This blog is dedicated to open, interoperable manufacturing software and the coolest, latest and greatest things I see every day while conducting business under the banner of Inductive Automation.

Hello, my name is Steve Hechtman and I am president of Inductive Automation. During the span of one day there is more excitement, more discovery than I can possibly keep to myself. This blog is, therefore, my outlet. WARNING: This site is highly biased in favor of the most powerful, affordable manufacturing software in the world - Ignition by Inductive Automation!

Hey! Spectrum Controls, Moxa, Online Development, et al

Hey guys, I've got a great idea for you. Why not make an OPC-UA-to-protocolX converter box. Maybe it could be an in-chassis card for PLCs or maybe something like the WebPort 500 (an external DIN rail mount box with serial to various PLCs using various protocols).

I mean, ideally, PLC manufacturers would build OPC-UA right into their PLCs. I say this because it's extremely secure, platform neutral and it accommodates any shape data structure. But you and I both know why that might take a very long time. So that presents quite an opportunity for you.

Right now, Modbus TCP is the lingua franca (universally spoken language) and most PLC manufacturers build it right into their PLCs in addition to their own primary protocols. I love Modbus TCP because it's open, fast, simple and ubiquitous. But it's not so secure and as far as I know it only supports elementary data types. OPC-UA is destined to be its successor since it answers these and a host of other problems.

The recent OPC interop conference in Germany (which we recently sent a couple of developers to) was a good indication of what to expect of OPC-UA. The number of OPC-UA servers and clients tested at the conference nearly tripled from just a year before – showing that the use of OPC-UA in the industry is growing fast.

So I bring it up now. I think the OPC-UA converter box (or in-rack card) is a great idea. If I was in the hardware business I wouldn't be telling you this – I'd be doing it myself.

1 comment:

Nathan Boeger said...

I don't think we're far off from PLC manufacturers integrating OPC-UA into their processors - it's not hard to do. It's an issue of incentives. Who's going to knowingly pay extra for a PLC (hardware) that does OPC? Nobody I know. Your average customer will be forced to buy a piece of software to communicate with the device...often from the same vendor. In the PC world we call that a "driver" and it's free.

Only when a few vendors bundle OPC-UA servers in their hardware, and it will necessarily begin with the smaller guys fighting for market share, will everyone else do it. Within a few years a PLC manufacturer won't be able to sell a controller that doesn't have embedded drivers. Mark my words.