Board level vision systems

The availability of small, embedded processing boards based on either ARM or x86 instruction set architecture offers great potential for the development of embedded vision systems for industrial applications. Many of the leading image processing libraries and toolkits can now be ported to these platforms meaning that the tools are available to produce a wider range of vision solutions in this format.

Developing Applications for embedded systems (courtesy Multipix Imaging)

Developing Applications for embedded systems (courtesy Multipix Imaging)

Combining these processing capabilities with low cost cameras, including board level cameras, means that vision systems could be incorporated into a wide variety of products and processes with comparatively small cost overheads.

The board level challenge

While embedded vision has been applied to transport, logistics and other non-industrial machine vision applications, their use in industrial applications is still at a comparatively early stage. Systems are not readily available ‘off the shelf’ in the same way as smart cameras or multi-point vision systems. To date, embedded vision systems tend to have been designed by vision and integration specialists for a specific OEM application, often in the field of medical devices, industrial automation or remote monitoring. Thus, at present their specialist development costs will offset the inherently low component costs. Although the boards offer very powerful processing capabilities, data transfer bandwidth is limited even with direct connection to the board. This means that the boards need to be used to perform selected processing tasks that minimize data transfer. In addition, although image processing libraries are available for use on the embedded processors the exact performance of an algorithm can vary depending on the particular processor used.

Moving forward

In the same way that other variants of visions systems have matured in recent years, there is little doubt that there will be significant developments in board level systems allowing the real cost benefits to be realised. It is also likely that there will be an increasing use of SoC (system on chip) processors such as the Xilinx Zynq series.

 

UKIVA members can offer further advice Embedded Vision Technology.