President’s Welcome – March 2021

Welcome,

Before I start with a report on our activities, I would like to share with you a future focus of the OPC Foundation activities.

Avoid Cloud Vendor Lock-in!

With cloud services becoming more popular, it is time to ensure that the industry does not repeat the mistake of vendor lock-in with respect to the cloud. Just imagine the effort it might take to switch your cloud provider 5 years from now, when you are using customized information models in communication and storage today…

Many years ago, users put pressure on control vendors to agree on one single, secured access to solve their vendor/protocol lock-in. While this was a question of “which protocol to use?”, for the cloud, this question is not the primary key aspect. MQTT is currently the most popular and widely adopted –which is why OPC UA makes use of it too! Of greater importance is the standardization and unification of data and its meaning. The OPC Foundation, along with strong industry partners and their members, has already defined 65+ so-called Companion Specifications for different markets. This combination of OPC UA + Companion Specs is precisely the key to digitization of the industry.

Using OPC UA means transporting standardized information from as near as possible to a source (like the flow meter) up to the cloud (and back to IT systems), via standardized interfaces, independent of underlying protocols (like TCP, UDP, MQTT, AMQP, etc.), but with end-to-end security. It’s a powerful proposition.

Sure, each of the hyperscalers have their own internal data format – but all of them should support the import/export of Companion Specs via OPC UA as an enabler for “cloud interoperability”!

Many pieces of the puzzle have already been initiated already:

  • Today, extensions for the most-used protocol in the cloud (MQTT) and its payload encoding (JSON/UA binary) are already defined in OPC UA Part 14
  • The “UA for Cloud Library” joint working group (JWG) together with CESMII for data models stored in the cloud
  • Done by DIN: Cloud confederation for cross-platform data exchange (DIN 92222 specification)
  • Definition of method calls, and single data reads/writes via MQTT in the works

The upcoming OPC Foundation’s “IIoT Starter Kit” is certainly an important piece too – this kit will be available as an open solution in a first version in June this year – prepare to be surprised!


OPC Foundation Ecosystem

After surpassing the 800-member milestone, with Shenzhen Inovance Technology at the end of 2020, The OPC Foundation is looking forward to many more new members this year. Recent, new Class-A members who we would like to welcome include ifm electronic gmbh, Microchip Technology, Thermo-Fisher, Weatherford, SUPCON, and the cloud provider AWS.

With Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and now Amazon Web Services, there are 3 major hyperscaler members of the OPC Foundation – as well as Intel, NXP, Microchip, and Qualcomm as chip manufacturers – who would have imagined all this 6 years ago?

OPC Foundation Networking

However, the number, or even size and market-share of our members is not always the benchmark. “Are they really active?”, is always the exciting question. The answer…: ARC Forum 2021 – OPC UA everywhere!

The OPC Foundation had already been very active in its preparations for the 2021 virtual ARC Forum to share the experience reports of users from the process and manufacturing industries with the audience of the virtual ARC Forum.

It took just one email between Christmas and New Year’s with the request: “actually you should be offline and recovering – but maybe you could briefly confirm that you are helping the OPC Foundation to share your experience at the ARC Forum.” This quickly resulted in the positive response from all participants and well-known companies like Equinor (former Statoil) and BASF from the process industry, and Renault and BMW from the manufacturing industry. As vertical information connectivity is becoming more and more important, it was a pleasure to welcome AWS, alongside Microsoft and Google Cloud, to act as a speakers during the ARC Forum.

The OPC Foundation used the ARC appearance to present the roadmap of the OPC FLC initiative and its specifications “OPC UA FX” (Field Exchange). Besides our very own OPC UA technology, it was exciting that our partners OPAF and VDMA could also promote the importance of semantics and their standardization results at the ARC Forum.

Of course, we are very proud of the agreements reached with organizations representing both the process industry and the manufacturing industry. It shows that the OPC Foundation is an incredibly agile network internally. This network has certainly grown not only through virtual conferences but also through face-to-face meetings, listening, and noticing each other’s openness and spirit. As much as I benefit from less travel health-wise and like to save the travel time itself, I am looking forward to meeting with business colleagues again as soon as this is possible again.

New: Regional Corner

In some areas of the world like China, (almost) normal activities are already taking place again. In other regions like Japan, an OPC Day Japan with more than 600 (!) registrants yielded an incredible response. Of course the world is more colorful and much bigger than we have depicted here in the newsletter so far, and so we want to report more about our global achievements. For this purpose, we have introduced a new “Regional Corner” (news from China here and news from Japan here) in the newsletter, and I am looking forward to the reports of all colleagues from the OPC worldwide community.

Upcoming Events

It will probably not be until the end of the year that physical fairs will take place again (we are planning the SPS fair as a physical event with a 240 sqm booth space). See call for participation here: https://opcfoundation.org/news-events/events/.

Until then, the OPC Foundation will actively participate in various upcoming virtual activities:

  • April, 12-16, 2021 Hannover Fair, virtual
    The OPC Foundation booked a virtual booth and companies Matrikon, Prosys OPC, Siemens, Unified Automation, will have their representatives on the virtual booth.
    See more information here: https://www.hannovermesse.de/en/.
  • April, 12-16, 2021 OPC UA Interoperability Workshop, virtual
    In 2021 the OPC Foundation is organizing its first worldwide, virtual IOP Workshop (online), which will connect OPC enabled products from all around the world to ensure global interoperability and Plug & Play solutions. Vendors can test and debug their products against one another for interoperability, robustness, and reliability. Learn more at https://opcfoundation.org/event-details/?ee=281.
  • June 8-10, 2021 OPC Day International, virtual
    Register today, free of charge, at https://opcfoundation.org/event-details/?ee=257 for the 3 days with 3 hours each (running twice per day to cover all time zones) of “firsthand OPC Foundation and OPC UA information”. In addition to keynotes on the first day for overview and direction (incl. cloud strategy), the second “technical day” will feature reports from leaders from the OPC UA Core Team. This will include the presentation and explanation of the IIoT Starter Kit (also based on “OPC UA over MQTT”, among others). On third day we address end users providing information about migration steps but also success stories around the world from other end-users.
  • June 15/16, 2021 Achema Pulse, virtual
    The OPC Foundation actively supports the activities of the “Ethernet APL Initiative” at this event. This is big news. It is important to have a single powerful transport infrastructure that scales from the sensor to the edge that can handle different fieldbus protocols such as Ethernet/IP, HART-IP, PROFINET, and in addition also OPC UA for interoperable data exchange protocol. In addition to supporting the APL initiative, we will also be visible independently as the OPC Foundation. The combination “OPC UA over APL and SPE” will be the solution for the next decades because OPC UA scales vertically from the sensor to the cloud and back, but also enables horizontal communication, supports standardized data models, and includes tested IT security. Of all the solutions mentioned, only the OPC Foundation delivers this feature package including the OPC UA FX extensions as a harmonized approach from our FLC initiative. We will explain the migration steps in detail.

Companion Specifications

In previous years, the OPC Foundation press conferences proudly reported on the progress of a small number of Companion Specifications. In February 2021 alone, five Companion Specifications have been released as Release Candidates for public review. If you look closely, you will notice that all these Companion Specs have been managed by our key partner, the VDMA, and its affiliated partners like Euromaps, Eumabois, and Weihenstephan to name just a few.

  • Release Candidate: OPC 40083 – UA for Plastics & Rubber – General Types, V1.03
  • Release Candidate: OPC 40550 – UA for Woodworking Machines
  • Release Candidate: OPC 40223 – UA for Pumps and Vacuum Pumps
  • Release Candidate: OPC 40600 – UA for Weihenstephan Standards
  • Release Candidate: OPC 40250 – UA for Compressed Air Systems

Find all 12 Companion Specs available as release candidate here:
https://opcfoundation.org/developer-tools/specifications-opc-ua-information-models/information-model-release-candidates-for-review/.

We are experiencing an incredibly exciting time right now – enjoy reading this new edition!
I wish us all the best, and please stay healthy!

Stefan Hoppe
President, OPC Foundation
stefan.hoppe{AT}opcfoundation.org