As an open standard, OPC UA is based on standard internet technologies, like TCP/IP, HTTP, Web Sockets.
As an extensible standard, OPC UA provides a set of Services (see OPC 10000-4) and a basic information model framework. This framework provides an easy manner for creating and exposing vendor defined information in a standard way. More importantly all OPC UA Clients are expected to be able to discover and use vendor-defined information. This means OPC UA users can benefit from the economies of scale that come with generic visualisation and historian applications. This specification is an example of an OPC UA Information Model designed to meet the needs of developers and users.
OPC UA Clients can be any consumer of data from another device on the network to browser based thin clients and ERP systems. The full scope of OPC UA applications is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 – The Scope of OPC UA within an Enterprise
OPC UA provides a robust and reliable communication infrastructure having mechanisms for handling lost messages, failover, heartbeat, etc. With its binary encoded data, it offers a high-performing data exchange solution. Security is built into OPC UA as security requirements become more and more important especially since environments are connected to the office network or the internet and attackers are starting to focus on automation systems.