Learning About OPC, the Interoperability Standard for Industrial Automation
This article is a lesson in industrial API design, integrating connected parts in the industrial workspace in a move toward automation.
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I am spending a portion of my time each week learning about how APIs are being applied at the industrial level. An example of this can be found over at Opto 22, with their approach to using REST across their Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC). As I do with other industries I spend my time looking through the approaches of API pioneers in the space, which leads me to other contributing factors to why web APIs are being used to change how things are done in any industry.
For now, my industrial API research is a pretty big umbrella, encompassing oil and gas, manufacturing, and often moving into other areas I'm already tracking agriculture and energy. This approach allows me to identify companies who are leading the charge (like Opto 22), as well as specifications, tools, and other elements that are contributing to the evolution of APIs in each area — in this case, its broadly industrial usage of web APIs.
In my researching of industrial APIs I have come across the OPC format, which was originally known as the Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control, which is defined as:
OPC is the interoperability standard for the secure and reliable exchange of data in the industrial automation space and in other industries The OPC standard is a series of specifications developed by industry vendors, end-users and software developers. These specifications define the interface between Clients and Servers, as well as Servers and Servers, including access to real-time data, monitoring of alarms and events, access to historical data and other applications.
I'm still getting going with the world of industrial automation, but I am looking through the OPC Unified Architecture to see where I can find any common definitions and schemas that could apply to industrial API design. I don't have any sense of how open these standards bodies are with their specifications, and I don't want to end up like Carl Malumud, but I do want to help identify and encourage common patterns in use for industrial automation.
Many consumer and B2B API implementations don't get me that interested, but I find the usage of them at the industrial level often more compelling, prompting me to add companies like Rockwell and Opto 22 to my industrial research. I'm adding the OPC standard as well and will keep working to learn which other companies are doing interesting things with industrial APIs, and the standards that are guiding, or I guess possibly hindering expansion in the usage of web APIs across the industrial landscape.
Published at DZone with permission of Kin Lane, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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