Remote Inspection: Wireless USB Vision cameras go on show at VISION 2014

At the International Conference for Vision Guided Robotics, in October 2008, Eric Hershberger, a senior engineer with Applied Manufacturing Technologies (AMT; Orion, MI, USA; www.appliedmfg.com) described a prototype vision-based robotics system based on wireless technology.

Using a Gigabit Ethernet camera coupled to a wireless router allowed the company to develop a rack picking system that eliminated much of the cabling associated with vision-guided robotics applications. Since the application only required images to be transmitted once every 37s, the wireless data rate of 600 MBits/s was not a limiting factor and saved the automotive company tens of thousands of dollars in replacement camera cables. (see "Wireless vision systems reduce cable costs," Vision Systems Design, November 2008; http://bit.ly/1m8yheX).

Back in 2008, the IEEE 802.11 wireless router used in the system was capable of transmitting at 5GHz, far below the speed required for real-time image transmission. Today, however, a number of companies are developing CMOS-based 60GHz radio transceiver ICs based on the IEEE802.11ad standard that support data transmission rates of up to 7Gbps. Primarily developed for home computer networks to eliminate the cables needed to interface computers, displays, multimedia and storage devices, these devices are now being offered to developers of machine vision systems.

Indeed, at this November's VISION 2014 trade show, held in Stuttgart, Quantum Electro Opto Systems (QEOS; Melaka, Malaysia; www.qeosystems.com) teamed up with Icron Technologies (Burnaby, BC, Canada; www.icron.com) and Imaging Development Systems (IDS; Obersulm, Germany; www.ids-imaging.com) to demonstrate such a system. Using a USB 2.0 Vision camera from IDS, the camera was connected wirelessly to a host computer incorporating ExtremeUSB extension technology from Icron Technologies.

In the demonstration, USB 2.0 data was transmitted from the camera to the Icron USB extender which sends the data using the wireless transmitter module over the air to a wireless receiver module located at a distance of 10m. Here, the wireless data was then demodulated and converted back to USB 2.0 data and sent to the USB host controller.

At the heart of the design is the QW6022, QEOS' 60GHz single-chip wireless transceiver IC implemented in standard digital CMOS that is capable of supporting data rates of up to 3.456 Gbps in the unlicensed 57-66 GHz band. To achieve transmission distances of 10m or more between transmitter and receiver, QEOS has developed a patented high-gain printed antenna-in-package module. For other long-range applications of up to 500m, the QW6022 can also be optionally used with a waveguide (WR-15) antenna module.

At the VISION Show, Icron Technologies demonstrated its ExtremeUSB Vision wireless extension system with the QEOS printed antenna module package. Icron Technologies extender board receives images from the IDS camera and converts them to a single LVDS data stream which is used as the input to the QW6022 wideband transmitter/receiver. At the receiver, RF data is then reconverted to a USB signal where it can be displayed on a host computer.

According to Glenn Antonelli, Vice President of Marketing with Icron Technologies, ExtremeUSB extension technology is media agnostic so that USB can be extended over copper, fiber, or wireless spectrum. Because of its 60 GHz transmission speed, the joint Icron/QEOS implementation is isolated from any interference that has plagued other wireless standards such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

While only a tradeshow demo, Icron Technologies is currently looking to market the idea to camera vendors and systems integrators. Whether the final product will be in the form of embedded wireless camera modules, stand-alone peripherals or plug-in wireless USB devices remains to be seen.