It’s the middle of December and therefore a good time to review the year and also to give an outlook on the next year. Spontaneously, one might think “nothing happened this year – COVID-19 overshadowed everything and flattened all activities”. From the OPC Foundation’s point of view, one can give a different picture: COVID-19 did not stop the OPC Foundation but made us even more effective! The pressure to digitize while ensuring security and data safety has made the OPC Foundation’s goals shine brighter.
The technical working groups have (besides initial F2F meetings) always worked a lot in virtual meetings and synchronized results among each other. This is the only way OPC UA could be created by many experts around the globe.
The InterOperability (InterOp, or IOP) workshops can also take place virtually! Right now, 20 attendees from companies all over the world are pre-testing in a complete VPN connected scenario to optimize the virtual IOP for 2021. Even if personal contact made on-site has a high value, products can still be tested from one’s desk through virtual IOP meetings.
Efforts have changed; I will give only a few examples:
“OPC UA Security Deep Dive” is the latest contribution from Randy Armstrong. Listen to his highly passioned presentation giving a flavor of people’s spirit to work on OPC UA:
2. OPC Day Europe International
In the years 2011 to 2019 we had organized 8 “OPC Day Europe” events in different countries and sponsored by different international companies like SAP, Yokogawa, Endress+Hauser, Microsoft, Festo or in connection with industrial fairs like Automatica -in Munich. Lengthy planning, a budget self-funded by sponsors, and participant fees and speakers from Europe have attracted every year between 150-200 participants and resulted in very positive and grateful feedback for all the planning time invested.
OPC Day Europe 2020 did not occur, and if you plan virtually then the whole world should be invited. “OPC Day International 2020” was spread over 4 days, held twice per day for different timezones and we were able to include worldwide experts as speakers who otherwise would not have been available for a 30min talk on a long trip. The whole event was free of charge and we welcomed over 3000 registered participants.
3. OPC Day Japan 2020
For several years now I have traveled to Japan in December to contribute to the “OPC Day Japan”. And of course, it was incredibly valuable to broaden one’s horizon with different cultural imprints to work on common goals of standardization. Last year there were about 200 participants in the room. In 2020, 658 (!) Japanese have registered for the virtual OPC Day!
4. Around the World in 10 Hours
It used to be a sensation to travel around the world in 80 days – these days I am “in” different regions of the world in a single day to contribute at conferences. In the morning, virtually in India; after several contributions in the early afternoon in Europe, I “land” in the early evening in North America… and still make it home for the evening. What a great time – what a luxury! The only way to top it would be with a quick “Beam me up, Scotty!,” famous from science fiction series Starship Enterprise. Rightly, my son remarked that it would turn into total stress again if everyone could always beam up somewhere!
But seriously it means: Even after COVID-19 we will stick to the virtual conferences to distribute the news from our experts directly to all listeners around the world.
61 New Members in 1 year
Soon to Cross 800 Members
From December 2019 with 737 members at that time, the OPC Foundation has grown to 798 by December 2020 and thus by 61 new members. I am sure we can announce the 800th member within this year 2020! New Class A members included: DTS (Japan), Jumo (Germany), Syntegon (Germany), GoogleCloud (USA), NTT Communications (Japan), cytiva (Sweden), Merck (USA), and Emerson (USA).
Board Member Elections
Each year the membership elects board members to serve a two-year term. On August 28, 2020, an email was sent to all Designated Representatives requesting nominations for seven (7) open board seats to be received by September 25, 2020. The OPC Foundation received ten (10) nominations. The ballot was sent to all Designated Representatives on November 2, 2020 with a deadline for voting of December 7, 2020. An individual profile of each candidate was posted on the OPC Foundation web site. Elected to the Board seats for 2021/2022 were:
- Russ Agrusa, Mitsubishi
- Matthias Damm, ascolab
- Bernhard Eschermann, ABB
- Stefan Hoppe, BECKHOFF
- Fabrice Jadot, Schneider Electric
- Veronika Schmid-Lutz, SAP
- Jürgen Weinhofer, Rockwell Automation
Congratulations, and thanks to all who voted!
The Next Generation of Communication
Between Controllers and with Devices Running in the Field, Edge, or Even Cloud
Launched in November 2018 at a crowded press conference in Nuremberg, Germany, the Field Level Communications (FLC) Initiative published its first public “Technical Paper” after 2 years (Download here: https://opcfoundation.org/FLC) to explain the goal and status on a technical level. In addition, all Technical Chairpersons presented their specific topics to over 600 registered attendees (See recording here: https://youtu.be/DPqPVkWUEAA). This group is now the center of gravity to define the next generation of communication between controllers themselves and with devices running in the field, edge, or even cloud!
Some people believed at the beginning that the OPC Foundation would define just “another fieldbus” for factory automation. However, this was not the goal, but the approach is much broader. It is about the same interface and the same behavior among devices in the process industry and factory automation to meet all requirements. In the process industry, OPC UA with the extensions of the Advanced Physical Layer (APL), ensure the FLC initiative will become the new standard over the next several decades! Already in 2019 the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF) group has chosen OPC UA, and OPC UA is also set for the “Namur Open Architecture (NOA) diagnostic channel” (the 2nd channel). It is up to us and the FLC initiative to define the missing pieces of the puzzle (like offline configuration and much more) to deliver with good quality and grow into the 1st data channel as well.
The world of OPC UA-based technological building blocks which can be optionally selected for your application continues to grow. OPC UA Safety, OPC UA Motion and determinism via TSN or 5G will still take some time, but the forces are clearly united under the umbrella of the OPC Foundation as the strongest worldwide “melting pot”.
Information Models and Collaborations
The list of information models in the areas of process industry, factory automation and energy continues to grow inexorably –right now over 60 initiatives can be found here. For example, new partnerships arise, like with Spectaris: “Laboratory Agnostic Device Standard” (LADS) based on OPC UA”; also proven partners like the VDMA start with another 4(!) groups in the new year; and our American friends from CESMII work on “OPC UA for Cloud Library”. We will report much more in early next year.
Looking to 2021
First the really great news: BioNTech was the first company to develop an mRNA-based human vaccine for intravenous injection. The real mastermind is the German doctor of Turkish origin Dr. Özlem Türeci who, together with her husband Uğur Şahin, was able to push this process so far. In the meantime, there are other preparations from other manufacturers around the world – and that is great and necessary and means a light at the end of the dark tunnel!
Hardly Any Industry Fairs Next Year
It will be the end of 2021 until the vaccine is produced in sufficient quantity and a worldwide vaccination coverage of 60%-70% can be achieved. There will be no real trade shows in the first three quarters of the year – no company will pay huge amounts of money for a booth if no potential customers arrive.
The OPC Foundation will therefore continue to generate and distribute information via virtual meetings and other channels such as podcasts and webinars.
In terms of content, the further work on the information models but also their harmonization and integration into digital twins will be the decisive topics in 2021.
Again, and as always, we are looking forward to the broad, active, and voluntary cooperation in the world of Industrial Interoperability between the OPC Foundation and our friends.
This year I wish us -above all else- health in these pandemic times. Take care of yourself and do not cause harm unto others! If everyone acts like this, we don’t have to worry about our families and friends!