Smart Camera

A smart camera is a basic vision system containing:

  • a sensor
  • an image digitization system
  • an image processing system

A smart camera is slightly larger than a normal camera.

Through evolution smart cameras are no longer relegated to simple tasks (such as reading barcodes) and are a valid alternative to the classic setup consisting of a camera and a computer.

At the moment, the main differences between smart cameras are in the processing unit, which may be based on:

  • a DSP, which is a processing unit optimized for specific tasks. It is less flexible than other solutions and often needs proprietary utilities to be configured
  • ARM + FPGA. The ARM processor is often used for generic applications, while the FPGA is only used as a performance accelerator. It provides greater flexibility compared to the setup based on a DSP. The support is often limited to Linux, but with certain frameworks one can use code written by the user.
  • ARM + GPU. The GPU is used as an accelerator, as in the previous setup.
  • CPU + VPU. A Visual Processing Unit is often used as an accelerator together with a CPU (ARM or x86) with generic tasks. It differs from ARM + FPGA or ARM + GPU solutions, as the chips are not in the same SOC. There are no substantial differences on the user’s side.
  • X86 board. The setup is more similar to a PC. It allows for great flexibility, as it can support different operating systems and code written by the user.

Table with pros and cons of different solutions:

Platform

Pros

Cons

DSP

  • Processor optimized for certain tasks
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Reduced flexibility
  • Often closed and proprietary systems

ARM + FPGA

  • Excellent flexibility in performing different tasks
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Standard and open systems
  • Good computing power
  • Difficulty in programming FPGA in an optimized way

ARM + GPU

  • Excellent flexibility in performing different tasks
  • Energy Efficiency
  • High computing power
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Easy to program

CPU + VPU

  • Good flexibility in performing different tasks
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Good computing power
  • Limited set of features

X86 board

  • Excellent flexibility in performing different tasks
  • Highly customized
  • Good computing power
  • Energy Efficiency

A smart camera may also feature a GPIO and a communication interface.

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