Sony has announced the world’s first image sensor with integrated AI smarts. The new IMX500 sensor incorporates both processing power and memory, allowing it to perform machine learning-powered computer vision tasks without extra hardware. The result, says Sony, will be faster, cheaper, and more secure AI cameras.
Over the past few years, devices ranging from smartphones to surveillance cameras have benefited from the integration of AI. Machine learning can be used to not only improve the quality of the pictures we take but also understand video like a human would; identifying people and objects in the frame. The applications of this technology are huge (and sometimes worrying), enabling everything from self-driving cars to automated surveillance.
Benefits include greater privacy and faster processing speeds.
- The IMX500 is intended for commercial customers, not consumer equipment
But many functions depend on sending pictures and movies to the cloud to be analyzed. This could be a gradual and insecure journey, exposing knowledge to hackers. In different situations, producers have to put in specialized processing cores on units to deal with the additional computational demand, as with new high-end telephones from Apple, Google, and Huawei.
This may not sound very exciting as first, but as Mark Hanson, Sony’s VP of Technology and Business Innovation told me, it could make cameras significantly more useful. For one, it’s a way to ensure better privacy, since the sensors can handle AI tasks entirely on-device. That’s something that could be particularly useful in Europe, where the new GDPR guidelines severely limit how organizations can use surveillance video. The closer data can stay to their source device, the better.
Another big application is industrial automation, where image sensors are needed to help so-called co-bots — robots designed to work in close proximity to humans — from bashing their flesh-and-blood colleagues. Here the main advantage of an integrated AI image sensor is speed. If a co-bot detects a human where they shouldn’t be and needs to come to a quick stop, then processing that information as quickly as possible is paramount.
But this is only the first generation, and technology will undoubtedly improve in the future. Right now, cameras are smarter because they send their data to computers. In the future, the camera itself will be the computer and all the smarter for it.
WHY THIS MATTERS:
This is most important to our industry for it’s potential for PTZ cameras. Not only for surveillance but for all applications. When Sony does something they go big, and they often then set the standard for industry-wide expectations.