Embedded vision systems are still relatively new in machine vision, but there are several out on the market now. Some of them include cameras, others are primarily a controller box. They come in a wide range, from fairly simple pre-integrated systems like PPT Vision's, to very high-end units with insanely fast camera shutter speeds and slo-mo video playback abilities, like Photron's. The newest is a powerful embedded vision system from Adlink Technology that falls somewhere between these two extremes.
Multi-camera machine vision networks need the multiple ports, open standards, and software triggering abilities of embedded vision systems such as Adlink's EOS-1200. (Source: Adlink Technology)
Adlink's EOS-1200 targets manufacturing engineers and quality control engineers building multi-camera imaging applications where 24/7 uptime is needed, such as factory automation, and food and packaging inspection. It combines Power over Ethernet (PoE) and USB camera interfaces for flexibility and ease of integration. The fact that these two interfaces are based on general-purpose protocols, instead of interface standards based on bus protocols designed specifically for vision, makes the unit easier to integrate, since the buses are already widely available in many different types of off-the-shelf hardware.
Combining multiple ports for camera interfaces based on different standards is a growing trend in embedded vision systems, especially those that must incorporate and integrate multiple cameras based on multiple interface protocols. All those cameras must also be synchronized. Unlike most other embedded vision controllers, the EOS-1200 supports the IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP). This protocol enables the use of a software trigger for synchronized image capture with minimal jitter, increasingly important in complex multi-camera networks.
The new system has four independent 1Gbit/s PoE ports with an overall data transfer rate up to 4Gbit/s, two USB 3.0 ports at 3.2Gbit/s each, and four USB 2.0 ports at 480Mbit/s. Its dual SATA interfaces support 2.5-inch SATA drives for RAID storage configurations. The single Ethernet cable enabled by PoE delivers power, transfers data, and provides data synchronization, simplifying cabling, and making a more compact solution. The unit measures 230mm x 82mm x 206mm.
I would think that the trend of supporting general-purpose protocols is really a must in order for these new multi-camera vision systems to gain traction in all of the interesting applications you mentioned, Ann. With more and more cameras deployed on the factory floor or for medical applications, there's got to be a need to integrate the plethora of images with mainstream systems in real time in order to truly leverage the capabilities and achieve any kind of benefits. Beyond bus interfaces are there any other efforts going on to leverage standards and mainstream computing protocols to address this integration challenge?
Ann, one of the articles referenced talks about 10-gigabit Ethernet. The question is, do vision systems need that much bandwidth. Do you see support for 10-gigabit Ethernet in systems like Vision Systems in the near future?
Beth, can you clarify your question? What kind of integration are you thinking of?
Regarding 10-Gbit Ethernet, I think that article and the comments attached to it cover those applications in quite some detail. In genetral, they are medical, military, and high-value quality inspection applications in multi-camera systems, and any app that can take advantage of high speed.
naperlou, I would suggest that in the embedded vision systems mentioned in the article, the main goal of the vision system is to collect lots, and lots of data; spend some time analyzing the images with the intent of making a decision; and then dumping the images after the decision has been made. Perhaps for archival purposes, a modest-resolution consumer video camera can be used in the loop for forensic logging. As the decisions become higher level, for example, reject or accept, routing, or even multi-sensor target recognition, or autonomous navigation, the analysis algorithms would love to have as much time as possible to make a correct decision. High-speed networks, such as 10-GBit Ethernet, present the data quickly and then the algorithms can start their processing. Now if the system calls for logging off all those images for offline analysis, I don't think the write-heads can keep up.
Thanks, William, for that description. That's the basic MV app in a nutshell, and a good succinct summary. And it applies, of course, to several different industries. Depending on the type of decision being made you need a higher or lower-res sensor, a color or B/W one, perhaps some visible light and some NIR cameras, various lens types, etc.
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