OPC UA to expand its scope of applications
B&R will be supporting the OPC Foundation's new working groups, whose goal is to add real-time capability to the OPC UA communication standard. This will involve two key additions to the OPC UA standard. The first is a publisher-subscriber model; the other is utilization of the IEEE 802.1 standard for time-sensitive networking (TSN).
B&R will be contributing its real-time expertise to the working groups. "The updates to the OPC UA standard will benefit from our years of experience in developing real-time solutions," says Stefan Schönegger, marketing manager at B&R.
OPC UA already features a familiar client-server architecture. The publisher-subscriber model will add one-to-many and many-to-many communication that will have decisive benefits for communication speed in large distributed systems. "This is a fundamental requirement for the M2M communication you find in integrated systems such as packaging lines," explains Schönegger. POWERLINK is also based on this same architecture.
Real-time capability for the OPC UA standard
In order to fulfill real-time requirements, the OPC UA standard will make use of the IEEE 802.1 TSN standard. "At the moment, TSN is still a working title for a group of new IEEE standards designed to provide native real-time capability for the IEEE 802 Ethernet standard," says Schönegger. This would allow for a seamless transition to substantially faster Ethernet standards such as POWERLINK for field-level communication and demanding motion control tasks.
Beyond the automation industry, TSN is currently also being evaluated by the automotive and telecommunications industries. "The first cars based on TSN are expected to hit the market in the very near future," reports Schönegger. This would help secure the widespread availability of this technology. In addition to B&R, the new OPC working groups will be also supported by other leaders in the field of automation, as was announced by KUKA on April 13, 2015.
Total package: OPC UA and POWERLINK
OPC UA already plays a central role in the IT-related areas of modern production systems. "The addition of TSN and the publisher-subscriber model will greatly expand the range of potential OPC UA applications," says Schönegger. Paired with the open standards POWERLINK and openSAFETY, the result is a total package for safe and consistent Ethernet communication all the way down to the sensor level.