The importance of standards

By: Jim Pinto
Managing Partner,
Industry Analyst, Technology Futurist

Outline of the speech presented at

Matrikon OPC User's Group
Houston, TX. USA
September 2006

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What is a "standard"?

  • The definition of a "standard" is simple: operating specifications that everybody follows
  • Standards provide openness and interoperability between products from different vendors

Who benefits from standards?

    End-users are the primary beneficiaries of standards
  • However, few users are large enough, or strong enough, to demand and set horizontal standards

Who drives standards?

  • Standards are intrinsically difficult to implement and adopt
  • End-users cannot drive standards
    • Supplier involvement compounds the confusion
    • Conflicting objectives continue to cause endless debate
  • Someone has to be the leader, to develop the standard that others follow

Committees are counter-productive

  • Committees composed of both users and vendors often get stuck
    • Users collaborate; few can invest the time or expense necessary to drive a standard
    • Vendors seldom agree; they are in direct competition with each other, each seeking to develop technology and market advantages over the other

Conflicting standards inhibit growth

  • Conflicting standards have bad effects for everyone
    • Customers get confused and postpone purchases to see how the market settles
    • Suppliers limit development investments in products that may end up on the losing side of the conflict
    • Growth is inhibited and the market becomes fragmented

The standards dichotomy

    The basic cause of all the fuss
    The Users want an Open bus
    They push and threaten, beg and plead
    “Interoperable”is what they need
    The widgets made by Vendor A
    With Vendor B must plug and play

    The Vendors swear they all agree
    But just can’t bear to make it free
    An open door will throw away
    Their value-core and make it gray
    Proprietary will be gone
    To hordes of hungry hangers-on

    Jim Pinto Poem: "Open Saysame, Closed saysayou"

Pinto's Law of Open-systems Confusion

C = P x V/U

  • C is the Confusion
  • V is the number of Vendor's supporting a "standard"
  • U is the number of happy Users
  • P is Pinto's Confusion-factor, which decreases non-linearly with time

Industrial Automation - a specialty niche

  • Industrial automation is complicated by several conflicting issues
    • Performance and price limitations
    • Technical confusion
    • Limited spread beyond narrow applications environments

Industrial Products Hierarchy
OPC open connectivity - via open standards

  • OPC is open connectivity in industrial automation and enterprise systems
  • Interoperability is assured through the creation and maintenance of open standards specifications
  • Currently seven standards specifications completed or in development
  • Over 400 companies are OPC Members

Multi-vendor connectivity
OPC Foundation aims

  • Interoperability in automation
    • Creating and maintaining open specifications
    • Standardize the communication of acquired process data, alarm and event records, historical data, and batch data
    • Multi-vendor enterprise systems and production devices

Microsoft Involvement

  • Microsoft is a member of OPC Foundation and has given strong backing to the organization
  • Microsoft acts as a technology advisor and provides previews of coming technology changes
  • Member companies with direct industry experience guide the organization's work

OPC Markets & Applications

  • Industrial Automation
    • Process industry, Manufacturing, Acquisition and Transportation of Oil, Gas and Minerals
  • Production devices
    • Sensors, instruments, PLCs, RTUs, DCSs, HMIs, historians, trending subsystems, alarm subsystems, and more

OPC Certification & Interoperability

  • OPC Compliance
    • Interoperability in multi-vendor systems via OPC standards
  • Certification
    • Process of ensuring that applications meet the standards
    • Certification can be accomplished in many way, but require extensive people involvement

OPC Foundation

  • Provides automated tools to simplify Certification
  • Collectively known as the OPC Compliance tests

OPC Interoperability Workshops

  • The OPC Foundation arranges workshops hosted by member companies
  • Participants can test their latest OPC devices
  • Successfully tested client/server pairs are published on the OPC Foundations website


  • Matrikon-World's Largest OPC Developer
    • Clear leader in user base
    • Broad usage of OPC for end-users in industrial measurement & controls markets

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