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Crime-fighters get PL edge

Posted: 13 Nov 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PLD solutions  FPGAs  embedded soft-core processors  police vehicle support system 

Crime-fighting applications tend to be complex, must adapt to evolving requirements and must be affordable for organisations with limited or low budgets. PLD solutions are proving to be an ideal fit, as they offer high performance, flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Equipped with FPGAs and embedded soft-core processors, university students from Korea and China created two prototypical crime-fighting applications--a police vehicle support system with a wireless auto-tracking camera and a fingerprint identification system.

High-speed tracking
When the chase is on, a police officer has only seconds to activate warning sirens, report to the command centre and communicate with other patrol units. With so much happening, the officer relies on the vehicle-tracking system to keep a fleeing perpetrator in sight. However, traditional tracking systems with fixed-position cameras can lose suspects who are speeding in and out of traffic.

Imagine the advantages of an in-vehicle system that stays focused on a suspect vehicle while letting the officer communicate with colleagues in the field and at headquarters. Students at Inha, Korea Aerospace and Hongik Universities in Korea have created a prototype on-board police vehicle support system that does.

The key component of this integrated solution is a wireless auto-tracking system that continuously follows a suspected vehicle, centring the vehicle's image on the display. A pan-tilt camera uses an FPGA-controlled stepper motor that enables it to move horizontally and vertically, reacting quickly to capture speeding vehicles. An automatic voice alert system uses an embedded processor for MPEG audio decoding to provide warnings to fleeing suspects. A wireless HSDPA function provides real-time data and image sharing. An FPGA-based interface to the on-board diagnostic system (OBD-II) monitors the police vehicle's engine performance metrics.

The combination of an FPGA and an embedded processor allowed the design team to address the complex requirements of this automobile tracking system. (Click to view full image)

The design team used an Altera DE2 development and education board featuring a Cyclone II FPGA, Quartus II design software, and Nios II embedded processor as the technology platform. A single Cyclone II FPGA runs the system, performing image processing, compression, data transfer, MPEG audio decoding, motor control, and OBD communication. All of the necessary components were assembled using the SOPC (system-on-a-programmable chip) Builder system design tool.

The camera's image processing module transfers its pan-tilt motion commands to the system's stepper motor controller on the FPGA. Based on the commands, the stepper motor controller then generates operating signal pulses, sending these signals to each motor. The camera's image capture module converts analogue image information into an ITU656 standard digital stream on the DE2 board, using the stream to control the auto-tracking camera's left, right, up and down operations. The digital stream also supports a vision sharing system and JPEG compression of wireless transfers and provides the in-vehicle display.

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