Automation June Management

Viewpoint: Innovation Through Standards Collaboration — Myth Or Reality?

EP Editorial Staff | June 19, 2013

0613viewpointBy Thomas J. Burke, President & Executive Director, OPC Foundation

The landscape is continually changing in automation. The myriad of consumer electronics that are regularly used by the engineers of today and tomorrow have changed how people think with respect to interoperability: Automation is now expected to work right out of the box. This is providing a unique opportunity to challenge suppliers’ motivation and desire with respect to their avoidance tactics in observing industry standards.

The proliferation of data—and transforming vast amounts of it into useful information—is a key element in advancing the state of maintenance and reliability via automation: Intelligent maintenance, after all, requires the right information for proper analysis to make the right decisions.

With so many standards organizations defining data and information models these days, the perception is that there is substantial overlap among them. If that’s the case, perhaps it’s time for these organizations to work together to understand the overlap while developing deliverables related to their respective needs. That, in turn, should increase adoption of individual standards and, ultimately, provide information interoperability that can be used for enhanced maintenance and reliability.


This type of approach—which can help collaborating organizations increase their own efficiencies—is typically driven by suppliers and buyers. In fact, most standards-organization technology is a result of competitors working together to develop an interoperability standard. 

“Organizational collaboration” is the next phase of interoperability, the goal of which is to move beyond the proven methodology of competitors working together for individual standards and create a superior interoperability solution for the future. In other words, will we successfully derive new innovations through industry-standard collaboration, or is it just going to be more of the same from individual organizations trying to glue their respective standards together? The benefits of organizational-standards collaboration are clear:

  • Identify areas of intersection to avoid creating duplicate or conflicting standards.
  • Identify opportunities for organizational synergy.
  • Clearly identify the value proposition message for standards adoption and deployment.
  • Ensure maximum member benefits through participation in standards organizations.

A number of important collaborations are currently underway. Take, for example, FDI Cooperation, LLC, whose mission is summed up by the following statement posted on

“The five major automation foundations, including the FDT Group, Fieldbus Foundation, HART Communication Foundation, PROFIBUS & PROFINET International, and OPC Foundation have developed a single common solution for Field Device Integration (FDI). FDI technology will provide a common solution for managing information of intelligent field devices for the various tasks associated with all phases of their life cycle, from configuration, commissioning and diagnostics to calibration. This makes different solutions for different devices obsolete. FDI is a truly unified solution that addresses end-user requirements across the spectrum.”

As a user of intelligent field devices, you probably can appreciate what FDI is doing. For details on other groups collaborating to improve your operations and work life, including MIMOSA, OGC and OPC, check out the Standards Leadership Council (SLC) at What’s important to recognize is that the value proposition for industry-standard organizations working together is a reality. Such collaborations provide the infrastructure necessary for innovation and advancement of technology related to information integration and interoperability. Look for them to grow. MT

To learn about the OPC Foundation and its partnerships, go to






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