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Enabling OPC UA and TSN for Field Devices


    Earlier this month Analog Devices, Arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), B&R Industrial Automation, Lattice Semiconductor, Schneider Electric and Texas Instruments, entered a collaboration to create a permissive, open source OPC UA over TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) stack on FreeRTOS. The goal is to simplify and accelerate the development of efficient, smart and secure industrial field devices compliant with OPC UA FX (for Field eXchange) and with that enable a broad eco-system adoption across the manufacturing industry.

    This new initiative focuses on enabling OPC UA and Ethernet TSN for compute and memory constrained devices such as microcontrollers and low power FPGA based SoC (System on Chip) devices.

    OPC Foundation drives the standardization of information models for field devices based on OPC UA, support for Ethernet TSN for IT/OT network convergence based on one vendor-independent communication standard, standardization of application profiles (e.g., IO, motion control, safety, etc.) and cyber security in industrial automation.

    Traditionally, OPC UA was only supported on CPU based controller devices such as PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller), Industrial PCs, HMI devices or SCADA systems. Today, these controllers are capable of providing higher level services based on the necessary low-level data for machine representation and sensor/actuator information. However, they typically share only a fraction of the raw data available from sensors and actuators because it is aggregated, omitted or only alarms are retained.

    All the data, all the insight

    The quality of higher-level Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) services like predictive maintenance, cloud-based analytics and digital twins depend on the quality of the raw data on which they are based. To deliver on the promise of smart manufacturing, process optimization and adaptive systems, unadulterated raw data must be retrieved directly from the source – including metadata such as units, access rights and timestamps. With OPC UA and TSN enabled at the sensor and actuator level, continuous insight and dataflow will be ensured without disturbing machine operations while still applying the latest zero-trust security principles. Combined with the outstanding real-time capabilities of TSN, this will be a truly IoT capable field-bus solution on the market.

    These organizations will work together to develop permissive open-source software components, provide reference designs and starting guides on multiple silicon offerings and sensor to cloud IIoT use cases.

    “FreeRTOS ’ scalability, reliability, wide processor architecture support, and permissive licensing makes it a natural fit for this project. FreeRTOS’s 20-year heritage and global userbase also makes it a popular and familiar choice for both the collaborating companies and their customers,” says Richard Barry – Senior Principal Engineer, Amazon Web Services (AWS).

    “This initiative will be a fundamental accelerator for market adoption of OPC UA FX including TSN and with this making a major step toward adaptive and self-learning manufacturing systems,” mentions Stefan Schönegger, Global Product Group Manager Controls, – B&R Industrial Automation.

    “Arm is firmly committed in its support for standardized approaches to core IoT technologies. OPC UA and TSN will enable microcontroller class devices to connect to cloud services in a secure fashion and empower a huge developer community to bring smarter Industrial IoT devices to market faster,” says Kevin Ryan, senior director, GTM and Ecosystem, IoT Business, Arm.

    “As efforts towards the relevant TSN standards progress and semiconductor solutions become available, the development of an ecosystem to support interoperability in the control plane is the next step to realizing the factory of the future. A common, scalable approach to management, as well as the development of communication protocol stacks over TSN, such as OPC UA FX, will help to enable the necessary transformation in industrial networks which will be foundational to achieving the goals of the smart factory,” notes Jordon Woods, Analog Devices.

    “For true scalability, open standards require open-source implementations. FreeRTOS-based open-source solutions will enable deep embedded industrial applications on microcontrollers to participate in the interoperable OPC UA FX from configuration to real-time data flow,” comments Pekka Varis, Senior Member Group Technical Staff, Texas Instruments Inc.

    “The adoption of a common set of industry standards such as OPC UA FX including TSN is essential to delivering scalable enhanced feature sets and system reliability as the digital transformation of the factory floor continues. Lattice is committed to enabling a secure, safe, and robust industrial ecosystem to help system engineers achieve their design goals and get to market quickly, knowing they can add capabilities to their system throughout its lifetime with our power efficient industrial FPGA solutions,” says Matt Dobrodziej, Vice President of Segment Marketing and Business Development, Lattice Semiconductor.

    “The goal of this community is to build a collaborative and open ecosystem to drive the adoption of OPC UA FX in the market. OPC UA FX will bring the much-needed openness, consistency and vertical integration across all of industrial automation, paving a path towards an adaptive and smart manufacturing,” notes Abhishek Peechara, Director Innovation & Technology division – Schneider Electric.

    Learn more with commentary from ARC Advisory Group: