Vision 4.0: Industrial image processing moving towards the future

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 a 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 that 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,
and 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.

By Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Andreas Behrens, Head of
Marketing & Sales Barcode – RFID – Vision at SICK AG, Reute, Germany

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