Manufacturing AUTOMATION

OPC Foundation’s new working group to develop I/O device profile for OPC UA Field eXchange

March 13, 2024
By Sukanya Ray Ghosh

The OPC Foundation recently formed a new working group to develop an I/O Device Profile for OPC UA and the extensions for the field level, named OPC UA FX (Field eXchange). The group reportedly aims to create a standardized profile for I/O devices used in industrial automation applications, allowing for seamless interoperability between controllers, such as PLC and DCS systems, and remote I/O devices, including modular I/Os.

The new OPC UA I/O Working Group is being established by the OPC Foundation, under the leadership of the Field Level Communications (FLC) Initiative. Participation in the working group is open to members of the OPC Foundation. Manufacturers from the process and factory automation industries are represented within this working group to ensure that I/O devices can be easily integrated into different automation systems and environments.

More than 50 experts from more than 30 member companies of the OPC Foundation signed up for the kick-off meeting of the new working group which was held on December 11, 2023. Rosh Sreedharan from Rockwell Automation and Mark Nixon from Emerson were confirmed as initial working group chairs.

“Extending the OPC UA Framework with an I/O Device Profile is important to ensure cross-vendor interoperability and common semantics for the Controller-to-Device use cases in factory and process automation, while at the same time supporting OPC UA as a fully scalable technology from the sensor across all levels to MES / ERP and also to the cloud,” stated Peter Lutz, Director FLC Initiative at OPC Foundation.

In order to achieve inter-vendor interoperability of I/O devices, the working group will add to the UAFX base specifications the definition of interfaces and behaviours which are typical for I/O devices. The new I/O device profile will use PubSub and can be combined with different underlying communication protocols (e.g. UDP/IP or Raw Ethernet) and physical layers (e.g. Ethernet-APL) to support all relevant use cases in discrete and process manufacturing, including safety I/Os based on OPC UA Safety and deterministic data exchange based on Ethernet Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), where appropriate. The working group will also reportedly strive to manage overlap with other information models already released or under development. Examples include the models for motion and instrumentation.


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