OPC Foundation joins the Advanced Physical Layer Project Group (APL)

APL critically important for OPC UA field level strategy in Process Automation

  • August 5, 2020
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  • OPC Foundation joins the Advanced Physical Layer Project Group (APL)
    OPC Foundation joins the Advanced Physical Layer Project Group (APL)

OPC Foundation announced that it has joined the APL project group in order to support the development and promotion of an advanced physical layer (APL) for Industrial Ethernet, suitable for use in demanding applications and hazardous locations in the process industry, named “Ethernet-APL”. To date, the APL Project Group has consisted of 12 industry partners and the three leading fieldbus organizations in process automation: FieldComm Group (FCG), ODVA, and Profibus & Profinet International (PI). 

Jörg Hähniche, Endress+Hauser and Chairperson of APL project group says: “We welcome the OPC Foundation. While the APL project is well advanced, we are even more pleased that OPC Foundation has joined the project. Their membership completes the cooperation, as all leading organizations are now working on one Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer solution which will be integrated into their respective specifications. This has an enormous customer benefit, especially since one Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer solution now fits many applications. By jointly cooperating, we hope to benefit from the many years of experience of OPC Foundation thus benefiting a wide range of customers.”

Reaching field Level

The decision of the OPC Foundation to join the APL project roup is closely related to their strategy to extend OPC UA to the field level in discrete and continuous manufacturing. For this, the OPC Foundation launched the Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative in November 2018, supported by an impressive list of major automation suppliers. Because of its versatility and manufacturer independence, OPC UA is already used today in many different industrial applications. However, OPC UA is much more than just a transport protocol in its traditional sense. Instead, OPC UA is an industrial, protocol-agnostic framework for the Industrial Internet of Things and Industrie 4.0 that contains mechanisms for secure, reliable, manufacturer and platform-independent information exchange, as well as options for semantic information modeling and self-description of devices. OPC UA scales from the sensor across all levels to MES / ERP and also into the cloud including cyber security mechanisms built from the start.   

In order to meet all requirements for use cases from end users, suppliers, and integrators from process automation to factory automation, the FLC-related technical work includes the following topics:

  • definition of an “Automation Component” with functions, interfaces and behaviors that are common to the different FLC-conformant devices used in various applications in process and factory automation
  • definition of system behaviors and sequences for common functionalities e.g. bootstrapping, connection establishment, etc.
  • harmonization and standardization of application profiles like IO, motion control, functional safety, system redundancy
  • standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in online and offline scenarios e.g. device description and diagnostics
  • mapping to subordinate communication protocols and transmission physics, such as TCP, UDP, Ethernet APL / SPE, deterministic Ethernet (TSN) with future mapping to 5G and Wi-Fi 6 
  • guarantee the best integration of OPC UA companion specifications like FDI, FDT, PA-DIM, ADI (Analyzer Device Integration), Module Type Package (MTP), and MDIS (Oil&Gas), VDMA pumps, UMATI, Spectaris, and so forth