Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
EMAIL INTERVIEW Sean Leonard & Ken Sinclair
Sean Leonard – VP Products, MatrikonOPC
Sean Leonard, B.Sc Eng. CompE, Msc (CompE), MBA (Technology Commercialization), is the Product Manager for MatrikonOPC. Sean leads a team of solutions architects who create robust, forward-looking OPC solutions. From initial vision to final packaging and positioning of the OPC product suite, he ensures the products developed by MatrikonOPC meet industry needs and set trends for OPC connectivity. Sean also works with the OPC Foundation's technical working groups to help set the future direction of OPC standards. Sean dedicates a great deal of his time to educating others and promoting OPC as a standard. Through workshops, seminars and online presentation, he is an authoritative voice who is able to present objectively.
The Role of OPC in the New Generation of Building Automation
Initiatives such as Green Buildings, Smart Grid and others all reinforce the need for intelligent building solutions that integrate all building functions; environmental control, intrusion detection, access control, lighting and energy management. What role does OPC play in providing interoperability among these aspects?
Sinclair: Some people perceive OPC as a process control standard. Building automation solutions require connectivity to HVAC equipment and control systems, refrigeration, fire and security systems among others. How does OPC fit with Building Automation?
Leonard: Although OPC made a name in the process control industry, its defining aspect is the standardization OPC brings to device and application communication. OPC is a communication standard that enables hardware devices and/or software applications to transfer data. OPC Servers provide real time access to devices that speak BACnet, Johnson Controls, Lonworks, etc in addition to higher level applications like BMS or energy management packages.
Sinclair: Direct digital controls in today’s systems are powerful and feature rich. As buildings become even more connected or become an integral part of the Smart Electrical Grid, the need for better networked systems becomes even more important. Can OPC Servers integrate building devices and external systems?
Leonard: Absolutely. To really answer that question, you need to consider both sides of connectivity: 1) What features should OPC servers provide when connecting to the building automation network and 2) How the OPC standards interoperates with enterprise level applications and other industry standards.
Let me address the first part with an example. A Johnson Controls N2 network supports communications with a diverse range of devices, and many N2 compatible devices use different ‘flavors’ of the protocol. It may be important provide data access to these devices, yet not cost effective to purchase and program a NCM. A solution would be to use an OPC Server that speaks N2 over serial directly to the end devices, such as the MatrikonOPC Server for Johnson Controls N2. A well designed, industrially robust OPC server would support features such as; auto-discovery for all connected N2 devices, auto configuration, support for multiple N2 networks and serial-to-Ethernet converters such as the MOXA NPORT 5130 device serve to extend the N2 network across Ethernet. A well designed OPC server provides open, standardized data access to previously proprietary and isolated systems, and makes use of the device specific features.
Sinclair: On the other side, how does OPC interoperate with external enterprise level applications or industry initiatives like SmartGrid?
Leonard: Classic OPC specifications focus on connectivity between devices and applications. They are designed for interoperable, speedy and efficient communications. The standardization that OPC provides is attractive to every level of industrial operations. More companies want enterprise level connectivity to ERP, Computer Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), etc. In the Building Automation realm they require integration with Building Management Systems or applications to enable controllable load for Smart Grid, Demand Response or Day Lighting systems. As a connectivity standard, OPC is uniquely positioned to connect the ‘traditional’ building automation realm to the new evolving Building Automation industry that deals with enterprise energy, economical, and environmental aspects. Smart Grid can be summed up in three bullet points: Shared Information., Continuous Optimization and Intelligent Responses. OPC provides the standardized means to do this.
Sinclair: There is a trend in BA towards web service architectures. How does this fit with OPC?
Leonard: The fundamental requirement is connecting remote systems in order to do things like continually optimize and commission energy use throughout the enterprise. MatrikonOPC leads the world in technologies that allow existing COM based OPC specifications to operate without DCOM. MatrikonOPC Tunneller meets this need for many installations today. Looking forward, building owners will want to take advantage of future smart grid opportunities. The next generation of connectivity, OPC UA is designed on a web service and Service Oriented Architecture that embraces a complex information model. Trusted OPC vendors like MatrikonOPC will provide OPC products that seamlessly transition from the classic OPC products, like those communicating to the N2 network, to OPC UA applications that interoperate with service-based applications.
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