How do you think the new GigE standards will influence the machine vision industry?
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Imaging systems today are found in some pretty amazing places—underwater, in the air, in the middle of the desert, hospital basements or surgery suites, or even inside the human body. Speed of data capture, and the speed and accuracy of decision-making enabled by that data, are perhaps the most significant application issues driving developments in extreme imaging systems. Processing advances such as multicore and Intel’s 45nm are playing a pivotal role in improving computing power within the small form factors required for many of these applications. The resulting ability to deliver peak performance under harsh real-world conditions is in fact furthering the use of imaging systems steadily deeper into a broad range of military and commercial applications. The upshot may be that the harsh environments at play may mean far more than physical conditions, but also the level of computing performance that makes it all work.
Earlier days might have seen the designer treat imaging hardware as disposable, something to be replaced once its performance deteriorated with damage from environmental conditions. As a result, manufacturers did not typically invest in top-of-the-line components and resulting image quality was just not as good as it could be. That market dynamic has shifted dramatically, and high-end computational power is now available and cost effective in a range of platforms including computer-on-modules (COMs), CompactPCI, MicroTCA and VME. Designers today are developing longer life systems to tolerate vibration, shock, temperature extremes, water, dust, altitude or human tissue—and still provide the highest quality image created in the shortest amount of processing time.
Whether it’s situational awareness for a military operation, or real-time images being viewed during a tactical exercise, surveillance mission or surgical procedure, imaging systems answer the need for massive amounts of data processed quickly. Combine these unique environmental stresses with computational demands for faster, better images used in real-time decisionmaking, and there you have the definition of harsh.
Big Advances in Small, Multicore Packages
Small form factors and the computing power they deliver are in fact key drivers in imaging markets. Multicore processing platforms offer higher compute performance, reduced chip count, and lower BOM costs with dramatically reduced power consumption. Level of integration is important as well, and is currently having the largest impact on the smallest form factors. Currently available in 45nm and shortly in 32nm, manufacturers are now able to develop, for instance, credit card-sized computer-on-modules (COMs) that integrate the latest processors in even more energy-saving, processing-intensive designs.
Multicore computing is a game-changing technology, significantly affecting the range of embedded computing applications and imaging in particular. Imaging system designers are seeing new levels of energy-efficient performance enabled by advanced parallel processing and next-generation hafnium-based 45nm technology—and truly designing with multicore in mind even as they are learning how to leverage its design advantages.