Rockwell Brings OPC UA to Field-Level Devices

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 @ 03:12 PM gHale

Rockwell Automation joined an OPC Foundation initiative to extend the OPC UA protocol to field-level industrial communications.

Under the initiative, a series of working groups are being formed to bring the OPC UA protocol’s vendor-independent, end-to-end interoperability to field-level devices. The initiative plans to address use cases not currently in scope for EtherNet/IP. It could also simplify other use cases, especially in multi-vendor, controller-to-controller environments and for the vertical integration of field devices.

“Extending the OPC UA protocol to the field level or shop floor can help simplify system development and accelerate a company’s journey to a Connected Enterprise,” said Paul Brooks, business development manager at Rockwell.

As the primary author of the EtherNet/IP specifications, Rockwell understands EtherNet/IP users may see compatibility risks in technology developed for a different ecosystem. The company intends to mitigate these risks through its ongoing development of EtherNet/IP and its intentions for the OPC UA protocol.

Rockwell’s priorities within the new OPC Foundation initiative include working to help ensure the following:
• OPC UA specifications are written with the same level of rigor and completeness as the EtherNet/IP specifications
• Time-sensitive networking (TSN) is commonly applied across the OPC UA, EtherNet/IP and PROFINET protocols, so all three can coexist on a common TSN-based network
• OPC UA pub/sub technology is implemented in a way that allows existing EtherNet/IP installations to support OPC UA devices
• OPC UA hardware requirements allow the protocol to be deployed on hardware platforms that are common in today’s EtherNet/IP components
• OPC UA software requirements allow the protocol to be deployed within current EtherNet/IP-centric software tools without significant changes to user workflows
• Conformance test practices mandated for EtherNet/IP reflect the necessary requirements for OPC UA conformance testing

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