The Future of Machine Vision Continued: the Future Standards Forum
In our thoughts on the future of machine vision, we hypothesized that their will likely be fewer interface standards. This is a fairly safe prediction as the G3 (AIA, EMVA, and JIIA) recently formed The Future Standards Forum to, amongst other things, minimize overlap between standards.
The Future Standards Forum is another example of the maturing of the machine vision market. In the early days of Machine Vision, life was easy. The interface between cameras and frame grabbers was analog and according to TV standards like CCIR or RS-170. In the 1990s, the first digital interfaces became available as high-end systems needed higher resolutions and frame speeds and had a preference for digital. The problem was that in a few years there were far too many different interfaces that were not compatible with each other. This was not beneficial for the customers or suppliers.
It was late in the 90s when the idea of Camera Link was born - the first digital interface for the Machine Vision market that was supported by most (if not all) manufacturers of cameras and frame grabbers. Even today, Camera Link still plays an important role.
Because Camera Link could not be used in systems with a need for long cable lengths and required the use of a frame grabber, the GigE Vision standard was born in 2003. GigE Vision allowed for cables of over 100 meters long, but at the time the speed was limited to 1 Gbit/sec. This speed quickly became a limitation with the introduction of higher speed, high resolution sensors:
In 2008 several companies joined forces to develop a Camera Link successor internally known as Visilink. This initiative was stopped because the development effort was considered too high for a standard that was focusing on high speed only. A smaller group of companies led by DALSA continued developing this technology, which was then referred to as HS Link.
In parallel, and unaware of what was happening at the other side of the world, Adimec and EqcoLogic were working on a new interface technology that used one coaxial cable for image data, communication, triggering and power. After successful demonstrations during the Stuttgart Vision Show in 2008, the CoaXPress consortium was formed to develop the first prototype of what is now the CoaXPress standard.
It was during the Camera Link committee meeting in June 2009 when the teams that developed Camera Link HS and CoaXPress first learned about each other's activities. An effort was made to see if both teams could agree with a common standard proposal, but that was unsuccessful - it was already too late to change course of the development teams.
The result of this "poor planning" was that AIA chose to host HS Link (later rebranded as Camera Link HS) and that JIIA decided to host CoaXPress.
Cooperation on standards
Approximately at the same that Camera Link HS and CoaXPress were in their early days of development, the three most important Machine Vision associations worldwide (AIA, EMVA and JIIA) were investigating how they could manage the growing number of standards in the industry. Through a joint and ongoing initiative called the G3, they agreed not to compete on new standards, but instead jointly promote the standards that were hosted by the three associations. Unfortunately the G3 was too late to prevent that HS Link and CoaXPress were developed in somewhat competition with each other.
Discussions about how conflicts like between CoaXPress and Camera Link HS can be prevented in the future resulted in a new initiative: the Future Standards Forum.
The Future Standards Forum (FSF)
So what exactly is the FSF? According to the FSF charter: "The Future Standards Forum is a forum under the G3 for the exchange of information about standards and technologies for the Machine Vision industry". Generally speaking, the FSF will do the following:
a) Investigate opportunities offered by new technologies (technology push) and identify future challenges (will result in a market pull);
b) Provide recommendations for new standards and evolution of existing standards taking into account industry trends, global trends and user requirements;
c) Promote the re-use and harmonization of existing standards in order to minimize overlap between standards and prevent double work; and,
d) Actively seek collaboration with standard bodies outside the Machine Vision market in order to share ideas and investigate which standards can be re-used.
This will provide a proactive and coordinated approach to deliver the best standards to the market. The first working group will start developing the roadmap of interface standards that exist or are under development. More working groups for other standards will be established in time.
For a comparison of existing interface standards, please read our free epaper: