Artificial Intelligence

The unusual ecosystem of image and vision for AI

17th September 2019
Alex Lynn

Yohann Tschudi, PhD. Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement (Yole), said “AI has completely disrupted hardware in vision systems, and has had an impact on entire segments.” A good example, is the penetration of Mobileye within the automotive market segment. 

Yole and its partner System Plus Consulting deeply analysed a scenario for AI within the dynamics of the autonomous automotive market, especially with Mobileye’s market positioning, and present an understanding of AI’s impact on the semiconductor industry with two dedicated reports: ‘Artificial Intelligence Computing for Automotive’ and ‘Mobileye EyeQ4 Vision Processor Family’.

Today image analysis adds a lot of value. Image sensor builders are therefore increasingly interested in integrating a software layer to their system in order to capture it. “Image sensors must go beyond taking images – they must be able to analyse them”, added Tschudi.

The market research and strategy consulting company, Yole pursues its investigation all year long, in the computing and software world. Analysts propose today a new technology and market report, titled ‘Image Signal Processor and Vision Processor Market and Technology Trends’. This new report, part of the software & computing reports collection focuses on describing the markets related to hardware needed for image processing. 

Behind a camera, there may be several ways to process raw data depending on the purpose. The alternatives usually break down into viewing or analysing the image to understand the environment around the module or system containing the camera. Each of these purposes, however, requires a different type of hardware. 

Under this report, Yole’s analysts segment processing and computing respectively according to their association with the image signal processor and vision processor. At the business level, segmentation is quite simple. Some companies offer a license and royalties for a design, which is known as IP business. 

To run dedicated software, high power computing and memory are necessary, which led to the creation and development of vision processors. The ISP market offers a steady three percent CAGR from 2018 to 2024, making the total market worth $4.2bn in 2024. Meanwhile, the vision processor market is exploding, with an 18% CAGR between 2018 and 2024, making the market worth $14.5bn in 2024.

Beyond market figures, this is a completely new industry that has been created, especially with AI-powered newcomers. These companies are today reshuffling the pack of this industry.

Processing and computing hardware for the imaging market has been divided into two different business models. IP companies do not have physical products, but silicon companies sell the physical processors. The leaders are easy to identify for each category. ARM and Synopsys lead the IP segment and OmniVision, Mobileye and ON Semiconductor lead the silicon segment.

Yole’s team had the opportunity to debate with Andy Hanvey, Director of Marketing, Automotive at OmniVision about the latest market trends and technical issues. During this discussion, he detailed OmniVision’s vision for the future of image processing and its strategy. 

The company is in the forefront of the scene thanks to its portfolio of image sensors in automotive sector and related ISPs. As an example, System Plus Consulting, sister company of Yole, did a detailed teardown of ZF’s fourth generation ADAS S-Cam. This camera is using OmniVision’s OV10642 image sensor in combination with the latest Mobileye EyeQ4 vision processor.

“ZF, one of the largest tier one suppliers of automotive systems, last year released its fourth Generation S-Cam with two solutions, one with a mono camera and the other with a triple camera set-up,” explains Audrey Lahrach, Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting. “These cameras feature the Omnivision CMOS image sensor, which demonstrates the shift in the procurement strategies of ZF and Intel Mobileye. In fact, the use of the latest Mobileye EyeQ4 vision processor allows new sensors to be used and makes the S-Cam4 one of the smallest and lightest products in its category.”

With this latest software & computing analysis, Yole’s Semiconductor & Software team developed expertise in this domain. Therefore, this report is an opportunity to understand what is happening with the emergence of AI.

“Even if it is not a new technology, thanks to technological factors AI has made a spectacular entry into vision systems,” explained Tschudi. “It opens new perspectives in mobile device, automotive, computing and surveillance industries.” Applications include biometry and photography, autonomous driving, behavioural recognition, human identification and tracking.

So what about this dedicated ecosystem? Indeed it is important to note that historical players have struggled to react to AI’s arrival. That has allowed other companies to get into the business, including smartphone companies like Apple and Huawei, startups like Mobileye, and companies in other segments, like NVIDIA in automotive applications. 

However, because the trend is towards low-power, low-consumption, always-on computing hardware, the historical players are coming back into the game. AI technologies promise a bright future in many areas, with rapid software and hardware progress. This is very exciting for the entire area of vision systems.

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