Sony's new image sensors will make cameras smarter with onboard AI

Sony's new image sensors will make cameras smarter with onboard AI”

The IMX501 will ship as a sample package product in June 2020, and has a 12.3MP intelligent vision sensor and 4K video.

Sony's latest sensors run the image signals they capture natively on a separate logic chip and only beam out the extracted metadata. Not only does the sensor eliminate the need for dedicated AI chips in devices, it is claimed to reduce data transmission latency and power consumption as well. The company says that including AI processing functionality on the image sensor itself enables high-speed edge AI processing and extraction of only the necessary data. As a result, external processors and memory hardware aren't required - which could result in the potential for faster and more secure AI cameras.

The result's a single digital meeting that may do quite a lot of fascinating processing on a photograph earlier than that picture is ever despatched elsewhere, like a principal logic board, GPU or the cloud. Instead, these new sensors, for now, will be restricted for commercial purposes such as surveillance cameras and smart retail spaces that demand complex computer vision architectures such as Amazon Go. Different AI models can be chosen by rewriting internal memory according to the user's requirements or the conditions of the location where the system is being used.

However, the application of the technology greatly relies on sending videos and images to the cloud which is then analyzed.

When a video is recorded using a conventional image sensor, it is necessary to send data for each individual output image frame for AI processing, resulting in increased data transmission and making it hard to deliver real-time performance.

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Ensuring that image information is not output helps to reduce security risks and minimizing any privacy concerns.

Instead, the new sensors will handle ISP and AI processing on its own, with the whole process done in a single video frame. Sony said the method provides increased privacy while also making it possible to do near-instant analysis and object tracking.

For years, the evolution of image sensors has been about packing in more pixels and slimming down their size to fit into smaller devices.

No word on if or when Sony may introduce AI-capable image sensors to its popular consumer camera lines, but the IMX500 has already begun shipping to Sony's industry customers and the IMX501 is set to begin shipping next month, so this technology will likely see real-world use very, very shortly.

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