Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) are a pillar of today's Smart City concept. ITS integrates video communications into traffic infrastructure to advance driver safety, reduce traffic congestion, and lower fuel consumption. As governments strive to achieve these goals with ITS, the high-speed point-to-point serial communication standard CoaXPress (CXP) is playing a vital role, especially in the migration of older analogue systems to networked digital video platforms. CXP allows for the ‘repurposing’ of the coaxial cables already installed in the majority of ITS infrastructures, eliminating the cost of expensive new cabling such as twisted pair or fibre. Best of all, CoaXPress eases the migration from analogue to digital video without any compromise in performance. CoaXPress enables ITS integrators to simply replace low-performing analogue cameras with digital megapixel models for monitoring, controlling and managing traffic" Monitoring traffic with digital cameras Donal Waide is Director of Sales for BitFlow, Inc., a manufacturer of frame grabbers and an early leader in CXP. According to Waide, the advantages of CXP make it ideal for ITS in both public and commercial enterprises: "CoaXPress enables ITS integrators to simply replace low-performing analogue cameras with today's digital megapixel models for monitoring, controlling and managing traffic and enhancing security." Advantages of CoaXPress CXP's bandwidth is 6.25 Gbps per channel with a maximum transmission speed of 25 Gbps. A re-developed CoaXPress 12 standard will be available later this year with double that data rate, achieving higher values than 10 GigE Vision. In ITS applications, the five to seven metres restriction of USB cables is insufficient to transmit camera data long distances, as are Ethernet cables. CXP-6 speed, currently the highest speed and best quality, allows up to 40 meters (131 feet) between the frame grabber as the host, and the camera as the end device, without any loss in quality. Even cable distances up to 100 meters (328 feet) are possible within levels CXP-1 to CXP-3. This is an ample distance to get from an overview camera at 10 meters up, or a red light camera at 30 meters from the junction box. Transmission adapters allow longer connections to be implemented at all speeds. Precise camera synchronisation CoaXPress uses a single coaxial cable for power supply, controls end data transmission to ensure a simple connection with minimal cable clutter. CoaXPress provides precise camera synchronisation and very low latencies. Synchronisation is performed only via the frame grabber and does not require an additional trigger signal as with both USB3 and GigE. For example, if a car moving quickly through an intersection is to be captured and evaluated from several perspectives, the precise triggering of all cameras and the synchronisation between the devices are crucial for high-quality analysis. It is here that CXP excels. While a higher resolution analogue camera may offer a solution, an interface is needed to bring the data back to the processing centre without latency Useful in license plate recognition To better appreciate these advantages let's look at license plate readers, an essential function of ITS. In Europe, license plates are large enough that they can be easily read: 18- to 20-inches long, 4-inches tall with large bold, unhindered fonts. In contrast, a U.S. license plate is only 12-inches x 6-inches. Apart from up to seven alphanumeric characters, there is also a state name, sticker and an image on the plate. This leads to a lot of confusion when using low resolution analogue cameras; for example, deciphering whether the plate of a car that drove through a toll booth without paying was ABC123 or A8CIZ3. The processing centre would have to verify the car make and interaction with the registry, which in turn dramatically reduces efficiency. If the resolution and data delivery were at high speed, however, ABC123 or A8CIZ3 would be a simple read. While a higher resolution analogue camera may offer a solution, an interface is needed to bring the data back to the processing centre without latency. This distance is typically much further than twisted pair cable can handle even with repeaters. CoaXPress combines the simplicity of standard coaxial cable with state-of-the-art high speed serial data technology Crystal clear images The CoaXPress interface is a major benefit in this instance. Legacy analogue traffic cameras still make up the majority of cameras on U.S. highways. Analogue images are transmitted back at a dismal 11Mb/S over coaxial cables to the processing centre’s computers. Now consider that same volume of data coming back on a CXP link (650MB/S) at 6.25 Gbps. This would enable images to be crystal clear and also allow for better information dissemination about traffic backlogs, accidents or breakdowns. Images would even be clear enough to be seen on a smartphone app. And because CXP offers Power-over-Coax, there would be no need for additional cabling work. CoaXPress combines the simplicity of standard coaxial cable with state-of-the-art high speed serial data technology. The CoaXPress standard meets the requirements of ITS for extended cable length, high speed, and ease of use.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connects all technologies, systems, and components involved in the industrial value creation process to each other as well as to company networks and the Internet. With connectively playing a critical role in this scenario, BitFlow announced it is shipping a new I/O device for machine vision which provides an unprecedented 36 inputs and 36 outputs in a compact, DIN-rail mounted form factor supporting TTL, LVDS, open collector, opto-isolated and 24V signaling. Amazingly simple to deploy, the BitFlow BitBox is controlled solely by a BitFlow frame grabber, using the same API, driver and manual -- reducing space requirements and flattening the learning curve for customers. It contains 12-pin connector blocks that are added or removed easily, yet still lock securely in place for factory floor reliability. Blocks are logically grouped by signal type and have snap-in connectors that allow the fabrication of a harness without directly wiring the BitBox. Machine vision monitors production processes "In IIoT environments, machine vision helps in the monitoring of production processes to pinpoint weak spots and optimisation potentials, along with the technology's traditional duty of identifying faulty parts; the challenge is connecting machine vision with other systems," said Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow. "Our new BitBox is a cost-effective, reliable way to connect and control dozens of devices such as strobes, solenoids and actuators, while acquiring data input from equipment ranging from photo detectors to triggers. It is the ideal solution for high-density networked systems."In IIoT environments, machine vision helps in the monitoring of production processes to pinpoint weak spots and optimisation potentials" Until now, Waide explains, the answer for connecting machine vision components has been to purchase an I/O card. However, this step requires additional costs, software, system complexity, and the use of a PC slot. In addition, traditional I/O cards put all transmitters and receivers on the actual board in the PC, thus requiring wires to travel from their sources all the way back to the PC, which is often located quite a distance from other equipment. Besides being added potential points of failure, this extended wiring can cause signal lag, and even lead to employee trip-and-fall accidents. Maximum flexibility In contrast, the BitBox contains all transmitters and receivers with a small high-speed 15-wire cable running between the BitBox and the frame grabber. Maximum length cable is a generous 10 metres, providing maximum flexibility in positioning equipment within the machine. This arrangement isolates noisy, high-voltage signals generated by the PC away from the machine where they could cause data drops, video problems, malfunctions and random network errors. The BitBox was designed with maximum flexibility in mind. For example, outputs can be elected to be driven either to the static level via software API or configuration files, or from a frame grabber's internal signal generators. Likewise, inputs can be routed to a number of different blocks on the frame grabber. Input signals can also be routed to other outputs, including to the camera where it can also cause an interruption, or start/end acquisition.
BitFlow, Inc. reported that a free software driver supporting National Instrument LabVIEW for the CoaXPress standard has recently become one of the most frequently downloaded products from its website, www.bitflow.com, underscoring the rapidly expanding adoption of this interface by the machine vision industry. The company also announced the immediate availability of a CXP driver for LabVIEW 2017, the latest version of the popular systems engineering software. The drivers are for use with BitFlow Aon and Cyton CoaxPress frame grabbers. First independent frame grabber supporting LabVIEW "BitFlow has a long history of spearheading the development of third party drivers optimized for easier access to the full functionality of our frame grabbers, along with much faster image acquisition, and minimal CPU usage," explained Donal Waide, Director of Sales for BitFlow. "We first offered a NI LabVIEW driver in 2009 for our Camera Link frame grabbers. In 2011, we expanded that to include support for our CoaXPress frame grabbers." Waide continued, "In essence, BitFlow was one of the first independent frame grabber companies to offer support for LabVIEW. This is very typical of the company who offered a 3rd party driver for Halcon back in 1997. Development of third party drivers represents our continuous commitment to adding value to our CXP customer relationships and to help in the acceleration of the CXP standard throughout the scientific, military and industrial vision markets." Strategic collaborations and compatibility One of the many game-changing advantages of BitFlow drivers is that they support all of the company's current product families. As a result, only one driver is required for any given application regardless of which BitFlow frame grabber is being deployed. Strategic collaboration between BitFlow and software developers has resulted in a massive library of third-party drivers. BitFlow plug-and-play drivers seamlessly integrate its frame grabbers within virtually any application environment, eliminating the need for new coding, while helping to achieve more stable systems. Aside from LabVIEW, BitFlow offers dedicated drivers for AB Software ImageWarp, Cognex Vision Pro, MVTec HALCON, Mathworks MATLAB, NorPix StreamPix, IO Industries Streams, Adaptive Vision Studio and Stemmer Imaging Common Vision Blox.
Aon-CXP is optimised for use with the CXP single-link cameras popular in the IIoT According to market research, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. While the consumer end of the IoT has been the primary focus of attention, the manufacturing subset of the IoT, known as the Industrial Internet of Things or the IIoT, will witness even more spectacular growth. Manufacturing companies are expected to spend $500 billion a year by 2020 on IIoT technology, and generate value of $15 trillion annually by 2030. Machine vision technologies At its core, the IIoT is about the interconnection of intelligent devices that collect, scour, and share data to find trends, patterns, and anomalies to help businesses make better decisions. Companies are already benefitting from the IIoT through cost savings due to predictive maintenance, improved safety, and other operational efficiencies. Data is king in the IIoT. However, you can't measure what you can't see or sense. This has given rise to a renewed need for increased and improved machine vision technologies, says Donal Waide, Director of Sales & Marketing for BitFlow, a manufacturer of frame grabbers used in machine vision technology. "An IIoT device without a camera or sensor may someday soon be considered a simple tool" "Data generated by cameras within an IIoT ecosystem is invaluable, if not absolutely essential, for successful connectivity and collaboration," says Waide. "An IIoT device without a camera or sensor may someday soon be considered a simple tool." CoaXPress camera-to-computer interface Waide gives the example of a connected camera on a packaging line. In addition to performing its traditional duty of reading barcodes to obtain product data, it will also evaluate barcode print quality to notify other machines to perform routine maintenance to barcode printers before codes fall below acceptable standards of readability. The challenge is how to integrate machine vision in a system of hundreds, if not thousands, of connected IIoT devices. Waide suggests the answer is the widely adopted CoaXPress (CXP) camera-to-computer interface. First proposed seven years ago, CXP combines the traditional simplicity of 75 Ω coaxial cable with state of the art, high-speed serial data technology. The merging of these two features—inexpensive coaxial cable and XPress speed—provides a highly desirable solution for IIoT data transmission. Reliable transfer of Big Data The backbone of the IIoT is the fast, reliable transfer of Big Data so it can be acted on by other machines. CoaXPress meets that challenge head-on by supporting bit rates up to 6.25 Gbit/s over a single coaxial cable from camera to frame grabber, meaning 2 megapixel images can be obtained at up to 300 frames-per-second. A low-speed uplink channel, operating at 20.833 Mbit/s from frame grabber to camera can be used for camera control or triggering, while a 24V power supply is also available over the cable to deliver up to 13W to the camera. For even higher speeds, links may be combined to provide multiples of the single coax bandwidth. But it is not just the higher speeds that are attractive. Other key advantage is the use of longer, more flexible cabling. Cable lengths greater than 100 meters (328 feet) can be achieved without hubs, repeaters, or other intermediary. It is also possible to reuse existing coaxial cable when upgrading from an analogue to a digital camera system, making CXP ideal for cost-effective retrofitting. BitFlow recently introduced its Aon-CXP CoaXPress single-link frame grabber to address the IIoT and other machine vision markets Aon-CXP CoaXPress single-link frame grabber BitFlow recently introduced its Aon-CXP CoaXPress single-link frame grabber to address the IIoT and other machine vision markets. Affordable yet powerful, the Aon-CXP is optimised for use with the newest generation of smaller, cooler operating CXP single-link cameras popular in the IIoT. Mating a single-link CXP camera with the Aon-CXP provides the convenience of a GigE Vision or USB3 vision camera system, but is faster, less expensive and permits longer cable lengths. It also delivers a host of features missing from GigE Vision or USB3camera systems such as triggers, encoders, strobe, waveform generators, and quadrature encoder support. All of the hardware and software components of the BitFlow Aon-CXP capture system are sourced from one manufacturer, eliminating the hassles of systems built of blocks from different manufacturers. Machine vision today is a reactive tool for identifying defective parts. In the IIoT, however, its impact will go beyond simply inspecting parts or guiding robots. Empowered by connectivity, machine vision will be used to extract data from images for drawing insights with statistical and data science techniques, and enable greater collaboration across entire supply chains in real time.
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