Connectivity, security, mobility: Integrating modern controls

OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) when built into automation software eases integration with other systems and enhances security for a better expansion of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 concepts.

By Melissa Topp November 5, 2015

Modern automation and control systems should implement the latest advances in communications connectivity, security, and mobility to keep pace with the latest innovations in Industrie 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). The latest human-machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and building automation software includes universal connectivity with a wide variety of data sources including OPC, BACnet, and SNMP, databases and Web services, and enhanced compatibility with OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA).

Multiple enhancements to the alarm technology in HMI/SCADA software allow for access to many more data sources using OPC UA clients. Powerful middleware makes it easy to visualize, via OPC UA clients, virtually any equipment, process, operation, or business data.

For example, OPC UA clients can now securely access:

  • Data from any IoT device or equipment
  • Registers and data from programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or distributed control systems (DCS)
  • Equipment maintenance records and work orders from maintenance management systems
  • Energy data from any metering system
  • Incoming order data from any enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. 

A close look at security

In addition to communications connectivity, one of the most critical aspects of a modern automation system is its security. In the past, security was almost taken for granted or assumed to be there. But due to an increasing number of highly visible breaches in recent years, corporations now have a renewed focus on making sure that their systems adhere to the strictest security standards. OPC UA server/client interactions meet these requirements in different ways including user authentication, security certificates, and data encryption. Security upgrades incorporate the latest advances made by the OPC Foundation to ensure secure, IoT-friendly OPC UA communications. 

The mobile connection

Mobile devices are transforming the way people interact with the environment, connecting to a tremendous amount of information anytime, anywhere. As the scale of an organization’s operations increase, managing and extrapolating meaningful relationships from data will only get more complex. In addition, the need for remote access to data and remote collaboration will increase, along with the number of widely dispersed assets and mobile workers.

Today’s mobile solutions should also adhere to universal connectivity, with ability to connect to OPC UA, BACnet, SNMP, Modbus TCP/IP, and Web services and be able tap into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Mobile HMI and dashboard software also can integrate with OPC UA technology. With such connectivity, mobile apps enable operators, field service workers, managers, executives, and others to securely visualize, analyze, and store data from a multitude of geographically dispersed assets. 

OPC UA integration

The OPC Foundation provides OPC UA Client Lab Certification for automation and other software.

"We share in the OPC Foundation’s goal to expand OPC technology into new applications, including the Internet of Things," said Russ Agrusa, Iconics president and CEO. "Certifications such as these help our customers and partners make informed decisions as to what software will work best in which environments."

Tom Burke, OPC Foundation president and executive director, said that through certification, companies demonstrate commitment to developing and delivering the highest quality products based on the latest OPC technology.

– Melissa Topp is director of global marketing, Iconics. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Key concepts

  • Automation software includes tools that make integration with other devices and systems easier.
  • Security can be enhanced through use of OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA).
  • Mobility software also benefits from OPC UA integration, especially when certified.

Consider this

Shouldn’t automation software include structure and code to enable easier integration with other systems?

ONLINE extra

More information is available from Iconics on integration with OPC UA technology.

Iconics is a CSIA member as of 2/22/2016

Author Bio: Melissa Topp is senior director of global marketing at ICONICS, developer of the GENESIS64 HMI/SCADA automation suite.