Friday, September 13, 2013

The Keys to the Modern Kingdom Are Right Under Your Nose

Posted by Sam Elsner

There’s no doubt about it: modern automation systems are capable of generating more data than ever before. When you live in a time where even a single PLC can contain millions of individual data points, you’ve certainly asked yourself the question, “How can I make all of this data work for me?” Indeed, gaining access to this data, bringing it into a SCADA, MES, or DCS system, and giving it context can increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. But before you can make the data work for you, you’ve got to figure out how to get access to it. One excellent way to do so is through industry-standard OPC specifications and Kepware’s ClientAce. 

Keys to the Modern Kingdom

Industry-Standard OPC Specifications

OPC servers are ubiquitous in the Automation Industry. Almost all device vendors supply their own OPC server for use with their devices, and a few companies have made a business out of developing drivers that make data from common, often proprietary, and device-specific communication protocols available over industry-standard OPC specifications. Some, like Kepware’s KEPServerEX, provide support for hundreds of communication protocols and a variety of OPC specifications within a single server application. With ClientAce and OPC, it’s easier than ever before to harness the power of device data to add value to your organization. 

Introducing ClientAce

So what is ClientAce anyway? ClientAce is an OPC client development toolkit for use with Microsoft Visual Studio. With Kepware’s newly-released ClientAce version 4.0, users can add OPC UA, OPC DA, and OPC XML-DA client functionality into Windows-based applications developed in Visual Studio.

There is a heap of OPC client development toolkits on the market, so what makes ClientAce different? Well, a lot—but primarily, its incredible ease of use.

Just what makes ClientAce so easy to use? The answer lays in the two sophisticated options that it provides to developers when building OPC clients:

1. the ClientAce DA Junction

2. the ClientAce .NET API

The ClientAce DA Junction

The ClientAce DA Junction is a one-of-a-kind feature that gives developers a simple graphical user interface for adding OPC client functionality to Windows forms. After dragging the DA Junction control object onto a form and clicking through a few intuitive menu options, the application is ready to communicate to OPC servers. There is no coding necessary. Check out this recorded webinar where I show just how easy it is to use the ClientAce DA Junction.

In it, I demonstrate how to build a simple Windows form application that uses ClientAce to simultaneously source data from both an OPC DA server and an OPC UA server. The application went from complete scratch to presenting values from both sources in less than 10 minutes.

The ClientAce .NET API

The second development option—the ClientAce .NET API—offers a powerful, full-featured set of class libraries for communicating to OPC UA, OPC DA, and OPC XML-DA servers. Nearly every method in each class library is applicable to each type of OPC connection. This means that users have only one set of methods to learn in order to use the API to develop OPC DA, OPC UA, and OPC XML-DA client functionality. For example, with the ClientAce .NET API, the only difference between coding an OPC DA application and coding an OPC UA application is the initial connection method that is used. The API not only speeds up overall development by removing the need to learn many OPC-specific command sets, but also makes it incredibly easy to convert OPC DA applications that were developed with ClientAce to OPC UA or XML-DA applications and back again. 

What's Next? 

When combined with a robust OPC-capable communications platform like KEPServerEX, ClientAce offers an easy, cost-effective way to gain real business value from automation equipment. Data is your key to the modern kingdom, and it’s right under your nose. Get your hands on a copy of both ClientAce and KEPServerEX today and see just how easy accessing data can be.

Download the 1-Hour ClientAce Demo