Firewire, or 1394, continues to vie for the market acceptance that some have
expected for far more than a decade. It’s gaining acceptance in a variety of
markets, particularly in machine vision, but questions continue to loom.
The technology continues to evolve, with a new double-speed B version that
also increases distance. Vendors are quickly to adopt it. “We just introduced a
1394B camera. A problem with Firewire is that cables were limited to 4.5 meters.
With B, it goes to 500 meters using optical cable,” says Marty Furse, CEO at
Prosilica Inc. of Burnaby, B.C. in Canada.
In machine vision, a rapidly growing field, 1394 is becoming a standard for
cameras as they move to digital technology. “Firewire is replacing analog
cameras,” says Kyle Voosen, vision product manager at National Instruments of
Austin, TX. Standardization is a key factor in
At camera maker Basler Vision Technologies of Exton, PA, 1394 is one of four
digital interfaces being supported. “Half of what we sell is Firewire,” says
Stanley Shmia, market development manager at Basler.
While Firewire is taking
over the low-end and mainstream for machine vision cameras, there’s some concern
that Gbit Ethernet may erode that, providing longer wiring distances and the low
cost associated with the popular office standard.
That uncertainty is carrying over into other areas. Market analysts at
In-Stat/MDR of Scottsdale, AZ, predict that 1394 will see 22 percent
compound annual growth through 2008, but notes that the market has “enormous
ambiguity.” Among the concerns clouding Firewire’s market potential is the
rampant success of the USB interface for digital still cameras and other
consumer gear that was once the target for 1394. In-Stat predicts that USB will
be on nearly all PCs that ship this year, helping spark 18 percent annual
growth through 2008.
Prosilica’s camera and National Instruments’ Compact
Vision System communicate using