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OPC UA on PolarFire SoC: Enabling Industrial Edge Solutions

By February 12, 2024February 13th, 2024No Comments


Author: Apurva Peri, Principal Engineer, FPGA Product Marketing 

The Modern Industrial Edge

The Industrial Edge has become the standard for industrial automation requirements, which necessitates customizability and flexibility in all aspects of development and deployment. The PolarFire® System-on-Chip Field-Programmable Gate Array (SoC FPGA) is a wise choice for industrial edge applications because it is designed to meet the specific needs of these implementations. It is the most power-efficient, reliable and secure platform for real-time data processing and decision-making. It includes a comprehensive edge stack with quickly demonstrable solutions for key industrial edge applications, such as OPC UA, motion control, ROS 2.0, Smart Embedded Vision, Time-Sensitive Networking and AI/ML acceleration. Microchip’s PolarFire SoC FPGA can therefore be a foundational building block for key industrial edge applications such as robotics, low-power medical imaging, process control and automation, industrial image processing and analytics, multi-axis motion control and video broadcast equipment.

OPC UA for the industrial Edge

A key component of the future of the industrial edge is OPC UA. OPC UA stands for Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture. It is a standard for industrial automation that defines a way for devices, applications, and systems to communicate with each other. OPC UA is platform-independent and can be used on a variety of different operating systems and devices. OPC UA simplifies the communication and integration of devices in industrial settings. It provides a standardized framework for secure and reliable data exchange, ensuring that machines, sensors and control systems can work together seamlessly. It functions using a standard client-server architecture with the following roles.

  1. The OPC UA Server is the basis of OPC communication. It is software that implements the OPC standard and thus provides standardized OPC interfaces to the outside world.
  2. The OPC UA Client is the logical counterpart to the OPC Server. The OPC Server can be connected to the OPC Client and read out the data provided by the Server.

OPC UA with PolarFire SoC

Microchip has developed a solution for implementing OPC UA on PolarFire SoC FPGAs. The PolarFire SoC FPGA Implementation of OPC-UA demonstrates communication over OPC-UA between the PolarFire SoC Video Kit, and the PolarFire SoC ICICLE Kit, using the UaExpert (A Full-Featured OPC UA test Client). The design examines two configurations illustrating PolarFire SoC in client and server modes. 

Figure 2: OPC UA with PolarFire SoC

The OPC UA client library is a software library that provides the interface for communicating with OPC UA servers. It runs in user space, which means that it is not part of the Linux kernel. Similarly, The OPC UA server library provides the interface for exposing data from edge devices in a standardized format. It also runs in user space. Other OPC UA services like discovery service, security service supporting APIs, utilities, etc. are part of adding multiple motors, cameras and other types of sensors to this solution and configuring them accordingly (server or client) to the kernels which are abstracted to a user application.

The PolarFire SoC Video kit is programmed to run an H.264 Compression application and the PolarFire SoC Icicle kit to run a stepper motor control application. Configuration settings allow for turning on/off the video stream, modifying resolution, brightness, contrast, gain, start/stop, direction and motor speed, etc. 

The solution demonstrates three distinct frameworks for server control within the configurations mentioned above.  

  1. Control the PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit (OPC UA server) from the PC (OPC UA client).
  2. Control the PolarFire SoC Video Kit (OPC UA server) from the PC (OPC UA client).
  3. Control the PolarFire SoC Video Kit (OPC UA server) and PolarFire SoC Icicle Kit (OPC UA server) from another Icicle Kit (OPC UA client).

The solution is demonstrative but can be scaled to add multiple motors, cameras and other types of sensors and configure them accordingly (server or client.) It can also be customized for application-specific hardware. 

Microchip’s solution for OPC UA on PolarFire SoC is a powerful and flexible proposal for edge computing applications. It offers several advantages, including reduced development time, improved performance and increased security.

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