Standardization in the industrial Internet of Things – OPC UA protocols

By Carly Cohen

Standardization in the industrial Internet of Things is an important part of connecting machines. With standardized protocols, machines of different ages and systems can interact, collect data and work together in union. If you have machines connected to the IoT that were made at different times, at different locations, that do different jobs, you will need standardization to turn data into information. So, let’s take a look at a common standardization protocol that brings the IoT to life.

What Is OPC UA?

One standardization that helps connected devices communicate is OPC Unified Architecture, or OPC UA. To explain OPC UA, we need to look at how devices communicate with each other.

Communication between devices is generally done between automation devices with a set language. When multiple devices are involved, the machines may encounter multiple languages and not be able to communicate. When every device has its own language and there is no universal language it is a nightmare programming everything to work in harmony.

One solution is to standardize devices – using only one brand – so that they can all speak to each other. But this solution isn’t viable for many and isn’t easy for most. With many different brands on the market, and many companies using a mix of older and newer machines and devices, creating a homogenized shop floor is a challenge.

Now with OPC UA, all devices using OPC UA use a standardized language, so they can all communicate. By using OPC-UA to communicate between devices, companies can be brand agnostic.

Built-in protocols and a deeper dive on OPC UA

In addition to OPC UA, there is OPC UA Publish/Subscribe, or OPC UA Pub/Sub. This allows you to publish and subscribe to your data and publish that information to the internet or store it on the cloud. Sending data between devices and applications is much easier with this standardized protocol.

Through OPC UA and OPC UA Pub/Sub, you can bring your data into Insights Hub, Siemens’ industrial IoT as a service solution. You can reap value out of the data not only through standard applications such as Operations Insight, Visual Explorer and Visual Flow Creator, but you can also use your own applications with your favorite programming language and use-low code solutions such as Mendix.

Benefits of OPC UA

Having an industrial IoT solution that is integrated with OPC UA can help on the brownfield level by getting your older systems connected without having to reinvent the wheel. You can connect your shop floor devices with the standardized protocol and then connect all these devices to the cloud with OPC UA Pub/Sub.

Once your devices are connected and speaking to each other, the sky is the limit. Solutions like remote condition monitoring, energy management, and AI and machine learning forecasts become available.

OPC UA is just one solution making the industrial Internet of Things a value add to your devices. Insights Hub supports many protocols out-of-the-box, like S7, Modbus TCP, Modbus RTU, and more – and new ones are always being added. For a comprehensive list of supported protocols, review this documentation. By continuing to support standardization, the industrial IoT is more readily available and adaptable to your devices. By supporting standardizations and creating universal protocols, your systems will be ready to get connected, share data and experience the full potential of the industrial IoT.

Want more information on connecting your older machines to the industrial IoT? Check out our ebook, “Connecting brownfield facilities with Siemens.” Interested in learning more about Insights Hub? Start for free today.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at