A New Auto-ID Integration Standard Could Play a Big IoT Role

An OPC UA companion standard being developed by AIM and the OPC Foundation represents an important step toward greatly simplifying the integration of identification systems, and could thus become an essential base for the Internet of Things.
By Markus Weinlaender

Moreover, OPC UA provides an information model known as Historical Access, with which historical events and server data can be retrieved. From an identification standpoint, this model is well suited for performing an autonomous detection (such as documenting the receipt of goods), even if there is no connection to the enterprise resource planning system. The data in the Historical Access model is simply retrieved at a later time. The third and most important point, however, is the high level of standardization and market penetration of OPC UA. This ensures that many identification-device functions, such as device management, do not operate differently than for all other device types.

For the application to auto-ID, a joint workgroup from AIM and the OPC Foundation is now developing a so-called companion standard to OPC UA. This standard will define all methods, data structures, event types and so forth that are required to connect identification devices. However, the architecture allows manufacturers to implement their own add-ons (see Figure 1). As a basic principle, the identification devices will provide an OPC UA server, which serves as the data source. The captured IDs can either be requested by an OPC UA client using a method call (synchronous communication), or be asynchronously transmitted via an event to the registered client. In addition, there are device-management functions (for example, query of device type, version number, manufacturer, designation), as well as device configuration management. These are mapped as a file so that they can be transmitted with read and write instructions to a device, or be loaded by it.

Figure 3: The OPC UA architecture, with a supplementary companion standard for auto-ID
The workgroup has set itself an ambitious target with regard to the schedule—a first draft of the specification is expected to be completed and ready for review by Hannover Messe 2015. Initial implementation prototypes are also to be presented at the trade fair.

Conclusion
With the development of the new companion standard for OPC UA, AIM and the OPC Foundation have undertaken an important step toward greatly simplifying the integration of identification systems. OPC UA could thus become an essential base for the Internet of Things. The broad participation in the workgroup—which includes several well-known equipment manufacturers, such as Siemens, Harting, Balluff and Turck—also reflects the industry's considerable interest in jointly increasing the market penetration of auto-ID technologies.

Markus Weinlaender is the head of product management for Siemens' Simatic Ident division.

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