Being an innovation leader in machine vision and imaging devices, Sony needs to respond to the latest advancements in cutting-edge machine vision technology and introduce products that serve the growing needs of its customers for world-class imaging performance. Earlier this year, Sony held a corporate strategy meeting where the growth strategy for its devices business was discussed.
While Sony suffered losses for its image sensors in FY2015 due to slow market growth for smartphones – particularly high-end flagship devices – Sony focused its efforts on delivering products to Chinese smartphone makers, which proved fruitful. Based on its financial performance for FY2016, Sony laid the growth strategy for its image sensors for the year forward.
Investing in automotive smart vision
Sony is the world’s largest manufacturer of image sensors and eyes growth in two important sectors. One of them is the automotive sector and the need to bring smarter vision to our transport vehicles. As the future of automotive industry is completely electronic, transportation will be completely automated.
A critical component for this will be smarter vision, and Sony plans to explore the potential here, eyeing key partnerships with leading automotive manufacturers.
The restoration of Kumamoto Technology Center
Sony’s corporate strategy meeting also brought in news of the restoration of one of its largest image sensor manufacturing center. As Sony entered the start of its FY2016, earthquakes struck Japan and halted Sony’s image sensor plant, the Kumamoto Technology Center.With continued aftershocks and the safety of the plant’s 3,200 employees under question, restoration procedures were delayed until early 2017.
The plant is scheduled to be fully restored in August and will once again reach its planned output capacity.
Mobile: Dual-lens adoption and higher-resolution front-facing cameras
The smartphone market has seen a rise in trend of dual-lens cameras. Leading smartphone manufacturers have turned to brining dual-lens cameras which offer better focus, image stability optimization, more zoom and other enhanced imaging functionalities. Sony plans to harness the growth in adoption of dual-lens cameras by providing image sensors to serve this need in the smartphone market.
Another rise was witnessed in the adoption of higher resolution front-facing cameras. As applications continue to adopt video chat, the need for smartphone users to use front-facing cameras grows. Sony mentioned that it aims to provide higher-resolution front-facing cameras to leading smartphone manufacturers.
Capturing the video market: A/V Surveillance and VR
Part of Sony’s image sensor growth strategy is also to expand its Sony Pregius machine vision camera sensors to better serve growing requirements for video. Sony wants to exponentially grow its machine vision division and make it just as strong as the smartphone sensor division for the future.
For this, Sony eyes the two most important contributors to video to be A/V surveillance and virtual reality, and aims to expand its product range to better address the needs of these industries.
Investing in next-gen image sensor technologies
Another critical element for Sony’s corporate strategy is the future road map of its cutting-edge image sensor technology. Sony plans to invest in polarization sensors, as news circulated the market earlier this year. The integrated polarization filter on the new Sony Pregius CMOS polarization sensors will allow for less glare and capture true colors for high-quality imaging without the need for polarization glass or filter effects, that deteriorate quality.
Figure 1–Sony’s on-chip Polarization CMOS image sensor [Source: Sony]
Sony also announced earlier the industry’s first 1000-fps triple-layer CMOS image sensor with DRAM. The 1000-fps CMOS sensor uses DRAM sandwiched between the sensitive pixel and the circuit layer, allowing for super slow-motion video capture at 1000 frames per second. Sony plans to bring this new technology to its smartphone image sensor as well as its machine vision image sensor division soon.
Want to view what the results look like? Sony posted a video showing the slow-motion video capabilities that its new triple-layer CMOS sensor offers, which can be viewed on the official Sony YouTube channel or by clicking here.