OPC UA is finally gaining the traction I thought I’d have seen some time ago in the search for better industrial data communication. There was just so much classing OPC in use, that getting companies to change was more difficult than I expected. Then there was the usual clash of thoughts about direction. But that is all behind, and the technology is getting out there.

I talked with executives of Online Development at Automation Fair a couple of weeks ago. They were showing a module where they had embedded OPC UA—one of the cool things about UA. I know there are clients and servers that are programmed in C# or another language using Microsoft .Net technology. Executives in those companies didn’t care about embedded. There are many uses where embedded makes a ton of sense.

The real key element of this OLDI module, though, is that it handles complex data from the control and serves it to a client. Upon boot up, the client achieves a handshake with the server so that it understands the structure of the complex data, then afterwards it can accept and process the data.

The OPC UA spec allows for both structured and complex data types. Most developers have stuck with the data types consistent with classic OPC. This development opens up vast new frontiers for the use of OPC.

Possibly this answers the problem addressed to me by an MES supplier a few months ago. Using only the structured data types, it was too much work for him to write clients for all possible servers. Or so he thought. But this development holds the promise of his ability to write clients for complex data.

I believe that you’ll see rapid acceptance of this technology such that it’ll spread to other suppliers.

This could be the breakthrough that OPC UA needs to reach that critical mass I’ve been expecting. We’ll see shortly if my enthusiasm for new technologies, as usual, exceeds the ability of developers to actually do the programming.

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