Smart phones might teach us a lesson

The Holiday Season is the time of the year when parents everywhere attend their children’s mini-shows at school. My daughter sings in a children’s choir and I took the opportunity in December to take in her Christmas performance. I am not here to report on the tears she and her classmates were able to draw from my eyes, but more on a radical technology change I’ve noticed taking place and its impact on these popular events. After all, I am a father and an engineer (the former taking precedence!).

It was a few years ago when I attended my daughter’s kindergarten Christmas concert. Most parents were armed with camcorders and expensive SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras to capture the moment. I, too, had invested hundreds of dollars in a digital camcorder. Fast forward to this year, where I noticed something unusual: the vast majority of the parents, including myself, were using either smart phones or tablets to record these precious moments. Gone were the expensive camcorders and digital still cameras (DSC).

SmartPhone_IllustrationThis reminded me that Machine Vision is also greatly influenced by consumer electronics. OK, we may not all be using smart phones to perform industrial vision applications  but we are definitively using consumer interfaces, such as Firewire, USB and gigabit Ethernet, to connect cameras to PCs. While these interfaces may not provide the same performance level as Machine Vision specific camera interfaces (like Camera Link, CLHS and CoaXPress) they can nevertheless provide a good enough solution that is both inexpensive and does the job. And when you can save money, “good enough” makes a strong argument.

There might be something for component manufacturers to learn from this transition in the DSC industry. Here’s my takeaway: Money is king and if a cheaper solution can solve your problem, why not use a technology that benefits from the economies of scale provided by the consumer market? This is certainly why GigE Vision and now USB3 Vision are rising stars in the machine vision world. While performance is an essential criterion for some vision applications, there are certainly opportunities to spend less when an inexpensive consumer interface will do the job.

Cheers!

About Eric

Eric is in charge of R&D activities at the Montreal office of Teledyne DALSA where he is surrounded by talented people working on the technologies of tomorrow. Chair of the GigE Vision committee, he enjoys reading and writing machine vision standards, especially the thicker ones.
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