What is GigE Vision

GigE Vision - Gigabit Ethernet Cameras for Industrial Applications
Prosilica GigE VIsion Camera (PresseBox) (München, ) Camera interface standards for machine vision cameras have evolved over the last ten years. A decade ago, industrial digital cameras were very difficult to install and integrate into machine vision systems. The difficulty was largely because there were no camera interface standards. System integrators and end users desparately needed something more standardized.

In the late 90's, the AIA formed a camera interface standard based on channel link, a parallel bus designed particularly for laptop computer displays. By defining a standard cable and connector, together with some standardized signal assignments, the Cameralink(tm) standard was born. Around the same time, IEEE-1394 firewire cameras were conforming to a digital camera interface standard called DCAM, now more commonly known as IIDC. The DCAM (IIDC) camera interface standard went further than Cameralink in that it not only defined a standardized hardware interface but also defined a standardized software control interface making DCAM-compliant firewire cameras truely plug and play. Until now, these two interfaces have dominated the industrial camera market.

However, a new interface standard has now emerged that will dominate the industrial camera market very rapidly. The newly released AIA GigE Vision(tm) standard for Gigabit Ethernet cameras is the state of the art interface for high-performance machine vision cameras.

What is Gig-E?

GigE, or Gigabit Ethernet, is the newest generation of Ethernet . Every one is familiar with Ethernet since it is the ubiquitous means of connecting a computer to a network. Standard Ethernet has a maximum data rate of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) and Fast Ethernet has a maximum data rate of 100 Mbps, but Gigabit Ethernet is even faster at 1000 Mbps. Standard Ethernet and Fast Ethernet are too slow for streaming uncompressed image data, and way too slow for machine vision cameras. Gigabit Ethernet (GigE), however, with its maximum data rate of 1000 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) is capable of handling streaming image data and of providing reliable transmission of image data from high performance machine vision cameras such as the GE-Series from Prosilica.

What is GigE Vision?

The GigE Vision(tm) standard from the AIA is a new interface standard for high-performance machine vision cameras. GigE (Gigabit Ethernet), on the other hand, is simply the network structure on which GigE Vision is built. The GigE Vision standard includes both a hardware interface standard (Gigabit Ethernet), communications protocols, and standardized means of communicating with, and controlling, a camera. The GigE Vision camera control registers are based on a command structure called GenICam which is administered through the European Machine Vision Association (EMVA). GenICam seeks to establish a common camera control interface so that third party software can communicate with cameras from various manufacturers without customization. GenICam is incorporated as part of the GigE Vision standard. GigE Vision is analogous to Firewire's DCAM (IIDC) and has great value for reducing system integration costs and for improving ease of use.

What is so great about GigE Vision and Gigabit Ethernet?

GigE Vision is quite exciting because it provides many features that have been unavailable in a single camera interface until now. The combined features of high data rates (required for uncompressed video or imaging applications), ubiquitous computer interface hardware, low cost cabling, and widespread popularity make Gigabit Ethernet an attractive interface option for machine vision cameras. With the advent of GigE Vision, a standardized camera communication protocol from the Advanced Imaging Association (AIA), GigE becomes more attractive still. Here are a few of the compelling benefits of GigE Vision-compliant cameras:

Gigabit Ethernet ports are becoming common on PCs and laptop computers, so there is no need for special interface cards or expensive/complicated frame grabbers in order to operate a GigE Vision camera.

GigE provides high enough bandwidth to transmit uncompressed image data from the camera to the host computer in real time at speeds that exceed the requirements of most industrial machine vision applications. This substantially negates the need for complex and expensive interfaces like Cameralink.

Gigabit Ethernet provides high performance camera interface to convey control and image data over long cable lengths (up to 100 meters long) using inexpensive CAT5e or CAT6 cabling. Such long cable lengths are not generally possible with Cameralink, firewire, or USB.

GigE Vision is compatible with standard Gigabit Ethernet hardware allowing networking of cameras. This is especially useful in situations requiring multiple views and opens up new machine vision applications in Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) and public security imaging.

GigE Vision cameras such as those from Prosilica Inc. are capable of multicasting the image data simultaneously to multiple computers for distributing the image processing load across separate computers.

CAT5e or CAT6 Ethernet cables can be easily manufactured on-site using low cost cabling and tools. This feature is especially useful for outdoor installations where cameras may be mounted on poles or buildings and where the cable must be routed as the site demands.

The new GigE Vision standard provides ease of use that surpasses other common camera interfaces.

10GigE offers 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) data rates that when applied to cameras means that parallel interfaces like Camera Link will no longer be needed even for high-speed applications

How are GigE Vision cameras different from other Gigabit Ethernet cameras?

There have been a range of Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet cameras available for some time, but these cameras are a completely different animal than the new GigE Vision cameras. Until now, Ethernet cameras required a built-in computer to manage the Ethernet data flow. These embedded computers package the image data within the camera and then distribute the data to a host computer in compressed form and generally not in real-time. This approach has been suitable for 'smart cameras' that generally do not send raw image data but that use an on-board computer to analyse an image and then send only data about the image rather than the image itself. Because of low data-rates and high power consumption, these cameras have not generally been suited to machine vision applications. But GigE Vision is very different from this.

GigE Vision cameras such as Prosilica's GE-Series cameras are specially designed to handle the dataflow in dedicated hardware providing very fast and reliable data throughput in a form that is very easy to use and operate.

Prosilica currently offers a line of CCD and CMOS machine vision cameras that conform to the GigE Vision standard providing an ease of use and integration that has not previously been available.

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