24 - Does Fieldbus interoperability "end" in the PC?

Carrying the task of meeting the users' demands for interoperable solutions to the next level, another organisation has been formed by process control hardware and software manufacturers....
OLE for Process Control (OPC) is designed to be a method to allow Windows applications access to plant floor data in a consistent manner. With wide industry acceptance OPC will provide many benefits:

 

  • Hardware manufacturers only have to make one set of software components for customers to utilise in their applications.
  • Software developers won't have to rewrite drivers because of feature changes or additions in a new hardware release.
  • Customers will have more choices with which to develop World Class integrated manufacturing systems.

Hardware users will also benefit. Process device hardware vendors will develop OPC compliant interfaces, much like PC printer vendors provide printer drivers that are able to work with multiple Windows applications. Users will be able to choose best-in-class hardware components for a given application and painlessly integrate information from these devices with software applications across the enterprise.

Vendors will benefit by reducing development cost associated with developing multitudes of drivers to different hardware devices and software applications. Instead, vendors will be able to focus on the value-added product functionality improvements which users are demanding.

OPC compliments Fieldbus standardisation efforts. The focus of OPC is primarily on providing communications between field devices and Windows software, and allowing the integration of many programs to each other. E.g. OPC implements the same scheme of parameter value, quality, time-stamp and alarms and trend.

As such, OPC will mean a new day has arrived for users of industrial software and hardware. End users will not only benefit from improvements in scalability and integration, but also from the continual advances in technology. Vendors of industrial applications who once invested time and money in trying to develop proprietary software that wouldn't integrate with another vendor's product will now invest money in creating best-of-breed products that are fully compatible with Windows software throughout an enterprise. Improvements in performance, quality, and service will be realised across the industry.

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