GigE and GenICam to be showcased at VISION 2006

May 24, 2006
MAY 24--The standard versions of Gigabit Ethernet (GigE Vision), coupled with GenICam as a uniform camera/programming interface, are increasingly becoming the focus of camera manufacturers.

By Silvia Stoll, Messe Stuttgart; [email protected]

MAY 24--"What is the easiest, fastest, and least expensive way to get image data from the camera to the PC?" asks Rupert Stelz, senior developer at Stemmer Imaging. The market offers a wide range of interface options: Camera Link, FireWire, USB, and other proprietary solutions. Yet the standard versions of Gigabit Ethernet (GigE Vision), coupled with GenICam as a uniform camera/programming interface, are increasingly becoming the focus of camera manufacturers.

GenICam is a language, so to speak, for describing the features of a camera. It can be adjusted to the most varied transport layers, for example, from USB, FireWire, Camera Link, or GigE. For this purpose, for the respective driver a small software adapter is required that allows access to the camera's configuration registers by means of a read-and-write register function. GenICam comprises two main modules: GenApi is needed for the configuration of cameras, and GenTL for the image intake. There will be a prerelease from GenApi as early as May. The final release is planned for June.

There is a beta version for GenTL, which has been implemented for GigE, FireWire, and Camera Link. By VISION 2006 (Stuttgart, Germany; Nov. 7--9), GenApi should already have become a common for the configuration of cameras at the end product, and products will probably be presented that use GenTL for image intake. In particular, for those who use the GigE machine-vision standard, GenICam should already have met with broad acceptance by this time.

The advantages offered by GenICam sound promising. Friedrich Dierks, manager of component software development at Basler Vision Technologies, explains: "Previously, every new feature that a camera manufacturer integrated in his products had to be actively supported by all machine-vision library manufacturers. This means that the software manufacturer incurs considerable costs, and the camera manufacturer cannot reach some of his potential customers with this new feature, as they are bound to a library that does not yet support the feature. However, with GenICam each new feature of a camera is immediately available under any machine vision software."

This will also have an effect on the coming driver generation. Says Dierks, "For the new Basler GigE and FireWire-B cameras, the new driver generation is already based on the GenICam standard. Drivers for our Camera Link cameras and smart cameras will in future also support this standard."

Says Sayed Soliman, managing director of MaxxVision, "The objective must be to offer machine vision at a higher starting level. GigE is one of many components for progress. Advantages are the cable lengths, the omission of a frame grabber, the galvanic separation, and the cable costs. I see advantages in the real-time ability and the design. GigE is a wonderful addition, but will not be able to fulfill all machine-vision requirements."

Stemmer Imaging will present a generic software interface for Common Vision Blox at VISION 2006. "For us this is very attractive," explains Stelz, "because we can cover a wide range of hardware without having to write several drivers for the individual manufacturers. Generally, the manufacturer gains a very flexible platform, which also reduces his time to market for new products. These dynamics then open up a broader market for him. For the customer, the standards mean shorter integration times and more inexpensive applications."

The manufacturers appear to have no fear of business loss on account of the easily interchangeability of cameras. Stelz says: "Our products must be good and include the right features at the right price, then with a broader market we stand to gain considerably more than we lose; this is shown, for example, in the hard-drive industry. Here there is an interface standard to which everything can be connected, yet there are still differences among manufacturers."

"There are key applications in the area of automation or semiconductors. GigE should best be compared with another technology, such as FireWire," explains Stelz, "Here, GigE has quite clear advantages with regard to cable lengths or if a large number of cameras are involved." Although Stelz does not consider it optimal that the power supply is not delivered directly with the data cable, neither does he see it as a significant disadvantage. "I can bring the power supply easily from 'on location' to the camera, but the data cable, which with FireWire is restricted to 4.5 m, cannot be lengthened so easily."

Steltz continues, "I assume that there are some firms on the starting blocks, who, with the adoption of the GigE standards, will put products for it on the market now. As components for GigE have now become more attractive, solutions can be found that were previously problematic or even unfeasible. Now the market will become broader and, part of the business that was previously carried out with other interfaces such as FireWire or Camera Link will now find GigE solutions.

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