Hardware Implementation of an OPC UA Server for Industrial Field Devices

by   Heiner Bauer, et al.

Industrial plants suffer from a high degree of complexity and incompatibility in their communication infrastructure, caused by a wild mix of proprietary technologies. This prevents transformation towards Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things. Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is a standardized protocol that addresses these problems with uniform and semantic communication across all levels of the hierarchy. However, its adoption in embedded field devices, such as sensors and actors, is still lacking due to prohibitive memory and power requirements of software implementations. We have developed a dedicated hardware engine that offloads processing of the OPC UA protocol and enables realization of compact and low-power field devices with OPC UA support. As part of a proof-of-concept embedded system we have implemented this engine in a 22 nm FDSOI technology. We measured performance, power consumption, and memory footprint of our test chip and compared it with a software implementation based on open62541 and a Raspberry Pi 2B. Our OPC UA hardware engine is 50 times more energy efficient and only requires 36 KiB of memory. The complete chip consumes only 24 mW under full load, making it suitable for low-power embedded applications.


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