February 2010

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Predictions for 2010 from an OPC Perspective

One of the key benefits of using OPC technology is its ability to robustly move large amounts of data rapidly and securely to an interface that will turn it into the information needed to make key business decisions.

Manny Mandrusiak
Manny Mandrusiak
Vice President OPC Marketing,

OPC Foundation

Contributing Editor

As with any January within the history of printed materials, this January presents a plethora of magazines and articles which make predictions about the year ahead. Will the winner of the Late Show wars be Jay Leno or David Letterman? Will there be more stimulus packages? What will the technology trends be for the next year? This is always a question that intrigues me. I was reading Jim Pinto’s Column on the Automationmedia website on his 2010 Top-5 picks for Automation Technologies. He had some very interesting predictions for the technologies that he saw having an influence on automation in 2010. The one that intrigued me the most was his paragraph about Consumer Products and their influence on our culture. Last year I wrote a column for Automatedbuildings.com entitled “The Application my iPhone should have”. It essentially spoke about how we are becoming a very hand-held world.

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Taken from Jim Pinto’s article posted on automationmedia.com “But rapid advances and low-cost availability will see plant and factory personnel with iPhones and Blackberrys and Android phones in their pockets, with lots of low-cost industrial apps available. Get your Blackberry to send you a bulletin when your boiler blows. Put your annunciator alarms on your Android. Peek at your process panels with your iPhone - there's an App for that.” (For the full article, please navigate to www.automationmedia.com)

Jim is correct; there is indeed an app for that. For those of us in the software business, we think that App has three letters – OPC.

Where the desire for connectivity comes from

If one looks at trends in our current societies social culture we see that there are a few factors that are driving individual purchasing patterns. I would say that people want devices and technology to work seamlessly together, and be accessible from portable devices. I mean as North Americans we love our mobile devices. Our cell phones, Blackberry’s, and iPhones. We have a need to send and receive information wherever we are. We receive notifications about our banking, bill payments, stock prices, even notifications about our favorite television shows.

Applications like Facebook, twitter, Instant Messaging and texting have taken over as our main information and communication streams. Anyone reading this article might scoff at that thought, but I bet an instant messaging application is open somewhere on your computer. We have developed the need for instant information exchange in our personal lives, and in our business lives. It only makes sense that when architecting a plant or building system the needs desire for that instant access to information would be the same.

As I mentioned above we also have the desire for device interconnectivity. I believe that we secretly want all of our devices and components to work just like USB devices. Take an external hard drive for example. A 250 GB external hard drive can have information transferred to it on a PC, and then plugged into a Mac, and have the information accessed seamlessly.

I believe that we are also looking more toward online services and online based applications. We do our banking online, we purchase goods and services online, we buy and trade stocks online. For entertainment we stream videos to our handheld devices and our video game systems. We no longer have to rent movies from a video store, we can simply use the game system’s online services to access the movie, and we can even share it with friends of ours who are geographically separate from us and they can access it through their video game system’s online services.

When one examines the way we use technology in our personal lives, it is pretty easy to draw conclusions for what we would want to see as the technology that we use in architecting our systems.

J2 Innovations OPC in Building Automation for 2010

If I was looking at the Building Automation space I would see the need for OPC technology being even greater in the coming year. The desire to embed OPC into devices such as smart meters, security systems, and temperature transmitters could provide huge cost savings. Imagine constructing several buildings with a complete embedded OPC architecture. All the system data could be transferred via OPC to a central point inside one of the buildings, or to another part of the country securely through 128 bit encryption. Any Alarms and Events outside of a devices specific tolerance could be sent to a duty technician’s smartphone. The tech could them acknowledge the alarm, and either use a smartphone, or a laptop, to securely login to the systems via web services and fix the problem.

Using the OPC, connection to the Smart Grid would be seamless, since OPC is an approved standard on the NIST Roadmap, and connection to non-windows environments would not be an issue. OPC UA is built specifically to be platform independent, and both OPC UA and OPC Xi are designed with built in security features.

One of the key benefits of using OPC technology is its ability to robustly move large amounts of data rapidly and securely to an interface that will turn it into the information needed to make key business decisions. Getting the right information, to the right people, at the right time via a preferred delivery method. Accessing your system from anywhere and at anytime with complete confidence and security.

I am always marveled by the leaps that are made in consumer electronics, and social media websites. Particularly how they are driving both our personal, and business decisions. I have no doubt that 2010 will be a year of continued technological marvels, but I also predict that these marvels will be made with every attempt to be interoperable with each other. These are truly exciting times that we live in.

There are of course some technology issues that can never really be eliminated, and that is the human factor. Be it a VCR, a DVD player, or a DVR, I still can’t get the clock from flashing 12:00 at me! Fortunately as comedian Red Green always states” There are very few problems in this world that cannot be overcome with a roll of duct tape”.
 

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