655b86735cd9d8001e1c9d72 Data Encryption

How open platform communications unified architecture enhances security by encrypting the data at its source

Nov. 20, 2023
Yokogawa’s Karthik Gopalakrishnan explains why factories need OPC UA to achieve interoperability securely

Karthik Gopalakrishnan is a technical consultant at Yokogawa.

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What have been the most significant advancements/changes in technology that have affected open platform communications unified architecture (OPC UA) acceptance/implementation in the past five years?
Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: The most significant change we have seen is the adoption of the technology more than the technology itself. If we had asked anyone to use OPC UA five years ago, there would have been a big pause due to uncertainty. Today, however, it is a requirement over the OPC Classic technologies. We see almost all vendors adopting OPC UA as a standard among all the technologies. 
What’s the most innovative or efficient OPC UA application you’ve ever seen or been involved with?
Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: One of the most innovative applications using OPC UA is as a core for Open Process Automation (OPA). OPA uses OPC UA to enable L2 systems such as I/O cards to directly communicate with servers using the same technology. OPA indeed levels the playing field and makes the entire system open and interoperable. 

How has OPC UA benefitted from the proliferation of components from multiple suppliers in machinery?

Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: The biggest value of OPC UA is moving away from OPC Classic vulnerabilities. OPC UA makes communication more secure and structured. Especially with so many vendors wanting to access data, it is imperative that we consider cybersecurity as the core for all connectivity. OPC UA takes the security to the next level by encrypting the data at its source.

Can you explain how Industry 4.0 initiatives or the Industrial Internet of Things has impacted the use of OPC UA in manufacturing?

Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: Interoperability is a core characteristic of Industry 4.0. However, an interoperable network with poor security is not a good solution. Going forward, we expect OPC UA to play a key role in ensuring that a manufacturing facility can meet digital-transformation and Industry-4.0 goals through interoperability with a high level of security.

Do you find OPC UA more useful in small embedded systems of larger cloud-based applications?

Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: Scalability is a strong OPC UA benefit. Using the OPC UA broker as the data source will ensure that a solution can be scaled all the way from a small on-premises system to a large-scale cloud application. Today, more vendors are adopting the cloud and moving toward a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. OPC UA enables the robust, secure connectivity and ease of connection in a SaaS solution.

How have the security and scalability of OPC UA made it more user-friendly?

Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: As mentioned, scalability is a key driver for OPC UA. Scalability can be driven by more secure systems, which adopt technologies such as OPC UA. 
What future innovations will impact the use of OPC UA in manufacturing operations?

Karthik Gopalakrishnan, technical consultant, Yokogawa: Looking at the OPC Foundation roadmap, many of the new features already have been considered—for example, field-level data, cloud relay and 5G connectivity. As long as vendors are able to cater to the business needs of users and ensure that the solutions can keep up with the technology, we are in good hands using OPC UA to enable Industry 4.0.

About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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