25 Jul 2024


Automation giants back OPC UA TSN to unify comms

More than ten leading automation suppliers have joined forces to back OPC UA over Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) as a unifying communication system for use between industrial controllers and to the cloud. The companies – which include ABB, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, General Electric, Kuka, National Instruments (NI), Parker Hannifin, Schneider Electric, SEW-Eurodrive and TTTech – intend to support OPC UA TSN in their future products.

Announcing their backing for OPC UA TSN at the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany, the group said that the technology, based on open standards, will allow devices from different vendors to be fully interoperable with each other.

Notably absent from the backing group are Siemens, Beckhoff, Rockwell Automation and any of the major Japanese automation suppliers. The backers say that other companies that share their vision of unified communications between industrial controllers and to cloud are welcome to join and to contribute to the collaborative effort.

Industrial automation systems have traditionally relied on incompatible and non-interoperable standards to communicate between devices. As a result, users have often found themselves locked into proprietary systems and have not been able to optimise their automation installations. At the same time, some vendors have had to develop several versions of essentially identical products to support the different ecosystems, limiting their scope for innovation.

The companies putting their weight behind OPC UA TS have begun an open technical collaboration under the umbrella of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the OPC Foundation. They are aiming for an open, unified, standards-based and interoperable IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) system that will be suitable for deterministic and real-time peer-to-peer communications between industrial controllers and to the cloud.

The group regards OPC UA TSN as being a unifying standard for industrial automation and IIoT connections. It combines enhanced OPC UA Publisher/Subscriber (Pub/Sub) technology with the IEEE’s TSN Ethernet standards. The backers say that it provides all of the open, standard building blocks that are needed to unify automation communications, and predict that OPC UA TSN will lead to the convergence of information technology (IT) and operation technology (OT) that is needed to achieve the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.  

The group of companies intends to support OPC UA TSN in future of products. Prototypes of these products are already being integrated in a testbed organised by the IIC. The aim is to show compatible controller-to-controller communications between devices from different vendors using OPC UA TSN running over a standard IT infrastructure.