The Future of Industrial Communication

In all these years, there has never been a standardized way to communicate between devices in industrial environment.
We have had Serial connections, Bus connections, Parallel Port connections and so on.
All these types of connectivity have one big problem:
Each company has their proprietary protocol.

It's no secret that Industrial communication has always been a problem:
No standard interfaces, no standard protocols, no freedom to choose what to use.

Think about the process of connecting third party components to each other:
you always need a physical adapter or at least a software adaptation of the protocols being used. This exponentially grows development times for no good reason and also limits the decision taking on selection of components during a projecting phase of a plant.

What if we could use one and the same medium and protocol to communicate with every device, controller and Human Machine Interface available on the plant?

Such thing exists already for some time, but has never really taken a big place in industrial environment because of its setup complexity.

It is called OPC and it stands for OLE for Process Control.

OLE is a Microsoft standard for Object linking and embedding in computer systems.

This way it was already possible for some time to connect to industrial devices and "speak" to them over this unified protocol, but it was a tedious process and it was very limited.

With the new iteration of this protocol, the OPC UA (Unified Architecture), the problem of communicating in ease might be solved.

Please mind that Unified Architecture is the keyword here.
This new system is completely different than the classic OPC.
Here is a short list of the surpassed drawbacks from the original implementation:

  • Completely open source and platform independent, which means it is not limited to Microsoft Windows anymore and there are lots of existing multi platform implementations already.
  • No in-between parsers (XML, SOAP, etc.) which brings higher transmission speeds
  • Better security thanks to X509 Certificates and SSL user authentication

Also, thanks to the growing interest of Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN on Wikipedia), there is a high chance that OPC UA might become the first and, possibly, only choice in creating IRT networks over Internet.

By mixing the safety and the speed of these two together, we could unlock a whole new potential in the industrial plants and automation sector.

What do you think about this relatively new protocol? Could it take over the networking in industrial plants?

Let me know down below.