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Flexible Imaging with Smart Cameras

Photonics Spectra
Oct 2003
Smart cameras integrate processing functions in a small footprint, making them suitable for a host of applications.

Anne L. Fischer

Smart cameras may be selling like hotcakes, but they’re really not revolutionary in terms of image processing and analysis — not yet, anyway, according to Pierantonio Boriero, product manager at Matrox Imaging in Dorval, Quebec, Canada. He contends that smart cameras are just a new vehicle for existing algorithm technologies. What they do offer, he says, is “a new package of delivery.” These devices integrate processing functions in a small footprint, making them the perfect imaging tool for a whole host of applications.

This group of articles written by industry experts covers applications from 2-D bar-code scanning systems to factory inspection to robot guidance. The lead article, written by Valerie Bolhouse of Ford Motor Co., precisely defines a smart camera. Called a sensor, a vision sensor and an intelligent camera, we offer this all-inclusive definition of a smart camera that goes beyond a simple label.

Camera_illust_Cognex.jpg

Courtesy of Cognex.

As Bolhouse explains, smart cameras bundle the functions of a PC, a frame grabber and a camera. Many perform setup and calibration, while others may require initial hookup to a PC for programming. The cameras can be networked through a standard Ethernet interface, but there are a few drawbacks to linking many cameras on the shop floor, and this overview points out that there are times when smart cameras may lack the image processing tools that are available only through a PC-based vision system.

In the article on image processing, industry leaders examine emerging communications trends. Various processor schemes, improved connectivity and better hardware are paving the way for using smart cameras in advanced imaging applications. Understanding that these sensors are still limited by what can be put in such a small box, continued advances in neural network and pattern recognition technologies will likely continue to push them into new and more demanding applications.


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