Sony plans to turn image sensors into a subscription platform

June 29, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
Sony plans to turn image sensors into a subscription platform
Sony Corp., the leading vendor of CMOS image sensors, has revealed a plan to turn that dominance into a subscription service for artificial intelligence software used by those sensors.

Sony has formed a team to develop software for image sensors which could run on its recently introduced iMX500/iMX501 (see Sony adds AI processor to image sensors). This component essentially sticks an AI processor on top of a conventional 12-megapixel image sensor. However, Sony has also made moves in event-based image processing which captures image in a more energy efficient way (see Sony acquires Swiss vision sensor firm), which would also be relevant to a software-as-a-service approach to the market.

Sony has been the long-term market leader in CMOS image sensors and held about 42 percent of the market for several years, according to market analysis firm Yole Developpement (see Samsung, ST grow market share in strong image sensor market). However other analsysts have given Sony as much as 52 percent of the market (see Sony took half the CMOS image sensor market in 2018).

Hideki Somemiya, who heads the Sony team developing software, said that the analysis of image sensor data with artificial intelligence (AI) "would form a market larger than the growth potential of the sensor market itself in terms of value," according to Reuters. There is the potential for repeat business from a much broader customer base.

Applications could be extremely broad and wherever CMOS image sensors are deployed. In cars to monitor driver tiredness, on building sites or industrial premises to spot people not wearing proper safety clothing or hats, for monitoring of stock levels in warehousing and so on.

Sony is planning to have customers subscribe to a software service though monthly fees or licensing. Athough a start date for the service has not been announced Reuters quoted Somemiya saying there was demand from "retailers, factories - mainly business-to-business."

It's large market share puts it in a better position than rivals and startups to establish such a sales channel and standards around it.

Related links and articles:

Reuters article

News articles:

Sony adds AI processor to image sensors

Sony acquires Swiss vision sensor firm

Samsung, ST grow market share in strong image sensor market

Sony took half the CMOS image sensor market in 2018


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