PICMG InterEdge and OPAF Partnership to Advance Open Process Control Technology

Partnership seeks to reduce technology integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs in the process automation industry.

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PICMG, the consortium for open hardware specifications, has entered a liaison partnership with The Open Group Open Process Automation™ Forum (OPAF) to collaboratively develop interoperable, interchangeable technology specifications for the process control industry. The partnership fills a gap in edge controller hardware that exists in the O-PAS Standard—an open architectural framework for developing industrial process automation systems, currently being defined by OPAF initiatives.

Governed by The Open Group, OPAF membership is comprised of 110+ member organizations, including companies like Exxon Mobil, Schneider Electric, Phoenix Contact, Intel, and others. These companies work collaboratively to address the needs of end users in the process control market through initiatives like the O-PAS Standard. The O-PAS framework references existing standards wherever possible or, in the absence of such standards, works with associated organizations to achieve proper standard definition.

To complete and standardize work on an edge controller performed by OPAF member Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), The Open Group Forum evaluated several hardware standards development organizations. The OPAF Members selected PICMG to develop a new open edge hardware technology specification that defines electromechanical interoperability, interchangeability, hot plug capabilities, and compatibility with existing standards such as IEC 61499 and IEC 61131.

The result was the recently ratified InterEdge specification.

Collaborative Standards Development Yields InterEdge Specification

Founded in 1994, PICMG is a consortium of more than 150 member companies that defines open, interoperable, and multi-vendor technology specifications for high-performance embedded computing platforms. With a heritage of specifications that span edge-to-cloud use cases, including CompactPCI, AdvancedTCA, and COM Express, PICMG brings a proven process and track record of successfully producing lasting, quality technology specifications.

“During development of the O-PAS Standard, we realized the need for physical hardware that provided interchangeability in an interoperable way,” explained David DeBari, Process Control Engineering Associate at ExxonMobil. “Because our focus is primarily on the software side, we opted to bring in third-party expertise. PICMG was the organization that best fit our needs in that regard—a lot of our suppliers were involved with them already, so working together was the natural choice.”

The InterEdge specification introduces a modular open architecture that delivers state-of-the-art I/O abstraction and flexibility and in a common physical form factor. It supports the OPAF and O-PAS goals of reducing integration, maintenance, and upgrade costs in the highly fragmented and largely proprietary process control technology market.

Collaboration for A More Open Industry

The OPAF and PICMG relationship is ongoing, with work on new versions of the InterEdge specification already underway. Meanwhile, the Open Process Automation Forum has introduced InterEdge to its physical platform subcommittee, who plan to include the specification in an upcoming revision of the O-PAS Standard and devise a set of tests that evaluate conformance to the InterEdge specification.

“Through standardization, proprietary physical interfaces are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The InterEdge standard from PICMG is the first step in that transition for process automation industry end users. Enabling hardware interchangeability allows end users to select components based on performance characteristics instead of physical interface compatibility. We look forward to seeing this key quality attribute normatively referenced in the O-PAS standard,” added Aneil Ali, Forum Director of The Open Group Open Process Automation Forum.

“Our relationship with PICMG is invaluable. It is industry changing,” said Steve Bitar, former ExxonMobil automation advisor and secretary of the PICMG InterEdge working group. “And we already know that some of our vendors will use—or are already using—other PICMG standards like COM-Express and COM-HPC. That level of collaboration and integration brings us a step closer to our vision—an industry built on open architecture standards and qualifications that are supported by end users, suppliers, and integrators alike.