Experts in the field of image processing, such as Siemens,
Frost & Sullivan, the German Engineering Federation and people
from the German Fraunhofer Allianz, all agree that there are very
promising trends towards three- dimensional imaging, texture
analysis, high-speed cameras, colour recognition and thermography.
Looking at the not-so-distant horizon, we will see the greatest
amount of innovation in data processing, recognition software and
optical resolution performance.
Image-processing applications already range from industrial uses
and security systems to transport-ation and medical technology.
Industry experts, however, agree that only about 20% of all
possible applications have been addressed so far. Siemens
‘Pictures of the Future Fall 2006’ stresses that, according to
estimates provided by a number of manufacturers, the worldwide
market volume for machine vision systems currently amounts to
about €6,5-billion, with annual growth rates extending into the
In the industrial area, image-processing systems are employed
for quality control in virtually every sector. They are used to
inspect everything – from computer displays and the surfaces of
gearbox components to printed circuit boards for cellphones. Image
processing is also useful in metrology, where it is used in
visually guided machines and to recognise components, symbolic
characters and codes. Cameras can help robots recognise objects,
such as the shape and position of workpieces.
In Germany, industrial image processing has been growing faster
than other sectors of automation technology for several years and
the growth rate was about 9% in 2006.
According to a study by Frost & Sullivan, the market will
see increasing growth in sales of gigabit Ethernet cameras that
can transmit high-resolution images from a camera to a computer
across a distasnce of several hundred metres. In 2007,
three-dimensional vision systems for robots are available,
together with systems for the inspection of semiconductor
components with an accuracy of 4,5 u.
Starting in 2010, smart cameras with neural networks are
expected to have the capability of categorising objects into many
different classes – an important feature when it comes to
Image processing is vitally impor-tant in hospitals too.
According to Frost & Sullivan, the key development in that
sector is the growing importance of picture archiving and
communication systems, which make it possible to process, store
and manage medical images, and have become accepted as the
standard in radiology. By 2010, analysts predicct sales in Europe
will reach $1,47-billion – compared with $0,47-billion in 2003.
An important growth engine here is a reduction in costs, which are
declining by about 10% annually. Another trend is the combination
of two imaging modalities in a single system, such as high-
resolution computed tomography images paired with nuclear medicine
methods that visualise biochemical processes.
In the auto industry too, image processing for driver assistance
systems is gaining in importance and automakers use not only
laser, radar and ultrasonic sensors, but also cameras that can
perceive vehicles, lane boundaries, traffic signs and pedestrians
faster than the human eye. It is predicted that cameras will
experience the strongest sales growth among all onboard automotive
sensing systems, for instance, in video-supported systems that
sense lane markers and issue a warning when a car strays from its
lane, and in parking-assistance systems.
The authors of the European Union study, ‘UrbanEye’,
estimate that there are more than four-million private and public
survaillance cameras in Europe. About 6 000 cameras of the
estimated 500 000 cameras installed throughout London are located
in the city’s underground system. In some streets, cameras are
mounted only 15 m apart. Privacy advocates have calculated that
people in London are recorded by a surveillance camera up to 300
times a day. But most Londoners consider the undeniable successes
in fighting crime more important than the potential negative
aspects of such monitoring.
In the ‘UrbanEye’ survey, 90% of London’s inhabitants
were in favour of cameras in public places (compared with 25% in
Vienna, Austria). In New York too, cameras are multiplying
rapidly. In Manhattan, for instance, there are already 9 000
cameras in public places – about four for each city block.
In the past, such systems used cameras that merely trans-mitted
their images to tape machines and monitors.
But now there are more and more digital cameras that transmit
data to computers. Cur-rently, four to eight such cameras share
one central processing unit (CPU). But in just two to three years,
many cameras will have their own CPUs. Con- ventional video tape
will be super- fluous. Using intelligent software, the latest
smart cameras can even use data comparison to detect unusual
behaviour and trigger an alarm.
By 2008, video cameras will be increasingly combined with
access-control solutions. That, in turn, will increase demand for
biometric systems, especially those based on face recognition.
Market researchers also see a particularly strong future trend
towards totally digital solutions based on the Internet Protocol.
Every survaillance camera will then essentially be a webcam.
What’s more, security personnel will increasingly be able to use
mobile telphones to record and transmit the actions of suspicious
persons for computer analysis, for instance, in airports, railway
stations and sports arenas.