Flexible Tag Maintenance using Static & Dynamic Tags, Bulk Creation, Import & Export

Do I have to create tags in the TOP Server? No, static tags are optional!

The TOP Server does let you create and organize a static tag database in the configuration interface. 

TOP Server also supports direct tag access from any HMI, SCADA, MES, historian or other client application using dynamic tag references, which use the native addressing for the device driver you are using.

There are pros and cons to both of these methods, depending on your project, and both methods can be used simultaneously where needed.

If you use tags, for configuration scalability TOP Server supports bulk tag creation and CSV import/export, as well a configuration API for more sophisticated applications. 

Why should I add static tags to my TOP Server?

There are many reasons why maintaining a static tag database in your TOP Server project is a good idea, including:

  1. Some OPC Clients are designed such that it’s easiest to browse the OPC server static tags and add them to the HMI than to type in the PLC file address.
  2. It is also beneficial to add static tags to the OPC server if you need to insulate the client configuration from PLC configuration changes.
    • For example, consider that you’re working on a project where the final PLC project is not complete, but you need to work on the HMI configuration at the same time.
    • It can be easier to modify the tag in the OPC server to later point to a different PLC address than to have to make those changes to the client. This can be particularly true if you want to test a client application without having to open up the client development environment.
    • Since the client is always pointing to the same static tag name in the TOP Server, all you have to do is change the PLC address this static tag refers to in the TOP Server without making any change to your client.
  3. Static tags in the TOP Server can also be useful to OEMs who want to insulate their project from changes to PLC make/model.
    • When you’re creating a client connection to the same basic equipment over and over again, you can simply define a common tag name to represent a variable such as a running state or alarm.
    • Or if you have some customers using Allen-Bradley PLCs and others using Siemens or GE PLCs, you can simply change the device addresses associated with the common static tag names without having to modify the client application at all.
    • These same concepts apply if you will need to make changes without a client development license on the PC.
  4. Having tags in the OPC server can help enable cookie cutter client project rollouts, which greatly reduces time and effort.

Why should I use dynamic (direct) tag references to TOP Server?

As with the static tags, there are a number of good reasons why users choose to use dynamic tag address references with TOP Server instead of static tags.

  1. Some client applications require tags configured in their own tag database. It can save time, in this respect, not having to configure and maintain two separate tag databases.
  2. If you can’t take advantage of any of the benefits of static tags mentioned above, maintaining a static tag database in TOP Server would not be worthwhile with respect to efficiency.
  3. Retrofitting can also be a case for not configuring static tags.
    • Fore example, you have an existing HMI configuration and the HMI’s driver isn’t supported in the new operating system.
    • But you can use the TOP Server.
    • All the tags in the HMI are pointing to the PLC file addresses.
    • You can avoid re-configuring the HMI tags and just change the place the information is coming from (i.e. TOP Server).
  4. Some companies also have defined configuration standards that stipulate not configuring and maintaining a tag database in the OPC server, stating that tags should only be configured in the HMI or client application only.

TOP Server includes tools for more efficient tag creation and management

Regardless of your choice of static or dynamic tag references when using TOP Server, there are a number of useful tools that make your life easier including:

  1. Bulk Tag Creation, also referred to as Multi-Tag Generation, is a utility that makes it easier to add a range of addresses, when tag naming syntax will be similar (i.e. Tag1, Tag2, ... , Tag1000, etc.)
    • Access the Bulk Tag Creation tool in the TOP Server Configuration window through the Edit -> Connectivity menu.
  2. CSV Import and Export is also available for easily creating a large number of tags in Microsoft Excel and then importing them to TOP Server.  Additionally, this functionally is useful when you need to maintain a tag database both in TOP Server and your client application, as you can create tags in TOP Server or the client first, export the tag list, tweak it to fit the import requirements of the other application and then import.

Important Notes:

  • It is highly recommended to configured at least one static tag with a valid device address under each of your devices.  This facilitates easier troubleshooting when using the included OPC Quick Client for communication testing.
  • Both static tags and dynamic tag addresses can be used at the same time from any client application.
  • For dynamic tag addresses:
    • If any data type other than the default data type (which is specified in each driver help file for supported addresses) is required, TOP Server supports appending an "@" symbol to the end of the address followed by the desired data type (for instance, a Modbus holding register of 400001 is a default data type of Word - if you wished to access 400001 as a Short, you would specify a dynamic tag address of 400001@short in your client application).  Consult the TOP Server help file under Basic Server Components -> What is a Tag? -> Dynamic Tags for more details.
    • TOP Server also supports overriding the update rate on a per tag basis for non-OPC clients by appending an "@" symbol to the end of the dynamic tag address followed by the desired update rate in milliseconds (ms).
  • If a dynamic tag address is used in a client and that address matches the name of a static tag already defined in the server, the address referenced by the static tag overrides the dynamic address reference.
  • Static tags must be used to scale data in the server (i.e. scaling data is not possible using dynamic tag addressing).

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The demo is the full product once licensed. Once a client application connects to the  TOP Server, the TOP Server runtime will operate for 2 hours at a time. At the end of the 2 hour demo period, the demo timer must be reset by restarting the TOP Server runtime service.

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