Embedded vision systems becoming increasingly smaller / Multiprocessor system-on-chip technology gaining ground
Embedded vision systems have continued to develop at a rapid pace and are now an integral part of the machine vision industry. They are therefore permanent fixtures in the product range of many exhibitors at VISION. They open up hitherto undeveloped application areas and therefore conform precisely to the motto "BE VISIONARY‘ of VISION 2018," enthused Florian Niethammer, VISION Project Manager at Messe Stuttgart.
Christoph Wagner, Product Manager Embedded Vision at MVTec Software, describes the current development of embedded vision systems as follows: "Many applications involving larger unit numbers are now being implemented on embedded devices since these devices have many advantages compared with the standard PC variant, e.g. reduced power consumption, independence of peripherals and lastly the price and shape factor." MVTec will present the release HALCON 18.11 at VISION 2018. "The new version will therefore also now be supplied as a standard feature for 64-bit ARM platforms, whereby even more embedded devices will run "out of the box“ with HALCON," said Wagner.
Trends towards system on chip technology and more intelligent embedded
Vision systems represent examples of a trend towards technological convergence between industrial applications and the world of end consumers. "The ARM-based system-on-chip (SoC) solutions are becoming increasingly more efficient and can now often achieve parity, especially in terms of their price-performance ratio, compared with X86 architectures which are still predominant in the industry environment," said, for example, Gerrit Fischer, Head of Product Market Management at Basler. During VISION 2018 his company will present an embedded vision development kit which combines, as a system approach, different components – a dart camera module with BCON for a MIPI interface, a Snapdragon 820 ARM processor and the pylon camera software suite. The trend is also confirmed by Frans Vermeulen, Head of Sales and Marketing at Active Silicon: "We expect that consumer and off-the-shelf technology will be integrated in embedded systems to an increasing extent." During VISION 2018 Active Silicon will present its vision processing unit, an embedded vision computer which was developed for integration in an industrial or a medical OEM device.
"Heterogeneous systems" is what Jan-Erik Schmitt calls the current trend in the product category of embedded vision systems. "They are a combination of several computing units, for example our Linux-based line cameras which are based on a system-on-chip with a dual core ARM processor and a FPGA," added the Sales Manager of Vision Components. Christopher Scheubel, Head of IP & Business Development at Framos, explained another major trend in embedded vision: "Development is not only moving towards total embedding, but also towards intelligence – in order to let devices act independently and take decisions without any human interaction.“ Autonomous vehicles, service robots in industry and the household, and drones are forerunners in this application.
The future of embedded and smart
"Embedded vision systems will probably become established in every industry, but especially in industrial production. Switching manufacturing to new production concepts, which is being stimulated by the basic idea of Industry 4.0, will call for the use of intelligent systems," emphasised Holger Wirth, Vice President R&D Automation at ISRA Vision. An estimate that is also shared by Paul Maria Zalewski from Allied Vision: "Especially on the two vertical markets of factory automation and intelligent traffic systems, we are seeing a change towards embedded vision because price pressure on the manufacturers of these systems is increasing and their customers expect increasingly more compact vision systems. “Prophesee introduces Onboard™, its first reference system for implementing breakthrough event-based machine vision in Industry 4.0 applications.”. However: "There are also other future markets with far more growth potential for embedded vision systems, for example the areas of service robotics and smart home/building," said Christoph Wagner from MVTec. Intelligent traffic systems, which will again be a key topic at VISION 2018 and will come under the keyword "Smart Cities", are regarded as growth drivers for embedded vision systems. Examples here include automated truck parking space assignment with an embedded vision system from the long-standing VISION exhibitor Vision Components and its system software for automatic number plate recognition. "Embedded vision systems show their full potential in Internet of Things environments and networked systems. We see great potential in the areas of home devices & robotics, automotive, retail and surveillance," added Christopher Scheubel with his estimation.
Stemmer Imaging does not only want to be restricted to individual application areas: "Porting of the 2018 version of our software library Common Vision Blox for ARM-based platforms running under Linux enables PC systems to be easily changed to new embedded solutions in many applications. Due to this new flexibility, the use of embedded technology should be individually based on performance requirements, space requirements and other marginal conditions," said Peter Keppler, Director of Corporate Sales.
In the area of interface connection Allied Vision sees a trend towards camera modules which support MIPI CSI-2. This standard, which is already being used in mobile devices, forms a basis for the standard initiative "Industrial Embedded Vision Interface“ of the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA). ISRA Vision is also bringing standard industrial interfaces based on Ethernet into play due to the following reason: "Thanks to the use of standard interfaces based on Ethernet, e.g. Industrial Ethernet, integration is becoming easier for customers," said Wirth. The company will present, for example, a new embedded camera for robot guidance and 3D position detection during VISION 2018. OPC-UA and WLAN are other interfaces which are supported by the new embedded vision systems of ISRA Vision.