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Sensors 2017, 17(7), 1512; doi:10.3390/s17071512

Integration of Sensors, Controllers and Instruments Using a Novel OPC Architecture

Department of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Automation, University of Extremadura, Avenida de Elvas, s/n, 06006 Badajoz, Spain
Department of Electronic, Computer Science and Automatic Engineering, University of Huelva, Escuela Técnica Superior, Crta. Huelva-Palos de la Fra, Palos de la Fra, 21919 Huelva, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 April 2017 / Revised: 9 June 2017 / Accepted: 23 June 2017 / Published: 27 June 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Sensor Networks)


The interconnection between sensors, controllers and instruments through a communication network plays a vital role in the performance and effectiveness of a control system. Since its inception in the 90s, the Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control (OPC) protocol has provided open connectivity for monitoring and automation systems. It has been widely used in several environments such as industrial facilities, building and energy automation, engineering education and many others. This paper presents a novel OPC-based architecture to implement automation systems devoted to R&D and educational activities. The proposal is a novel conceptual framework, structured into four functional layers where the diverse components are categorized aiming to foster the systematic design and implementation of automation systems involving OPC communication. Due to the benefits of OPC, the proposed architecture provides features like open connectivity, reliability, scalability, and flexibility. Furthermore, four successful experimental applications of such an architecture, developed at the University of Extremadura (UEX), are reported. These cases are a proof of concept of the ability of this architecture to support interoperability for different domains. Namely, the automation of energy systems like a smart microgrid and photobioreactor facilities, the implementation of a network-accessible industrial laboratory and the development of an educational hardware-in-the-loop platform are described. All cases include a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to automate and control the plant behavior, which exchanges operative data (measurements and signals) with a multiplicity of sensors, instruments and supervisory systems under the structure of the novel OPC architecture. Finally, the main conclusions and open research directions are highlighted. View Full-Text
Keywords: OPC; sensors; PLC; SCADA; automation; communication; interoperability; smart microgrid; remote laboratory; hardware-in-the-loop OPC; sensors; PLC; SCADA; automation; communication; interoperability; smart microgrid; remote laboratory; hardware-in-the-loop

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

González, I.; Calderón, A.J.; Barragán, A.J.; Andújar, J.M. Integration of Sensors, Controllers and Instruments Using a Novel OPC Architecture. Sensors 2017, 17, 1512.

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