Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the most promising trend in the Industrial Revolution. Industries are now leveraging the power of the internet to interconnect their systems to improve their overall communication process. This interconnection will produce the best results if there is a semantic flow of data and a well-defined architecture. This is where the challenge is for the industries.
OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is an international standard for industrial communication between the various layers of the industrial pyramid. It is an IEC standard protocol and is a successor to the OPC Classic specification. What makes OPC UA different from OPC Classic is that it is platform-independent, unlike the latter, which could be used only on for Microsoft (OLE) systems.
OPC UA gained popularity in 2007, around the time of the introduction of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in industrial automation systems. Being IEC compliant, it can be easily implemented in areas where communication between devices is required.
OPC UA, a potent solution to overcome interoperability challenges in Industry 4.0
One of the major challenges that I4.0 poses for industries is interoperability. OPC UA proves to be a solution through its semantic communication standard. This is important because the information transfer is mostly between devices and machines, which can hardly understand ambiguous instructions. The more precise instructions, the better result they will produce.
The main crux behind implementing the best OPC UA for your automation system is the choice of tools. Since the devices on IIoT or in any industrial automation environment are controlled by a software application, a well-functioning software development kit (SDK) is necessary. It ensures a quality user experience for end-users and software engineers.
Choose the right software development kit for OPC UA
The key to implementing an effective OPC UA depends on the right selection of software development kit. We have listed out ten points that an automation manufacturer, OEM, discrete and process manufacturer must take note of while choosing an SDK.
Right SDK vendor
Most of the companies lack enough resources, both technical and human. The best they can do is outsource their requirements. Therefore, the chosen SDK must be such that it meets their application requirements and improves the product’s time to market. While choosing the SDK it should be profitable both in terms of money and performance. Most of the SDK vendors offer the basic functions that enable the fundamental OPC UA benefits, like security and API, for better abstraction languages.
A scalable SDK enables the implementation of OPC UA in all new and existing systems. Therefore, the manufacturers must consider a scalable SDK, which must accommodate any type of hardware, be platform-agnostic, OS, and vendor independent. This enables the platform-independent OPC UA toolkits to work efficiently in any environment be it a small embedded or a large enterprise-based application.
Ease of Use
This is one of the obvious yet overlooked factors. An SDK should be easy to use and understand, so the OEMs or small-scale manufacturers can save time and energy in understanding the in-depth knowledge of the OPC UA specification. It must deploy a simple application and provide integration using APIs.
An OPC UA SDK if written based on the architectural principles for embedded systems, utilizes much less CPU. It means the application can perform significant work in a single thread as well. It comes in handy where the multi-threads aren’t available. This in turn reduces the overall cost, as a low-cost CPU can do most of the work, in such cases.
Software, of course, runs on memory. A good OP UA implementation should not have a huge footprint, and should be easy on RAM. Further, memory leaks can accumulate over time and bring the entire system down. It is imperative that there be no memory leaks (under all use case scenarios) in the OP UA SDK.
Compatibility and Security
OPC UA SDK toolkit must be compatible with a wide range of applications and security requirement. The O UA standard supports various security modes, an ideal SDK should support all of them.
Even though C++ is the most commonly used language to write SDK codes, other languages such as Java, C, .NET, etc. are also used depending on the requirements. Developing an OPC UA SDK in different languages pose challenges to make incremental improvements to their products depending on the already available specifications like AMQP, Pub/Sub and UDP.
Third-Party libraries play a crucial role in the software application process. Most companies have their preferred library, therefore most SDK vendors offer wrappers like standard crypto libraries, use-case examples, manuals, and API reference to use wrappers like NanoSSL, mBed TLS, TinyXML2, and Lib2XML.
Accommodate Future Enhancements
While implementing any protocol, the manufacturers must ensure the SDK vendors are well equipped with knowledge and skills to maintain agility in performance owing to the ongoing developments around SDKs, and the OPC Foundation based technologies like AMQP Pub/Sub, UDP, and TSN.
SDK vendors must be willing to support the manufacturers in every step of their OPC UA implementation with their expertise. A relationship based on trust, mutual benefits and understanding is key to an effective OPC UA implementation.
OEMs, discrete, and process manufacturers must ensure to work with a team that understands OPC UA specifications and implements them in their best interest.
Utthunga offers the best OPC UA services focused to make our clients I4.0 ready. Our expert team consists of professionals recognized by the OPC Foundation, and are armed with the right expertise and knowledge for the implementation of OPC UA on any platform. Contact us to know more!