An Overview of OPC UA

What is OPC UA in SCADA systems?

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems use hardware and software to improve system operations. The goals of these solutions are to minimize friction points and increase efficiency. SCADA allows for greater automation and faster decisions across a variety of industries. OPC UA is a communication protocol used by SCADA systems to enable an exchange of data between devices.

SCADA and Remote Monitoring

The SCADA structure involves several layers of devices. At one end, sensors gather and send data from different assets in the system. For water-related industries, they might send information about valve status, pipe pressure, and water quality. The data then travels to several devices: remote terminal units for local control, data servers for analysis and storage, and a master station that allows for system-wide control.

Running a complex system requires an advanced communications architecture. OPC allows data to flow between the different devices in an industrial system.

What is OPC UA?

Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture was developed to solve machine-to-machine communication issues to improve industrial automation. Historically, companies would invest a great deal of time and money into developing drivers that allowed computers to interact with other devices. Every new device meant new drivers. This hub-based approach also restricted communication to a computer that had the correct drivers installed.

The OPC model allows for systemic communication. It takes a data-centered approach where the server doesn’t need to know the device’s function requesting or transmitting data. Instead, data travels in a uniform format that all devices on the system can recognize.

Benefits of an Object-Oriented Communication Architecture

Computer languages like Java, Python, and C++ are object-oriented. An object is a structure made of data and functional methods. An object could be a book in a library database, a local weather report, or an NPC in a computer game. Although they have different applications, the language treats them all the same in the background.

Within a SCADA system, the OPC model views every device as an independent object. The server doesn’t discriminate between sensors, control devices, or other equipment. Instead, it works with the parameters set within the object itself. An object-oriented approach brings several benefits to complex systems.


By treating devices as generic objects, the system can incorporate new components with minimal disruption. Simple scalability is an essential advantage in growing municipal areas.


New technologies and devices come online every year. An object-oriented system can easily include changes while allowing old devices to communicate with new ones.


System security is a significant concern for municipal utility and service providers. OPC UA uses end-to-end encryption as well as authentication protocols to prevent attacks that could disrupt service.

OPC UA and Industrial Automation

The OPC protocol improves operations in complex systems by enabling communication between devices in different system sections. For water distribution, this arrangement will allow components of the system to reroute flow when there’s a water quality or pressure issue. When one component sends a status alarm, the system can automatically calculate a solution based on the data from other devices. This real-time reaction will prevent minor damage from becoming worse and minimize customer disruption.

A Partner for SCADA Solutions in the Water and Wastewater Industries

Clean, reliable water is a quality of life issue for residential and commercial customers. High Tide Technologies specializes in SCADA solutions for clients involved with water collection, treatment, and distribution. Employing SCADA technology helps our clients operate systems that are more dependable and profitable. A robust communications architecture, remote monitoring, and intelligent automation will keep your water system flowing smoothly. To learn more about SCADA systems uniquely designed for your industry, reach out to High Tide Technologies today.