Industrial communication has in the last 10 years become a key point in modern industry. A continually growing number of manufacturing companies desire, even require, totally integrated systems. This integration extends from electronic automation field devices (PLC, microcontrollers) to Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) culminating into supervision, trending, and alarm software applications (SCADA & MES). Industrial communication is implemented from field management via process management to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications (business management).
The list of products, which allow a totally integrated solution, is limited because of a lack of platform independency. In commercial situations developers sometimes choose a particular platform only because it is one of the available communication options.
International industrial standards are becoming more important especially in the last 10 years. In 1996 the OPC Foundation was founded.The OPC Foundation focusses on interoperability between industrial equipment and software of the various vendors. The OPC standards became very successful for industrial communication. While the classical, DCOM based specifications are implemented on Windows, the OPC Unified Architecture is an enhancement to provide platform-independence (Embedded systems, Unix, VxWorks etc..), language independence (C++, ANSI C, Java, C#, .NET) and modern security.
This research project aims to facilitate implementations of the OPC Unified Architecture on different platforms, sometimes with a PC in between, sometimes directly on the controller. The research group will provide both support for development and support for configuration of existing products and beta versions for interoperability sessions. Windows will not be abandoned, but treated as one of the target platforms.