AIA manages Camera Link standard

The Camera Link initiative began in 1999, spearheaded by a group of members of the Automated Imaging Association.

Jan 1st, 2003

By Jeff Burnstein

The Camera Link initiative began in 1999, spearheaded by a group of members of the Automated Imaging Association (AIA; Ann Arbor, MI; www.machinevisiononline.org) led by Pulnix America (Sunnyvale, CA; www.pulnix.com). Toshi Hori, president and chief executive officer of Pulnix and a member of the AIA board of directors, encouraged the AIA to take an active role in developing the Camera Link standard, which defines the specifications for interfacing cameras and frame grabbers.

Prior to agreeing to this, the AIA board discussed the pros and cons of getting back into standards development, as well as the specifics of whether or not the AIA should take on the Camera Link standard. Developing industry standards is a serious business that can involve a great deal of time and money. In the early days of the AIA (mid-1980s), the association was active in developing standards for areas such as terminology, performance, marking and labeling, system communication, and even cameras.

While some of the AIA's standards efforts received acceptance in the marketplace, others went nowhere. It became clear to the board of directors that valuable resources were being used on developing standards that could be put to better use elsewhere. It also was evident that in many cases standards would be premature since the technology had not evolved to the point yet where standards made sense.

By the early 1990s, the AIA standards work came to a halt. Then, the organization began devoting more of its resources to its core mission of promoting the use of vision and providing tangible benefits to members. At this point, the membership began to grow rapidly—from about 60 members to more than 210 today.

However, the Camera Link initiative seemed like a sensible one to pursue. The technology was in place, momentum was building, and the AIA could help drive this forward without a substantial investment in time and money. Also, participation would be open to all member companies, not just a handful. If this effort was a success, the association could look for other areas in which to add value in standards, such as in finding specific elements of the FireWire (IEEE 1394) standard that could be customized for machine vision. Best of all, this type of standards-development activity would provide immediate benefits to users and suppliers alike.

Member support

In 2001, the AIA conducted a member survey to determine if there was widespread support for the group taking over the development of the Camera Link standard. By an overwhelming majority, the members supported this initiative. The board of directors then committed the resources necessary to move forward. In October 2001, the AIA held its first Camera Link meeting, and more than 40 people attended. This was a clear sign that the group had been successful in bringing new companies into the process and was on the right track in deciding to take over this effort.

The Camera Link committee, chaired by Steve Kinney of Basler Vision Technologies (Exton, PA; www.baslerweb.com), is now actively developing key areas of the specification. At the same time, the AIA is actively promoting Camera Link via its Web site so that all machine-vision companies worldwide can be aware of the committee's progress.

People interested in the Camera Link standard should contact the association. Committee membership is open to all AIA member companies. Details are available from Jeff Fryman, director of standards development, at (734) 994-6088 or jfryman@robotics.org.

JEFF BURNSTEIN is executive director of the Automated Imaging Association, Ann Arbor, MI; www.machinevisiononline.org.

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