The reinvention of traditional factories as smart factories will be crucial to maximise production and compete in the future market. But... how can we overcome the barriers of communication protocols between electronic and digital components to interconnect all devices and exploit the ecosystem to the maximum? OPC UA is presented as the fastest, safest and most practical solution: simplicity in one single protocol to implement Industry 4.0 communications.
What is OPC UA?
OPC UA is the evolution of the OPC protocol. Flexible, user-friendly and, as mentioned above, secure. IP network communications, with inbound and outbound interfaces and gateways in the devices that make up the fabric, together with firewalls, tangle and complicate the sending of data over the local network. OPC UA is a protocol that simplifies and improves communications between clients and servers, sources and databases. One single protocol for communicating via programmable devices in factories, terminals and the cloud, as we can see in the diagram in the OPC foundation video.
The devices used in the industrial sector are not so different from the mobile phone we carry in our pocket or the activity tracker we wear on our wrist. They are programmable processors that send and receive information, communicating with different platforms in the same way that a smartwatch communicates with an Android or iOS system.
This digital ecosystem that we set up with our devices (mobile phone, TV, fitness wristband, smart watch and scale, bluetooth headset...) is known as the Internet of Things (IoT), and its implementation in factories is what OPC UA aims to facilitate in order to build Industry 4.0..
5 advantages of OPC UA
Why is OPC-UA the leading communication protocol in the industry? Let's take a look at its main advantages:
- Reliability and security: it has a common template for all data and also encrypts messages and includes authentication and permissions systems.
- Ease of integration: it is such a flexible protocol that the implementation of OPC UA communications in a distributed system is much faster and simpler.
- Interoperability: it connects factory programmable devices (actuators and controllers), terminals (of any operating system, unlike classic OPC) and the cloud without requiring the integration of further protocols.
- Real-time data visualisation and processing: the simplicity of OPC UA also translates into a high data transmission speed that allows data science techniques to be applied in industrial environments.
- High performance: in addition to all the above advantages, OPC UA boasts high performance compared to other communication protocols.
OPC UA: the road to Industry 4.0
One of the most remarkable points of OPC UA is its ability to adapt to new technologies. Its simplicity in implementing the Internet of Things in the industrial environment will in turn promote the implementation of other necessary tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cobots.
Among the top engineering profiles for 2021, robotics and industrial engineers top the list. Undoubtedly, smart factories are the future of production and OPC UA is a key tool to achieving this.
The world of engineering will be full of challenges in the coming years: the uncanny valley in robot design, electric cars and renewable energies, resource scarcity, 3D printing and, of course, smart factories. If you are an engineer, are passionate about industry and want to make Industry 4.0 a reality, don’t stay on the back foot and take a step forward with BETWEEN!