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Embedded vision makes its way to smart industrial machines

Posted: 20 Apr 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Embedded Vision Alliance? Internet of Things? embedded? machine vision?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is leading the path toward innovation for industries that include medical, consumer and automotive. The potential for the technology is virtually limitless, considering that it is only in its infancy. Particularly, one of the most promising subsets of industrial IoT is embedded vision, or machinery that can see, interpret data, and act accordingly.

Traditionally, the most important class of applications in machine vision is in-line inspection and quality control. According to Jeff Bier, founder of the industry partnership Embedded Vision Alliance, machine vision is now a mature market growing at a modest pace of 10 to 15 per cent per year.

"Historically, machine vision has been an expensive, complex technology," said Bier. "This has limited how frequently it has been deployed. It's now rapidly becoming very inexpensive and small, with low power demands. As a result, it can be deployed in many new places where it wasn't before. In the industrial space, we now have products that sell for $100 that incorporate machine vision and connect to a smartphone."

Machine vision

(Source: Wikipedia)

Computer vision, aided by low-cost and energy-efficient processors, is leading a new wave of machine vision. The Embedded Vision Alliance refers to embedded vision as the use and application of computer vision in industrial machinery.

The technology is at a point where it can be directly integrated into machines, paving the way for new uses and smart machinery. As a result, new developments are happening at the design level, and forward-looking companies are integrating vision into industrial machinery through partnerships and acquisitions. The new designs are changing industry, particularly in robotics, according to Bier.

"In fabrication robots, for example, instead of having a camera mounted on a truss or a ceiling to monitor what that robot is doing, designers are experimenting with installing a very small camera on the robot arm to get a better picture of what's happening right at the moment the robotic tool is meeting the work," he said.

The result is robotic equipment that is better able to compensate using vision the way a human operator would. If a tool has become worn or bent, a human worker would alter the way he uses the tool. With better vision at the work site, robots can also better compensate for work conditions, which boosts reliability and uptime. Embedded vision technology is also enabling broader use of augmented reality, according to Bier. This will have significant implications for assembly line processes.

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