From candid pictures to smart ad-campaigns, photography and image processing has advanced rapidly in a very short span of time. Now, you don’t even need to own a camera to become a pro. Your smart phone has become the primary device for photography and image processing. Just look at everyone’s Instagram pages, they are all professional mobile photographers. 😊
Mobile device connections have surpassed the world population by more than 1 Billion. With a capable smart phone in hand, people have their photographic brains switched on all the time. They are looking for innovative possibilities and love capturing unexpected moments. With a simple touch or swipe, we can adjust the light levels, color saturation, sharpness, and everything in between.
All in all, a fascinating dimension has been added to photography which makes it feel fresh, playful, and exhilarating! Most smartphone brands focus on driving value proposition around cameras, with the fight mostly centered around their megapixels — the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a whopping 140 MP!! Insane for a tiny device that can be placed in your pocket!
The traditional camera OEMs do not want to be left behind and are re-joining the megapixel fight and are making themselves heard. PhaseOne, a Danish company specializing in high-end digital photography equipment and software, has launched an ultra-high-resolution camera with 151 MP(I’d rather have a phone but that’s just my opinion. 😊
Imaging as Intelligent Technology
Digital imaging has taken big strides in the recent past. The constant advancement in imaging technology has pushed digital imaging faster, cheaper, and far more fun to use than conventional photography.
Online Social Media such as Snapchat and Instagram have given billions to users that share their photographs, be it amateurs or professionals. People have started to manifest their social life through images. They give a digital representation of what it is they are doing and who they are with.
Here are some more intelligent industry applications in imaging:
#1 Surveillance Industry
Fueled by data intelligence, the surveillance industry has become a multibillion-dollar economic sector which has undergone phenomenal growth. Whether it’s at a traffic light, in a retail store / bank / hospital / public transport-buses or even at our own house, you don’t have to look far to spot a surveillance camera. The top 2 big trends revolutionizing surveillance industry are:
- Ear Localization-Side face — Leveraging the biometric and deep learning technology our computers can easily recognize a face from any angle.
- Surveillance Robots — There have been many fatal accidents in the past due to a poisonous environment, cave exploration, mining etc. Modern innovation with virtual intelligence has designed substitutes that can analyze the pictures from cave exploration and perform the task accordingly — Guardbot, can roll on any terrain and can swim too.
To benefit from the positive aspects of image recognition, we must work through some significant privacy challenges. Let’s see if individuals accept the invasion of privacy as a sacrificed cost to being comfortable and more secure!
#2 Automotive Industry
Cameras are now a standard equipment for automobiles, the new functionality and novel technologies are transforming the entire industry. For quite some time, imaging has been at the core in the auto industry — rear-view, surround-view, dashboard camera and black box becoming omnipresent. Global Automotive Image Sensors market is to grow at a CAGR 29% with Revenue $ 4.23 bn during the forecast period 2021 to 2024.
Some of the latest developments are:
- ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) — The information captured by ADAS cameras is analyzed by a supporting software and triggers a response — such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind-spot alerts, etc.
- LWIR (Long Wave Infra-Red) technology-based night vision cameras are increasing for their ability to automatically detect pedestrians and wildlife.
- CMOS (Complementary Metal-oxide Semiconductor) image sensors are going through a new phase in the auto industry — backup cameras, blind spot detection, collision avoidance, lane-departure warnings, gesture recognition and adaptive cruise control that adjusts to changing traffic conditions.
Top commercial vehicle manufacturers are placing different sensors and cameras to create “more eyes” and judge the traffic conditions. The automotive industry is accelerating towards realizing the vision of fully controlled vehicle. Just take Tesla’s fully capable auto pilot capabilities… that new Model S is looking like my next sports car! :D
#3 Retail Industry
Over the past 12 months, there is a trend that is giving a 360 spin to the Retail Industry. The number of retailers using “360 spin” imaging — where a consumer takes control of an image, can view and zoom from different angles — has doubled. Samsonite, the luggage retailer is making product displays as realistic as possible with 3D imaging.
An interesting area to wow is 3D body scanning which is revolutionizing the apparel industry. Finding the perfect fit is an even greater challenge for online purchases which allow consumers to virtually try on clothing to find the best fit. Amazon, Levi, H&M are investing heavily in 3D body scanning technology to lessen their dependence on physical measurements. The offline stores are also using different sensor technology to measure the silhouette of a customer.
Additionally, the online stores are developing different mobile apps which when moved across bodies, picks up the measurements by analyzing the images. So, looks like AI and the imaging technology is finally giving our perfect fit!
#4 Medical Industry
The global medical imaging market size is to reach $28.6 billion by 2028. It is expected to expand at a rate of 5.2% from 2021 to 2028. Hundreds of technology solutions are being developed using AI and Machine Learning which are providing life-changing insights into a variety of diseases, injuries, and conditions.
The medical industry is currently looking at magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-Ray imaging systems, ultrasound imaging systems, Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, nuclear imaging, digital imaging, doppler imaging and many more.
Some of the ground-breaking use cases are:
- Google’s DeepMind can read 3D retinal OCT scans and diagnosing 50 different ophthalmic conditions with 99% accuracy. Not just detecting the eye disease but it prioritizes the patients as per the need. This is drastically cutting down the delay between the scan and treatment.
- iCAD’s AI solution for breast cancer is helping radiologists view each tissue layer independently. This has reduced their time spent on reading and analyzing by 50%.
- Alzheimer’s is being predicted more accurately with the help of nuclear imaging. This form of early detection is having major implications on its diagnosis.
The medical imaging industry is undergoing rapid changes. However, most of the innovations and changes are taking place in the developed countries. Let’s wait and watch as to what steps the key players will take to bring these innovations to the mainstream.
#5 Education Industry
What good is technology if it’s not solving the various problems faced by humans? The Image recognition system is adding great value in the educational sector by enabling students with learning disabilities to register knowledge in a way that is easier for them. For example, applications that rely on computer vision, allow text-to-speech options — this greatly assists visually impaired or dyslexic students to read the content.
This isn’t the only limitation of image recognition contribution to the student bodies. It is also helping in breaking free from the traditional teaching boundaries and equipping educators with high-tech learning tools.
#6 Manufacturing Industry
Teaching machines to recognize visuals, analyze them, and make decisions based on the visual input holds stunning potential for production across the globe.
Image recognition can allow machines to automatically detect imperfections in manufacturing pipelines, thus improving efficiency and rework. Besides already known faults, the AI-powered systems could also recognize previously unknown defects because of their ability to learn.
There is a myriad of potential uses of teaching machines to perceive our visual world. For example, Xerox scientists are applying deep learning techniques to enable their AI software to mimic the attention patterns of the human brain when seeing a photo or a video.
#7 Space Industry
Satellite imagery has made a difference in a wide variety of fields and industries. Satellite images were first processed to demonstrate seasonal vegetation change. Now, they track changing human footprint across the globe, identify illegal deforestation, rescue operations, monitor sea traffic, economic activity maps etc.
Example — Last year’s major bush fires in Australia were first detected by Nasa’s satellite images.
Today, we also have very high-resolution satellite imagery that provides unparalleled access to critical locations around the globe, allowing you to see more of what is happening on the ground. They assist in vehicle/building camouflage inspection, synthetic material identification. Can even see-through smoke, detect heat and identify geological minerals.
#8 Agriculture Industry
Currently satellites and drone fitted cameras are using multispectral imaging technology. The industry is also using Hyperspectral imaging that can offer a good overview of crop such as overall growth. It also detects very small changes in the physiology of the plant and correlates it with spectrum of reflected light.
You might want to see Hyperspectral imaging Technology and its Use in Agriculture
#9 Defense Industry
When it comes to analyzing images captured by surveillance systems and aerial vehicles in the security of a country, AI and imaging are playing a big game. Imagery analysis can extract useful information from raw data and equip leaders with increased situational awareness. This can generate and help commanders explore new options so that they can select courses of action that best achieve mission outcomes, minimizing risks to both deployed forces and civilians.
Example — Defense agencies can have just 8–10 minutes to decide whether a missile launch represents a threat, share the findings with allies, and decide what to do in response. It takes AI to rapidly integrate real-time imagery and data from satellites and sensors and to present findings immediately to help the country leaders to decide what actions to take.
Other Interesting Use Cases
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 ML powered computer vision tasks without extra hardware. Instead of sending off data to be analyzed, either to the cloud or a nearby processor, the image sensor itself performs the necessary analysis and simply produces the metadata instead. So, the data transfer hacks, and cloud hacks are eliminated.
SoftClouds has designed an enterprise knowledge management solution, Kapture, that can process any image and extract meaningful information that can help agents/customers to resolve their queries. It uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and Object Detection to build an Optimized, Intelligent and Advanced Search Engine. It is an API Driven Platform that can be integrated into any products/solutions. Proves to be an excellent solution for diagnostics and training for real-world scenarios.
China’s popular video game, Honour of Kings, uses image processing applications in face recognition to determine the ages of their users. This entails the many variations of image recognition technologies are being utilized in the gaming landscape.
Various non-gaming augmented reality applications are boosted by image recognition, like CrowdOptics, and Blippar — crowd behavior monitoring and augmented reality advertising applications, respectively.
All said and done, technologists are facing challenges to leverage the imaging technology to its full potential. More detailed images provide greater information, but they also strain the IT department. And the stress is multi-fold.
1. Increasing raw data needs more space which obviously must be migrated to better platforms.
2. Retrieving has been an issue for quite a while because large image files tax the bandwidth.
3. Increasing raw data is being disproportionate to the storage methods.
4. With too many hacks happening, there is hardly any trust on the storage platforms.
Basically, images carry critical security information that are not as safe as we all think.
Our Thoughts — What’s Next?
Image processing has already begun to change our world. From the everyday snapping of camera phones, to advanced surveillance imaging, machine vision, and driverless automobiles, image processing systems are taking visual information and converting into usable data.
As we are trying to manage the sheer volume of imaging information captured by today’s vision systems, privacy issues are swarming up — Facebook’s AI knows a lot about your photos, than you do.
Imaging, Vision with the advent of other coexisting technologies like Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence and OCR appears full of promise and unimaginable outcomes. With more and easily available processing power on chipsets and at the edge, imaging will boom with very interesting solutions for humanity soon.
The revolution is well underway. By recreating the ability to see with the technological eye, an endless set of futuristic solutions will rapidly evolve. Are you and your business ready for the ride?
This post was written by Asokan Ashok, the CEO of UnfoldLabs. Ashok is an expert in driving customer insights into thriving businesses and commercializing products for scale. As a leading strategist in the technology industry, he is great at recommending strategies to address technology & market trends. Highly analytical and an industry visionary, Ashok is a sought after global high-tech industry thought leader and trusted strategic advisor by companies.