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Industrial Interoperability with OPC UA and the AAS

    At Hannover Fair 2023, the companies HARTING, Siemens, SAP and Microsoft are jointly demonstrating the value of interoperability leveraging IEC standards in several phases of a product’s lifecycle.

    The core of this technology demonstration is HARTING’s SmEC (Smart Electrical Connector). This connector leverages OPC UA in the physical connector and an Asset Administration Shell (AAS) in the cloud. The OPC UA technology is defined by the OPC Foundation, the home of industrial interoperability and standardized as IEC62541. The Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA), home to the AAS, is currently standardizing the AAS spec as part of IEC 62378. Both technologies save time and money during the connector’s design, production, installation, operation, and maintenance, by combining these technologies with software solutions from HARTING, Siemens, SAP and Microsoft.

    The technology demonstrator shows the accumulation of content inside the AAS: It begins with the provision of the SmEC’s AAS by the manufacturer HARTING leveraging the SIEMENS NX CAD System. In the next “stage of life”,the SmEC is installed in a machine. After that, in the next lifecycle phase, the completed machine is installed at the end user’s production site. The SmEC offers its interlocking status, the applied power, and the identified mating sockets as operational data.

    The connector communicates via its built-in OPC UA PubSub over MQTT publisher to AAS in the cloud: This way, the connector contributes to the condition and topology monitoring of the entire production system. The SmEC is the first HARTING connectivity component equipped with such an interface based on internationally proven, robust, secure technology: The operational data exchanged in the demonstrator is sent to the Microsoft Azure cloud, where the Azure Digital Twin and Azure Data Explorer services are leveraged for analytics.

    Another important part of the OPC UA PubSub data is the plug-in status or the ID of the mating socket. With the help of the rich metadata provided by OPC UA, this information can be made available directly in the AAS of a SmEC, without requiring data mapping or formatting. Modelling of operational data in the AAS is therefore no longer necessary, reducing complexity and saving time and money.

    This OPC UA and AAS integration is implemented open source and provided by the Digital Twin Consortium (DTC) on GitHub:

    The AAS thus provides the current asset hierarchy of the socket and connector, i.e., in what machine it is currently plugged into. This information can be leveraged by ERP systems like SAP S/4HANA or Manufacturing Execution Systems like SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud (SAP DMC) for any adHoc decisions which require the digital representation of the frequently changing constellation of the real-life asset.

    The technology demonstration can be seen in “live” operation at the following booths at Hannover Messe 2023: HARTING (hall 11 C15), IDTA (hall 8 D26), Microsoft (hall 17 G06), SAP (hall 15 E17), SIEMENS (hall 9 D53).

    Detlef Tenhagen