The foundation of an IoT infrastructure depends on how well the systems interface with each other on a plant-wide basis to interchange information safely and constantly.

Recent technological developments, however, address these hurdles to smart factory modification, helping companies get connected to the cloud to control data and devices, obtain insights and hold machine learning abilities.

OPC (Open Platform Communication) is one of the most broadly used standards for this. We can say that OPC defines the communication of real-time plant data between control devices from different manufacturers.

What is Open Platform Communication?

OPC is a series of standards and descriptions for Industrial Automation. It describes a protocol for real-time transmission with in-plant having various control devices from different manufacturers.

OPC which now used was originally called Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control, which depends on OLE, COM, DCOM technology is planned as a bridge for Windows-based application and process control hardware.
It is a machine to a machine communication protocol for the Industrial Automation Industry.

Generally, it works as follows:

An OPC server describes a set of variables within a directory tree-like hierarchy creating namespaces. Each variable has a various data type such as an integer, Boolean, real, string and a default value.

One of many OPC clients attaches to the OPC server through a TCP based binary protocol. The clients can read and write the OPC variables supplied by the server.

Clients can also examine OPC variables for modifications so that you don’t have to survey the variables. In code, this is usually done by submitting a recall function that gets performed when the observed variable changes.

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OPC Necessity:

Before OPC came into the scenario, each OEM vendor had applications using its own drivers and was keeping data in complete data paths.

This created a group of problems for Manufacturers since every vendor produced their own data and eventually they were not able to utilize these data for creating reports. They had to create custom solutions from these various vendors for creating reports. There was little combination possible since data was locked in an exclusive format.

Data were locked in various PLC model, HMIs, CNC machines, ERPs, etc. Also, the plants overlooked the challenge of modify management whenever a new system was added.

OPC was established as a solution to solve these concerns rather than creating a new product to regulate technology with no exclusive format and to facilitate general connectivity.

OPC UA:

The current description of OPC is OPC UA (Unified Architecture) by the OPC Foundation. It covers a lot more functionality than what is reported above.

It’s a unified successor to different OPC Classic descriptions like OPC DA, A&E and HDA. If you want to get started with OPC UA evolution you can use one of the many client and server SDKs and toolkits for different programming languages.

OPC UA is a standard that allows the open connectivity, interoperability, safety and reliability of industrial automation devices and systems. OPC UA is generally identified as the essential communication and data modeling technology for the Industry 4.0 initiative.

It works with various software platforms, is completely scalable and due to its flexibility, it has been universally adopted across various industries.

The OPC UA standard is driven by the OPC base, a non-profit organization with the aim of multi-vendor, multi-platform, safe and definitive interoperability. Microsoft has a long-lasting partnership with the OPC Foundation.

The connection between has resumed across several essential initiatives, involving support for platform-neutral OPC UA across IoT offerings, including Azure IoT Suite and the common Windows Platform built into Windows 10 IoT.

Recently, Microsoft presented a .NET Standard mention to the stack to the OPC Foundation GitHub open-source.

Microsoft is also the cloud vendor that utilizes both OPC UA client-server connections and the new OPC UA publish-subscribe connections all the way to the cloud and back.

This means Microsoft is in a typical position to make the rich OPC UA data model, i.e. the semantic representation of the machines, available in the cloud for allowing services there that so far were only possible on-premises.

OPC UA replaces the OPC Classic protocol, retaining all the usefulness of its predecessor.

Because OPC Classic was constructed upon the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM), a Microsoft transmission technology, OPC Classic was jumped to Windows, which became growingly restricting.

OPC UA is fully interoperable across the various operating systems utilized within the plant and on the factory floor.

This is in addition to Windows and industrial technologies like PLCs and includes Linux, iOS and even mobile operating systems such as Android.

Enabling as many devices as possible to interface helps in the progress of IoT.
OPC and IoT:
The important development in OPC development like OPC Unified Architecture creates it platform-independent, thus enabling it to be embedded into devices & making it complete for the IoT use case.

One of the value concepts of OPC UA (Unified Architecture) is its adaptability from Sensor to Cloud.

This also enables IoT players to model data to depend on domain-specific as MT connects, BACnet, etc.
The data types that can be represented in OPC are categorized as follows:

• Real-time parameter data
• Historical Data
• Alarm and alerts
• Commands
Apart from being a common pool for flowing data to a cloud app or a third-party app, OPC is also the foundation of any SCADA system wherein a modification in a tag value or command activates change in the status of connected machines.

Cyberattacks:

One concern preferred by IoT is cybersecurity. Stuxnet worm showed that PLCs and other pieces of factory equipment are susceptible to attacks.

Due to manufacturing plants were previously restricted to DCOM, protocols were competing with the difficulty of modern technologies, developing in a higher chance of attainable faults.

As OPC UA is constructed from the ground up with cybersecurity in mind, these risks are minimized.
This authorized the attackers to take over the control system, eliminating human-machine interchange components and, finally, safety settings.

Collaboration

Since all ports are closed and the protocol can control generally through virtual private networks (VPNs), OPC UA works absolutely across domains and workgroups.

VPNs enhance security by enabling a private network to exist within a larger network such as the internet.

As it allows for the collection of data from many sources, OPC UA can help in data analysis, in addition to minimizing costs for authorizing, staff training, hardware upgrades and system relocation.

Although previous protocols enabled the industry to progress up to the edge of Industry 4.0, OPC UA is the more suitable protocol for the Industrial Internet of Things.

It acts as the combining agent and enables plants to fully execute and acquire the advantage of IoT and Industry 4.0.

OPC and IoT both works behind the scene for customers, the business outcome with these are in the form of insights into Productivity, OEE and Quality along with platform which allows Data-driven decisions.

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