Vision enables greenhouse automation

Nov. 1, 2008
To improve efficiency and reduce labor costs in it greenhouses, a Dutch horticultural company installed inspection stations based on smart cameras to check the size and health of coconut palms.

To improve efficiency and reduce labor costs in it greenhouses, a Dutch horticultural company installed inspection stations based on smart cameras to check the size and health of coconut palms. The company, Kwekerij G. Verkade (Honselersdijk, The Netherlands), grows coconut palms in greenhouses that cover a floor space of 40,000 m2.

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The coconuts are potted manually and stored in a dark, warm hall with a high humidity level. After germinating, the plants are moved to other greenhouses where they reach the desired size. Separating healthy plants from diseased or undersized ones, sorting out coconuts that have not sprouted, and measuring plants for sale has been labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Verkade turn to Sedeco Vision Components (Mijdrecht, The Netherlands;, which specializes in image-processing systems, to design a testing facility with two stations based on VC2065EC cameras from Vision Components (Ettlingen, Germany;

The first inspection station serves to examine seedlings—viable plants are transported from the intermediate storage to a greenhouse; all others are rejected. During their growth, the coconut palms are regularly examined at the second inspection station. There, they are sorted into four groups according to size, and each group is transported to a different greenhouse. Diseased palms are identified by the color of their leaves and then rejected, as are plants that no longer grow compared to their group.

Measuring engine developments in real time

In vehicle development, exact information about engine-to-body clearance is necessary to ensure an optimal design of the available space. For example, the engine must not collide with other parts in the engine bay when the driver changes gears or deals with difficult driving maneuvers. AICON 3D Systems (Braunsweig, Germany; has developed the optical measuring system EngineWatch to measure engine movements precisely by using its high-speed TraceCam F camera.

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The camera uses a CMOS sensor, flash, and an image analysis processor. TraceCam F features shutter speeds of just a few microseconds that are necessary for long-duration tests and ensures the system is robust and stable over time. Mounted on a fixture, the TraceCam F camera focuses on the engine block and detects relative movements of two solid reference targets placed on the engine block and on the car body. The position of the camera to the engine block does not need to be stable as EngineWatch recalculates its position continuously using the reference targets, and so camera movements cannot influence the measuring results.

Imaging software estimates age

People who hope to keep their age a secret won’t want to go near a computer running this software. In addition to performing tasks such as security control and surveillance monitoring, age-estimation software also could be used for electronic customer relationship management or to target specific audiences with advertising, said Thomas S. Huang, the professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA;

Like an age-guesser at a carnival, the computer software can fairly accurately estimate a person’s age. But unlike age-guessers, who can view a person’s body, the software works by examining only the person’s face. Age-recognition algorithms could stop underage drinkers from entering bars, prevent minors from purchasing tobacco products from vending machines, and deny children access to adult web sites, said Huang, who leads the Image Formation and Processing group at the university’s Beckman Institute. The software can estimate ages from 1 year to 93 years. The software’s accuracy ranges from about 50% when estimating ages to within 5 years, to more than 80% when estimating ages to within 10 years.

Liquid lens uses sound to change focus

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY, USA; have designed and tested an adaptive liquid lens that captures 250 pictures per second and requires considerably less energy to operate than competing technologies. The lens is made up of a pair of water droplets that vibrate back and forth upon exposure to a high-frequency sound, and in turn change the focus of the lens. By using imaging software to automatically capture in-focus frames and discard any out of focus frames, the researchers can create streaming images from lightweight, low-cost, high-fidelity miniature cameras.

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“The lens is easy to manipulate, with very little energy, and it’s almost always in focus—no matter how close or far away it is from an object,” said project leader Amir H. Hirsa, professor and associate department head for graduate studies in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. “There is no need for high voltages or other exotic activation mechanisms, which means this new lens may be used and integrated into any number of different applications and devices.”

GigE Vision cameras target roller coasters

3db Solution (Montreal, QC, Canada; designs and sells customized photography systems including green-screen photo systems, wireless roving photo systems, and ride photo systems to amusement parks, malls, and tourist attractions in North America and Europe. Since the creation of the initial product, the team at 3db Solution has experimented with various technologies such as video and FireWire cameras before turning in 2008 to GigE Vision-compliant digital cameras from Prosilica (Burnaby, BC, Canada; 3db Solution has recently equipped three roller coaster rides with products featuring these cameras at Playland in Vancouver, BC, Canada. 3db Solution systems use the compact GC1600C and the GE1650C for rides that require faster frame rates due to higher train speed.

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