TechnologyJanuary 16, 2023

OPC UA enabling technology for IIoT communications

There is an urgent need to improve cyber security for OT that must start with education and research.

OPC UA easily connects the shop floor to the top floor in a semantic and standardized way. It provides proven technology that is essential to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and enterprise connectivity, and can possibly be standardized for a whole industry segment or company via companion specifications.

OPC UA technology is making an ongoing impact with its ability to enhance factory and network communications. Check out our Q&A with Oliver Jöhnßen of Siemens on the value of this technology in manufacturing.

What key technical trends are driving the adoption of OPC UA automation, control and networking solutions? How does OPC UA fit into the broader Industrial Ethernet ecosystem?

OPC UA can easily be used on any industrial automation or HMI device and so is an ideal possibility of integrating special components, such as measuring applications, or innovating existing machines, vendor independent. OPC UA fits perfectly into new or existing industrial ethernet systems as it runs convergent to many other standardized protocols.

What are the key technical advantages of automation systems that utilize OPC UA technology solutions? What are its primary technology benefits for automation and control networking?

Automation systems, utilizing OPC UA have the key technical advantage that they still communicate in their proven way, e. g. via PROFINET and PROFIsafe and additionally integrate third-party applications via OPC UA in horizontal and vertical direction up to Industrial Edge and Cloud systems. Via OPC UA information model, production data are converted into comprehensive information, containing values, units and accompanying information.

What is the impact of OPC UA on the types of network architectures that are possible? What are the advantages of these new approaches?

OPC UA extends existing networks especially towards Industrial Edge or cloud applications and easily exchanges information with these Apps. This enables customers to integrate essential solutions such as predictive maintenance, performance optimization and determination of KPIs. Thanks to “security by design” in OPC UA, cloud connectivity enjoys maximum data privacy.

OPC UA easily connects the shop floor to the top floor in a semantic and standardized way and so contributes essentially to IoT and enterprise connectivity, possibly standardized for a whole industry segment or company via companion specifications. This increases productivity in the production, ensures secure data connection via OPC UA GDS and speeds up trouble shooting with OPC UA A&C.

What are the engineering challenges that the newest OPC UA systems and architectures are designed to address, and how is OPC UA evolving to provide more comprehensive solutions?

With OPC UA, I/O data become “comprehensive information” including ‘value’ and ‘unit’. So, previous errors in interconnecting metric values and imperial values are avoided. Thanks to efficient engineering in SiOME via drag&drop, production data from the field are quickly mapped to an OPC UA information model. The companion specification guarantees easy integration of machines throughout an entire industry segment, e. g. OMAC PackML for packaging industry.

Oliver Jöhnßen, Senior Marketing Manager, Digital Industries, Siemens