How OPC UA is Revolutionizing Industrial Automation

How OPC UA is Revolutionizing Industrial Automation

revolutionizing Industrial Automation

Think about a production plant or a manufacturing unit, it is a visual cacophony of machines, robots, assembly lines, drives and many more parts, and yet completely (almost!) synchronized and working together. Bringing all of them together is the Industrial Internet of Things coupled with the open, Ethernet-based OPC UA communication standard that forms an critical part of the industrial automation landscape.

OPC UA does the job of integrating the IT/OT technologies with the diverse products, solutions and services across the entire OEMs, factory and process systems. Whether it is the security measures, networking, establishing standardized communication or needing a vendor and platform neutrality, OPC UA lays the foundation for a digitized industrial automation .

Source: Opcfoundation.org, OPC UA Interoperability for Industry 4.0 and IoT.

Connecting machine data to the enterprise

It is a fact that automation in the industrial world open doors for new business opportunities, enhanced solutions and services. But, the reality faced is how to effectively transfer the raw data generated from the shop floor equipment to the business applications like ERPs, CRMs; and draw insights to take actionable decisions for a competitive advantage.

Having a fully automated OEM unit or process system means having real-time and accurate information from these systems for analysis, machine alerts, maintenance notifications etc. based on your priorities. OPC UA provides two paths for this integration process:

  1. Via customized development solutions and services through OPC UA stack APIs
  2. Providing COTS solutions such as connectors, servers, clients etc. that connect your machines, field devices and other equipment etc. to the enterprise

OPC UA is the open source communication standard protocol designed specifically for industrial automation. It acts as a bridge that connects the IT with the OT, for information exchange between machines, devices or within devices. Implementation of this magnitude needs extensive software and hardware support through the OPC SDK that helps the stakeholders to overcome the various development and integration challenges associated with this process.

Consisting of APIs, OPC UA stack, protocols and sample implementations that support different platforms like Windows, Android, iOS, Linux, and programming languages like C, C# and Java; the SDK makes your devices, products and applications to be OPC enabled.

Meeting the Industry 4.0 requirements

Industry 4.0 mandates interoperability and standardized data connectivity for meeting its specific requirements including but not limited to

  • Integration across all levels.
  • Secure transfer and authentication at user and application levels.
  • Conformity to industry standards.
  • Scalability.
  • Semantic mapping of various information models to represent the actual products and their production steps.
  • Ability to plug-and-produce (instant discovery mechanisms that identifies OPC UA enabled devices and their functions when added to a network)

OPC UA serves as the common data connectivity and collaboration standard for local and remote device access in IoT, M2M, and Industry 4.0 settings. It supports OPC UA Server development, OPC UA Client Development and OPC UA Nano Server development for various communication mechanisms:

1. OPC UA client/server Model:

This one-to-one communication mechanism is used extensively in automation. The OPC server transfers the data to the OPC client based upon request in a secure, encrypted and reliable manner using the communication protocols such as EtherNet/IP, Modbus, etc.

2. OPC UA PubSub Model:

In the network, one-to-many or many-to-one communication mechanism is established. The data is available from the publisher, which can be accessed by multiple subscribers. Along with Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) and cloud environment, OPC UA PubSub enables real-time communication at the control level (sensor, actuator or embedded devices) and meets the demands of time-critical applications.

3. OPC UA over TSN:

While OPC UA provides a standardized mechanism for data communication in a secure way; TSN is the infrastructure of vast array of sensors, actuators and other automation devices that extends the OPC UA information model down to the field level. TSN provides interoperability to the data link (layer 2) of the communication network. Thus, allowing guaranteed, optimized and scalable bandwidths for real-time capability and low latency in the network.

Utthunga’s OPC Spectrum

Utthunga’s comprehensive integrated automation service portfolio extends from the field-level devices to the enterprise-level systems. Enabling in this endeavour is Utthunga’s uOPC Suite, OPC product portfolio; and consultation and development services that help manufacturers to take advantage of all the modern technologies like AI, mobile devices, big data, machine learning, predictive maintenance, machine vision and more to create a smart industry automation environment.

As a flexible partner for OPC UA, our OPC offerings designed by experienced and certified professionals provide both horizontal (between devices from different vendors on different networks) and vertical support (from the factory floor to the enterprise level) thus enabling the industry 4.0 ecosystem.

Our technical and domain expertise in embedded, mobile, multi-platform and cloud connectivity for OPC UA Server development, OPC UA Client Development and OPC UA Nano Server development using the uOPC Suite helps in planning, executing, and delivering high-grade services and turnkey projects. It is designed to drastically reduce time and efforts to build custom solutions with easy integration and configuration.

Partners, end users, and customers can leverage our IP to deliver mix of solutions and services for:

  • Building products using out accelerators (protocol stacks, edge connectivity stack – uCOnnect, cloud application framework- Javelin)
  • Connecting heterogeneous system using our industry protocols stacks (HART, FF, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP etc.)
  • Creating field device integration and connectivity (FDT/DTM, FDI, OPC) solutions

Please visit our website or contact us directly to learn more about our OPC UA capabilities.

Software Testing in Industry 4.0

Software Testing in Industry 4.0

The fourth edition of the Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, as it is commonly known is here to stay. The industrial processes are now witnessing a collaboration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) for overall performance and business improvement. As digital transformation paves its way, industries are using more and more software to accomplish various tasks. Software vendors, be it ISVs or industrial OEMs, need reliable software testing tools to ensure the quality of these systems.

The quality and sustainability of an industrial automation system has to be thoroughly tested before it reaches the market. The software needs to be reliable and defect free to prevent any serious health or financial damage to the company. It needs to undergo field device testing, interoperability testing, pre-compliance or pre-certification testing and security testing besides the usual functional and non-functional testing.

Functional testing:

Ensures each function of the software is in compliance with the required specification Is independent of the source of the codes
Involves black box and white box testing
Necessary and relevant inputs are given and the results are compared with the ideal outcome

Nonfunctional testing:

Ensures features like software usability, reliability, security, etc. are in place and the product is ready to be launched
Primary focus is on customer expectation
Gives insights into the working of the software
Software testing in industrial automation systems
In the internet of industrial things, variety of systems and components are connected together to work as a single system. An IIoT network can be said to be a combination of:

Field devices like sensors, actuators
Embedded devices
Desktop applications
Enterprise applications
Cloud applications
Each of these is dependent on software in some way or the other. Therefore, for assurance of quality, it is imperative to carry out testing for each of these component types.

To test each of them, a proper test framework required. The framework functions at different levels and tests various industrial field devices, hosts, applications and network for both functional and non-functional parameters. Here the quality assurance professionals ensure delivery of product and solution as per guidelines and specifications. Software testing involves setting of test jigs and test beds, which provide support for both actual testing and test simulations.

Some of the testing areas are as below:

Industrial sensors

Industrial sensors are an imperative part of the industrial automation system. They help collect measurable data for functional testing purposes. The type of testing of sensors depends on the nature and application of sensors in the field.

Embedded devices

In order to check if the software and hardware in an embedded system meets the required expectations of both functional and non-functional attributes, it needs to be tested. Any protocol compliance testing company will run tests that not only picks out the bugs but also improves the system performance, efficiency and reduces the risks for both company and its customers.

Desktop and enterprise applications

A desktop application is essentially a software that monitors or controls the devices or performs other tasks (local to the plant) from a desktop. Enterprise applications on the other hand are mostly web-based that provide a business or an enterprise with macro information that directly impact profitability.

Cloud/on premise applications

Whether you use a third-party application like cloud to store data or store everything within the company, you need to make sure the applications are safe, secure, available and efficient.

Conclusion

With the continued adoption of IIoT and the explosion in the number of things/nodes in the local, private and public industrial networks, software vendors must ensure that their products are top notch with few or no defects. Defective or error prone nodes in the network will become the bottleneck and undermine the value of the entire system.

It is here that testing frameworks and rigorous device testing and compliance testing play an important role to ensure industrial products operate as expected.

We at Utthunga are experts in providing end-to-end testing services that includes software, hardware and firmware. Contact us to know more about our software testing which is so very critical in the era of Industry 4.0.

5 Practical Applications of IIoT in Industrial Automation

5 Practical Applications of IIoT in Industrial Automation

industrial automation

Industrial Internet of Things or IIoT refers to interconnected instruments, sensors and other devices which can be networked together in an industrial setting. This connectivity enables remote access, efficient monitoring, data acquisition and collection, analysis and exchange of different data sources and a lot more. IIoT solutions have enormous potential for increasing productivity, and are also known for their low cost and quick implementation.

IIoT solutions require various factors working together including:

  • Industrial ‘things’ – The devices that are directly or indirectly internet-enabled like human machine Interfaces (HMI), PLCs, IP cameras and sensors.
  • Connectivity – Connecting the internet with ‘things’ via industry protocols, Wi-Fi, 4G/cellular, Ethernet connections.
  • Data – Collection, storage and processing of data with the help of devices is central to the value of IIoT.
  • Cloud platform – A significant key to IIoT is the secure and centralised cloud platform to host the data and enable remote services.
  • Analytics dashboard – For analysis of data and monitoring machines.
  • Intelligence and action – Data is analysed by both smart device functions as well as humans to send alarms/notifications to any other system.

IIoT in industrial automation

On the threshold of fourth industrial revolution, industrial organizations are investing more in IIoT to improve the operational performance, visibility and insights, which can help in streamlining the processes. Eliminating the complexity out of deploying, connecting and managing devices in industries is key to IIoT success.

Here are some of the key benefits that you can expect from industrial IIoT solutions:

Increase Efficiency

The top benefit of IIoT is that it provides the ability to automate, remotely monitor operations and make data-driven decisions, thus enhancing the operational efficiency.

Reduce Errors

Industrial IoT digitizes nearly all processes. By reducing manual procedures and entries, the risk associated with human errors is largely reduced.

Provide Predictive Maintenance

Machine and asset downtime can adversely impact industrial operations. Industrial IoT solutions can consistently monitor the performance and functions of various industrial assets and help in creating a baseline. This baseline along with corresponding data can empower the industries with the information that will enable them resolve pre-emptively any issues.

Improve Safety

Fully functioning IIoT solutions have integrated safety systems that uses data from monitoring and control devices to help in improving workplace safety. In case, any incident occurs, valuable data is obtained from these systems, which can help in preventing their repeated occurrence in the future. Wearables are also used in industrial IoT operations that keep tab on things such as the surrounding noise levels and employee posture, etc. and can instantly alert the employees when they do not follow proper safety procedures.

Reduce Cost

The knowledge gained through the IIoT solutions provide important data-driven insights which help in improving the processes, including designing, operation, manufacturing, marketing, sales and a lot more, thus, steering the business in profitable direction.

Top 5 practical applications of IIoT in industrial automation

1. Remote access of machines

With remote access to industrial machines, the service engineers and other stakeholders can conveniently access the machine from their current locations, check their log files on the PLCs and change settings if required. It will take only a few minutes to access the machine and find problem, which will save a time-consuming trip to the manufacturer’s site.

2. Update new functionalities on HMIs

New functionalities are added to the machines to make the job more efficient and fast. While the programmer implements this functionality in the control panel of the machine, the HMI software needs to be updated, and tested in order to launch the new functionality. In that case, HMI software updates can be applied remotely through secure network access over the internet. With the web-based virtual network connection, you are able to view and check the HMI functionality anytime on that IIoT platform.

3. Predictive analysis for machine maintenance

As with all hardware, even the IIoT enabled machines undergo wear and tear before finally replaced with new equipments. In such scenarios, active and regular maintenance is crucial to prevent downtime and decreased production output. Using cloud to collect, store and access information on the machine parts, maintenance engineers can keep track of the remaining useful life (RUL) for every asset. Automatic notifications can be sent to the right person if an asset reaches its maintenance limit. By analysing the potential problems via remote access and online diagnostics tools, you are likely to get the right spare parts.

4. Analyse and optimize industrial robot actions

Industrial robots can make repetitive work easy. IIoT features with remote access can change the robot program actions and get better insights of the log files. Video analysis can also help in improving the actions of certain robots. Access to live stream and IP camera recordings can make improvements far more easy and fast. A VPN connection can be set up easily for full network access to any device that is connected to the robot.

5. Manage building automation data from multiple locations

IIoT can be used to monitor and control the heating, lighting, energy consumption, fire protection, employee safety and many other systems for multiple buildings from a central location. The real-time machine data can be transferred to a central cloud application, using industrial communication networks.

If you are planning to automate your processes in a smart way, then IIoT is the way to go. IIoT is bringing forth new business models to increase revenue, while at the same time acting as a force multiplier for improved productivity and efficiency.To know more about how Utthunga can help you create a smart building or factory and improve your business productivity, efficiency, reliability and ROI, visit https://utthunga.com/.

Top 4 IIoT advantages for Oil and Gas industry

Top 4 IIoT advantages for Oil and Gas industry

Oil and Gas industry

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the next big thing that’s happening across the industrial sector. An offset of the IoT, this technology revolves around the use of sensors, devices and software for industrial automation. A survey by McKinsey Digital states that IIoT is set to make an economic impact of up to $11.1 trillion by 2025. Companies that invest in IIoT are estimated to capture a major share of the profit margins. The oil and gas industry is one of the industries where IIoT is expected to play a huge role, both in terms of optimizing processes and enhancing safety.

Below are the four IIoT advantages for oil and gas industry to leverage and add value to their integrated business strategies.

1. Asset tracking, monitoring & maintenance:

A typical oil and gas company has multiple refineries that need to be regularly inspected for maintenance and repair. Though it is very important, in many cases, the staff may not be able to do a thorough physical inspection due to various reasons. Setting up an equipment and connecting it to an IoT network can help reduce the need for manual inspections a great deal.

IIoT can be effectively used in monitoring the working condition of field devices, sensors, actuators, valves and other assets of the refineries. Sensors can be fitted on the pumps, pipes, filters, valves and other components. These sensors collect data regarding the asset operation, temperature, speed, pressure or other parameters based on pre-determined conditions. They transmit the data in real time to an external storage, that could very well be on cloud. An experienced technician can analyse the data collected by the sensors to identify if there is any malfunction or impending malfunction in the asset.

At the same time, the sensors also enable technicians to keep track of all the mechanical components of the machineries used in the refineries. It also enables managers to keep track of the replacement parts and spare parts. Based on the tracking details, they will have information regarding the exact location of the new spare/replacement part. Therefore, IIoT enables real-time asset tracking and monitoring, which is not possible during manual inspections.

Moreover, the data collected by the IIoT network allows proactive identification of possible issues. So, technicians can immediately go to the exact point where the anomaly was observed based on the data and do the needful.

2. Data management:

The second major advantage of using an IIoT network is efficient and effective data management. Technologies such as cloud computing, standards based connectivity solutions, etc. help in better data management, which in turn reduces expenses and improves the profit margin. Integrated sensors collect data using industrial protocols from various assets present in the supervisory networks, plant networks, fieldbus networks and ICS networks. Cloud is used to aggregate, integrate and store data from different sources in different formats. Methods such as edge-analytics and edge-processing are used to analyse data and gain insights and information.

Two factors affect the informed decision-making process. First, is the need for reliable and accurate data, and second is the loss of experienced personnel due to organizational restructure or retirements. Through data analysis and remote monitoring, effective asset management and set up of maintenance programs will ensure that the decision makers streamline and optimise the rig operations.

Real-time data obtained from the IoT network can be used to improve the extraction process and drilling strategies. A study by Bain and Company shows that effective use of data management can help oil and gas companies improve their production by 6 to 8%. Also, with monitoring and maintenance, a lot of the unnecessary expenses can be cut down. Plus, the staff don’t need to spend a lot of time and effort on the field trying to identify possible causes of problems. The automated network brings all the data to their fingertips on their systems.

3. Supply chain, logistics & transportation

The supply chain and logistics is one place where IIoT can be very beneficial. Based on the data collected from various touchpoints of the network, managers can plan and schedule their procurements, supplies, and identify the best practises. Connectivity is a huge problem when pipelines and ships are transporting oil and gas. At such time, the stakeholders need to rely on satellite communication to transmit data. It is also difficult to regularly check the working condition and obtain regular updates on the oil pipelines or the ships. Low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN) can be installed in areas of pipelines that are difficult to access. Additionally, wired and wireless networks can be setup along the transportation lines to collect relevant data and transmit it to a cloud source via the satellite connectivity. The office staff will have reliable and accurate information that will help them organise the oil deliveries better.

4. Health & Safety:

One of the major areas where IIoT can play a huge role is health and safety of the employees as well as maintaining the carbon footprint of the refinery. Oil and gas drills and refineries are usually located in dangerous and far-flung areas away from the crowded cities. While the remote location makes it convenient to drill oil, the same distance can make it difficult when there are health and safety issues. A network of connected sensors can help get real-time data on what’s happening on the ground. Also, remote equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance can greatly reduce machine repairs and breakdowns. Data such as pressure, air conditions and other parameters captured by the sensors and real-time images captured by surveillance systems can help ensure that the highest safety standards is maintained at the job site. The workers at the drill site are asked to wear wearables with trackers to ensure their locations can be immediately identified and notified in case of emergencies. All this data can be used to reduce accidents and fatalities.

The IIoT data helps reduce spills, pipe leaks and accidents, which could cause environmental damages. It can also be used, to analyse and identify areas where the carbon footprint can be reduced.

IIoT is definitely the future of the oil and gas industries. This technology helps enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs and aid business growth by delivering real-time and accurate data. Utthunga is a tech-based company with expertise in industrial automation. We can set up an integrated IIoT system for all your oil drilling sites and refineries based on your specific requirements. Contact us to know more.

Top 10 Tips for Industrial PCB Design

Top 10 Tips for Industrial PCB Design

Industrial PCB Design

It does not matter if you are an experienced design engineer or a complete novice when it comes to an industrial PCB design. What matters is that for every piece of electronic appliance or industrial mechanical device, there is an printed circuit board (PCB) that plays an important role. These green boards provide the physical platform for the design of a complete electronics system with circuits and components together.

It is said correctly that the success or failure of any product’s function largely depends on the PCB layout product design and development. While PCB manufacturing (PCBM) and the PCB assembly (PCBA) are two different processes with their own unique requirements, they both have PCB design as a common factor.

The astounding level of technical advancements in embedded and semiconductor integration is resulting in shrinking the PCB designs. PCB layout and design services must consider the complexity and expectations of these designs that is reaching new heights.

In this blog, we outline the top ten tips or guidelines for industrial PCB product design and development.

1.Identifying the project need

The customer’s requirements dictates every embedded hardware design. This essentially involves thorough analysis of your project, budget, and requirements. Translating these requirements into an electronic form uses the technical skills and experience of an electronic design engineer. What is the type of your product, what is its operating environment; what are the powering options, communication mechanisms or the specifications/regulations does it comply? These are some questions that come to the PCB design engineers. Having these answers will help in identifying the best possible layout, initial schematic of the PCB, as well as the BOM and other details of your final PCB design.

2.Schematics:

The schematic diagram is the blueprint for PCB manufacturers and assemblers during the production processes. It is a diagrammatic representation of the electronic component symbols and the interconnections between them. Once all the design choices for the various components is finalised, this acts as baseline for developing the schematic design. Preliminary review and analysis is then performed to check for potential problems and then the corrected version is fed to the PCB design software, which can run simulations to ensure the correct functionality of the PCB. Some of the popular software are Eagle, KiCAD, Altium Designer and OrCAD.

3.Bill of Materials:

A bill of materials (BOM) is generated simultaneously along with the schematic’s creation. This is very handy as it lists out each components quantity, numerical values (like ohms, farads, voltage etc.), component part number, the reference designators and PCB footprint for each component. It defines how each component in the circuits is identified and located; the circuit element numbers used for purchasing and substitution, its size with respect to the PCB size etc. An updated BOM will save many complications in the later PCB design stage process.

4.Component placement:

Placing each component in its designated spot on a circuit board is the most critical part of designing. A wrong placement can cause various thermal, electrical noise and power variations in the circuits leading to malfunction of the PCB board and product failure. The design schematic generated earlier is used to determining the correct spot. The most common order of component placement followed by the designers are:

• Connectors

• Power circuits

• Sensitive and precision circuits

• Critical circuit components

• All other elements

The designer then verifies and reviews the initial component placement step and adjusts to facilitate routing and optimize performance. It is adjusted based on the cost and size factor also. Due considerations are given to

• PCB component placement with ground separation, power and isolation between high frequency components

• Place components with the same orientation for assembly easiness

• Print the layout to see if components’ sizes match to avoid any assembly and mechanical issue

At this point based on the size and cost, the placement and package sizes are often reconsidered and changes are made.

5.Thermal Management:

One of the most frequent design issue is thermal management of the PCBs. When heat dissipation is not considered, it leads to poor circuit performance or even a damaged board. Following are some tips to achieve high performance keeping the heating issues in mind:

• Place heat sensitive components (like thermocouples or electrolytic capacitors) away from heat generating components (like diodes, inductors, and resistors)

• Use PCB as heatsinks by using more layers of solid ground or power planes connected directly to heat sources with multiple vias

• Thermal vias dissipate heat from one side of the PCB to another. Having larger and multiple thermal vias lowers the operating temperature of components and contribute to higher reliability.

6.Wiring Considerations:

PCB wiring design is often a complicated process involving the power cord design, ground wire design and other wiring considerations. It is grouped into single wiring, double-sided wiring and multilayer wiring. It is good practice to follow some of the tips:

• Exchange wiring directions between layers. For multiple layers, alternate between directions

• Keep wiring and the distance between the wires uniform and equal

• Allow small loops in loop back wiring

• Ensure smooth soldering of the wiring

• Printed wiring corners should be rounded corners when used for circuit wire for dense or high frequency circuits

7.Mechanical Constraints:

Consider the mechanical constraints in advance before starting the placement and review during the embedded hardware design. There board materials used to create the PCB, the number of layers each PCB will have, the copper traces used to complete the connections, component selection based on availability, numbers, package type, cost and other determining factors. The PCB shape, size and board area are constrained by the PCB hosting cabinet used by the appliance or equipment.

8.Power Constraints:

Any huge current spikes or large voltage changes can interfere with the low voltage and current control circuits. A good power design guideline includes adequate separation, placement and coupling into its schematics.

In the PCB design, it’s recommended to use common rails for each supply, avoid longer power loop while routing and have solid and wide traces. Having separate power and ground planes internal to your PCB while also being symmetrical and centred will help to prevent your board from bending. You can place a small impedance path to reduce the risk of any power circuit interference and to help protect your control signals. The can be followed to keep your digital and analog ground separate.

9.Routing details:

A differential signaling is the process of using not just one, but two traces to transmit a signal on your board. They are (ideally) equal in magnitude and opposite in polarity, thus in the ideal case there is no net return current flow through ground.

There are many reasons for using a differential signaling like reducing the EMI, having precise timing to determine the current logic state a differential pair and separating the power systems.

To achieve the above benefits, it is recommended that you always route the differential signal traces in parallel, keep them as shortly and directly as possible between components. Also, maintain equal length and width of the traces while keeping the spacing constant between the trace pairs.

10.Perform Quality Checks:

One of the good practice of PCB layout and design services is to conduct a DFM and DFT checklist review before signing off your PCB designs for generating the Gerber files. The Gerber format is an open 2D binary vector image file format, which is used universally by the PCB design software. It describes the PCB images and are necessary to manufacture and assembly the final PCB boards. Some of the checklist involves verification of the component placements, routing paths, pre-scan for the thermal integrity and signal integrity among others.

Find an Assembly Service for Your PCB Design

Industrial PCB design can be a formidable task but by following the above basic techniques and best practices, it can lay the foundation for your success. Our expert product design engineering services can guide you with your next PCB design project with cost-effective services and assured quality standards.Contact us today to learn more about the industrial product design engineering services, the PCB design rules and assembly processes.

Top 10 Considerations While Implementing OPC UA

Top 10 Considerations While Implementing OPC UA

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.

Scalability

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.

CPU Utility

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.

Good Memory

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.

Language Support

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

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.

Vendor Support

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!