Modern industrial firms demand process data to be obtained, collected and processed across different levels and industrial communication has to overcome borders within the automation pyramid.
On the lowest level of hierarchical automation data transfer is usually performed between field devices e.g. photo sensors or motors and controllers using field bus systems. The communication to the next higher level, the process control or visualization (HMI: Human Machine Interface) and the control units is performed through IT networks and software interfaces. The same IT technology is used for data transfer up to the manufacturing level and execution systems (e.g. SAP). Without having standardized interfaces between field level, process control and manufacturing control the data exchange must be done with high expense to specific development and applications. Every manufacturer of automation devices or automation software provides its own mechanism and protocols for data exchange.
With OPC as standard interface the manufacturers agreed to an open solution giving the ability to connect office applications to the field of industrial applications and these different systems can read and process data.
OPC - Openness Productivity Collaboration
The OPC Foundation became the largest organization for specification of software interfaces in the area of industrial automation. Founded 1996 meanwhile more than 480 member join the foundation, including all major manufacturers of products in the field of automation. Today the OPC interfaces are part of daily employment and become widespread used in industry.