Vision 4.0: Industrial image processing moving towards the future

Supplier: SICK Sensor Intelligence By: Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Andreas Behrens, Head of Marketing & Sales Barcode – RFID – Vision at SICK AG, Reute, Germany
16 April, 2018

Creating a scope for new solutions – SICK AG is playing a key role in advancing paradigm shifts in sensor technology with the SICK AppSpace ecosystem.

Creating a scope for new solutions – SICK AG is playing a key role in advancing paradigm shifts in sensor technology with the SICK AppSpace ecosystem. Intelligent image processing systems and seeing sensors create the scope to provide completely new solutions, particularly in the context of Industry 4.0. Binary assessments such as “yes or no” and “good or bad” are replaced by the development of individual applications, which are based on a wide range of data and intelligent evaluations. This opens up unimaginable horizons of availability for industrial production processes.

SICK’s wide range of vision sensors has long been available. Currently, they include; Inspector P63x, P64x, and P65x product families, integrators and OEMs. What is now available, is the opportunity to integrate their knowledge, applications and ideas with the SICK AppSpace ecosystem. The technology in the Sensor Integration Machine (SIM), which is an additional component of the SICK AppSpace ecosystem, for the first time enables complete, digital object transformation for data collection and archiving for quality control, process analysis, and forward-thinking condition monitoring. The SICK AppSpace approach provides a great deal of added value through the development of new app-based services and business models. What's more, SICK has started the SICK AppSpace Developers Club, which encourages developers to share their experiences and information, providing a forum for paradigm-shifting ideas in the automation engineering industry.

Industrial image processing promotes visionary outlook on Industry 4.0

The fourth industrial revolution promotes and requires a visionary outlook. Fundamental changes are in the pipeline: intelligent, seeing sensors collect a multitude of data and are more than just simple switches for controlling industrial production processes. For instance, this creates scope for new solutions in the industrial image processing industry.

The detection of good/bad parts using an image processing sensor is the classic example of binary assessment.  But on the face of this, it has very little to do with a pioneering solution for a smart factory. However, if the data collected from the sensor in the inspection process can be used to introduce concrete measures for preventing bad parts, this will then improve the process immensely.

Vision sensors which record 1D barcodes and 2D codes provide additional food for thought when it comes to Industry 4.0. Familiar tasks, such as sorting processes or track-and-trace, are implemented reliably, therefore are no longer disruptive or even radical innovations. On the other hand, the link to additional data, such as object history, digital fingerprints, histogram and attribute data, opens the possibility for trend and variance analysis which go way beyond the pure identification of components and products. Image processing, therefore, forms a valuable basis for newly conceived applications and services in the context of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Image processing sensor solutions are responsible for detecting and determining action and position based on environmental characters and navigation commands. The sensor records the concrete utilisation path of the vehicle and makes it possible for the control to leave the predetermined course, select another route, and therefore respond intelligently to obstacles and events. When implemented on an industrial level, new business models can result from this, such as new parking management systems with autonomous industrial transporters which safely move cars into and out of spaces. In this sense, Industry 4.0 is advancing quickly towards the private sphere.

This shows the radical potential with which industrial image processing “made by SICK” is moving towards Industry 4.0 and making it possible to develop new services. The Sick AppSpace ecosystem is the technological pioneer here.

SICK AppSpace: Fully operable ecosystem for individual sensor app development

The SICK AppSpace approach integrates your ideas and implements customer-specific requirements efficiently and made-to-measure as sensor apps. Programmable sensors, such as the vision sensors from the Inspector P63x, P64x, and P65x product families, are used as sensor hardware. The SIM4000 Sensor Integration Machine – a high-performance multi-camera and sensor processor, is used for multi-technology image processing, sensor fusion, and data collection. The SICK AppStudio module for application development and the SICK AppManager for implementing and managing apps in the field provide the software.  The SICK AppSpace community forms the third pillar of the SICK AppSpace concept. This is where developers from SICK and our customers, exchange information and define further development steps for the ecosystem.

SICK AppSpace is currently the only ecosystem in this form on the market. It allows application programmers to design easy-to-use solutions with user interfaces, regardless of the different sensor and image processing technologies in the SICK product range. Whether being used for 3D triangulation, a stereo camera, ToF sensor, ranging scanner, or conventional 2D vision sensor, the main thing is that the application can be implemented promptly within the known ecosystem and the end user benefits from the resulting simple sensor app. App developers can get help directly from the Internet. They can also expect an adaptive development environment – SICK AppStudio, as well as a community of like-minded people, which is what they get with the SICK AppSpace Developers Club. It's not just virtual – you can meet in person at the annual SICK Developers Club Conference.

The SICK AppSpace ecosystem, therefore, creates scope for individual solutions and ideas in an up-to-date and innovative way – with an embedded operating system, a variety of hardware functions, and the powerful SICK and Halcon image processing algorithms, which function as basic firmware via extensive APIs. This encourages industrial application developers to think outside the box and inspires them to create their own added value, stretching beyond the sensor hardware in question.

Image processing and Industry 4.0: Entering unchartered territories and exploring opportunities together

The ecosystem thinking makes it easier to implement disruptive, radical solutions and concepts in the form of new services and business models. The number of app developers using SICK AppSpace will continue to grow as everyone will have the opportunity to design and offer their solutions. With tried-and-tested hardware from technological leader SICK, it becomes possible to advance industrial image processing and make it a key technology in Industry 4.0.

The SICK AppSpace is a huge change for SICK itself, not just for users and competitors. Up until now, only application solutions developed in-house were offered on SICK sensors. In parallel with this, there is now an ecosystem for application solutions by OEMs and integrators. The first early adopters and entrepreneurs have already jumped on the bandwagon, encouraging SICK to extend the sensor app world that it has created to offer more sensors which are compatible with SICK AppSpace.