since the start of the Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative in November 2018, more than 200 experts from over 60 OPC Foundation member companies have signed up for FLC-related technical working groups. Overall, seven different working groups have been established to work on the various specifications. These specifications have the purpose to extend the OPC UA framework with basic features and functions for using OPC UA in automation components at the field level. To meet the diverse requirements in process control and discrete manufacturing industries, OPC UA is combined with standards from the IEEE, such as Advanced Physical Layer (APL) Ethernet and Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN). It is planned to have the initial release candidate specifications available by the end of October. These specifications will focus on controller-to-controller use-cases and form the foundation for extending the features and functions to also cover controller-to-device use-cases in the second specification release planned for 2021.

The initial FLC specifications include mechanisms for the configuration, startup, and operation of automation components with regard to network- and device-related aspects, e.g. common interfaces, behaviors, and state machines, as well as mechanisms for describing device identity, status, and diagnosis. An important part is the definition of an offline configuration scheme that is developed for simple, complex, and modular automation components. The scope of work includes the mechanism for an engineering tool to deploy an offline configuration to the system when it comes online.

To verify the generated concepts and specifications, the FLC Prototyping WG was launched in early July. The overall goal of this working group with currently more than 30 participants is to generate concepts for FLC prototyping and to coordinate the implementation of prototypes with the goal to verify the specification drafts that are generated by the FLC Technical Working Groups. The FLC Prototyping WG also works on possible optimizations and proposes specification enhancements to the OPC UA FLC and OPC UA Working Groups. Finally, the FLC Prototyping WG will prepare a multi-vendor test and demonstration environment that can be used for FLC-related plug fests and for promotional purposes (e.g. demonstrations at tradeshows or conferences).

OPC UA Safety – Stack Development Project Update

The OPC Foundation has contracted the ifak (Institute for Automation and Communication) as a service provider to perform the implementation of the OPC UA Safety stack and to prepare software, documentation, verification and validation activities to allow for pre-certification of the software by notified bodies. ifak is an independent engineering research institute located in Magdeburg, the state capital of Saxony-Anhalt (Germany), https://www.ifak.eu/en.

The OPC Foundation invites all its members to participate in this co-funding project. Each co-funding company will get early access to preliminary software & documentation. In addition, they receive unrestricted IP and source code rights on the final project results (certified source code plus verification and validation documentation). A participation fee of $26k USD is due for OPC Foundation member companies (except Logo Members). Those interested should contact Peter Lutz at: peter.lutz@opcfoundation.org.