Artificial intelligence – or AI – is the technology that enables a computer to think or act in a ‘human’ way. By taking in information from its macro and micro-environment, the machine is able to analyse available data, trying different ways of approaching a challenge in order to facilitate an action that delivers the best results. Such is the potential of this technology that AI is already affecting the way we live and work – much of the time, without us even realising.
AI is powered by software that enables ‘machine vision’ – automated inspection and evaluation capabilities based on imaging. Machine vision provides AI with the ability to enhance productivity through quality control by detecting defects and helping in the predictive maintenance of factory machinery.
Recent advances in imaging technology such as deep learning software, liquid lens, vision processing unit, 360-degree camera, hyperspectral imaging and hybrid image sensor and increasing demand for AI are driving the growth of the machine vision market. Indeed, research expects the machine vision market to grow from $8.12bn in 2015 to $14.43bn by 2022, at a CAGR of 8.15% between 2016 and 2022.
Germany is emerging as a significant power in the field of machine vision with many of the market leaders heralding from its cities. The German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association estimates the German robotics and automation sector achieved revenues of EUR 15bn in 2018, a growth of 4% from the year prior, yet of that, machine vision revenues accounted for $2.7bn.
Basler for example is an internationally leading manufacturer of high-quality cameras and accessories for applications in factory automation, medicine, traffic and a variety of other markets. Basler has a market cap of EUR 415mn and employs approximately 800 employees at its headquarters in Ahrensburg, Germany, and has facilities across Europe, Asia and North America. The company believes that in the coming years, the machine vision sector will benefit from major growth drivers such as increased automation, image processing in new application fields outside the factory as well as the networking of intelligent machines and products.
Also in Germany, the Stemmer Imaging Group a leading international machine vision technology provider founded in 1987 holds a market cap of $182mn and employs 500 people across 24 countries. Stemmer Imaging delivers every element of machine vision from the world’s leading manufacturers. From illumination, to optics, cameras, cabling, image acquisition, computer systems, and accessories, customers are able to develop machine vision capabilities backed up by the company’s internally developed software solution which allows them to offer real-time customer support. Stemmer Imaging caters for over 5,000 customers needing AI capability in industrial production, healthcare, the entertainment sector, recycling, logistics, and e-commerce.
Around 48% of Stemmer’s revenues comes from the German market, perhaps as this is its home market, but also because Germany has emerged as a pioneer in the field of AI and machine learning in recent years. For instance, a CapGemini report, estimates that 69% of German manufacturing firms have already implemented machine learning or AI practices.
The future of the machine vision market is likely to be led by demand for vision-guided robotic systems and increasing application in the automation, pharmaceutical and food packing industries specifically.
Also driving growth in this sector is an increasing demand for the miniaturisation of products, a need for quality inspection and increasing standardisation. In addition, according to Market Watch, growing industrialisation and high investment in the quality assurances and inspection tools in industry are also delivering high demand for machine vision systems.
Recent advancements in imaging technology and the growing demand for artificial intelligence play a significant role in the predicted growth of the machine vision market. The success of this sector, and players like Stemmer Imaging Group or Basler within it, depends on their ability to continue to innovate, driving forward the evolutions of AI software systems to keep ahead of customer demand and constantly push the barriers of technological capabilities.