Easy integration - In the direction of Industry 4.0

Easy integration - In the direction of Industry 4.0

Currently, proprietary protocols and specific drivers are making integration in the automation world cumbersome. This is an obstacle with respect to the implementation of Industry 4.0 and drives costs and time expenditure. As a communication channel, OPC UA offers – without driver issues – the capability to effect communication between e.g. RFID reader, PLC controls and applications (machine-to-machine, M2M), from the "shop floor" (sensor, PLC) to the "top floor "(SAP).

The advantages of OPC UA at a glance:

  • Reduction in integration costs by only deploying a common architecture used to access information
  • Encryption / security / certificates: access via firewall and internet
  • Platform independent (Linux, Windows XP Embedded, VxWorks, Mac, Windows 7)
  • Service Oriented Architecture
  • Data provided by an OPC UA server, e.g. an RFID reader, can be "browsed" by the client, in other words, the client does not need to know a priori what the server can do, and can query this instead

HARTING stands in the best tradition of "connectivity" and the establishment of standards. Consequently, OPC UA fits perfectly into the HARTING strategy: an open standard is employed to safely and reliably connect the widest variety of systems and equipment.

Since HARTING increasingly supports the integration of Auto-ID applications in SAP systems, the SAP module SAP Plant Connectivity (PCo) is highly interesting. This is the SAP-side implementation of an OPC UA client. With no additional programming, this client can now query the RFID data of the RFID reader, since the RFID reader offers an OPC UA server (prototype).

Similarly, a Beckhoff PLC using the supplied standard OPC UA client can also retrieve and process the data from the RFID reader. This results in rapid, simple integration, regardless of whether the RFID data is needed at the PLC or SAP level.

This interoperability, i.e. simplicity and concomitant flexibility, is achieved via the SOA architecture by OPC UA along with the underlying data model. However, there is still a bit of work to do in the area of RFID. To encode the information on the RFID transponder, there is the so-called EPC standard – Electronic Product Code. In the event that a customer wishes to use a globally unique EPC number, it may, as with a barcode, reserve it with GS1. However, different RFID readers use different proprietary protocols to retrieve this information from the RFID transponder.

Here, HARTING is taking initial steps in conjunction with GS1 and the OPC Foundation in order to make the integration of RFID via OPC UA even simpler, faster, and as a result more customer-friendly.