We just came back from Chicago where the company attended Automate 2013. Automate is North America’s leading trade show when it comes to machine vision for industrial applications. Manufacturers introduce their newest products to entice visitors with the most exciting technologies. Buyers beware! In a race for technology leadership, it is often tempting for manufacturers to showcase technology that is still in a research and development phase rather than products that users can buy today for their current systems. Having an eye on the future is not necessarily a bad thing as it adds a healthy level of excitement to the industry.
One significant announcement at the show was the release of the USB3Vision standard. The standard has been in the works for more than a year with a number of companies cooperating to its definition. The goal is to deliver a high level of interoperability between components from various manufacturers in a machine vision system, especially linking cameras and software applications. In that sense, USB3Vision is to USB 3.0 what GigEVision is to GigE networks.
USB3Vision complements manufacturer specific API’s that companies have traditionally included with their products. Manufacturer API’s still have a role to play as they allow users to upgrade new cameras seamlessly without having to dramatically modify their systems. With a well-developed API, a user relying on a USB 2.0 camera today should be able to upgrade to USB 3.0 with little system modification. Additionally, a manufacturer-specific API will likely be optimized for a given product line while a standard API will always be broad enough to cover a common set of features.
Now that USB3Vision has been published, a number of compatible products will appear on the market in the months ahead. This should add to the momentum currently seen in the industry around USB 3.0. Not to be left behind, existing USB 3.0 products shipped before the release of USB3Vision should provide a software upgrade path to USB3Vision. USB 3.0 is poised to become a major player in machine vision, be it industrial automation or other vision applications.