Sony last week unveiled a new embedded artificial intelligence camera sensor, while Microsoft has promised to support it with Azure ‘cloud brain’. The Sony IMX500, a custom-built AI processor with 12.3 megapixel COMS sensors, is known to pave the way for features such as object and pattern recognition, character tracking, and more. Typically, this approach requires a separate chip for an image processor (ISP), but Sony decided to combine it to improve efficiency and reduce overall costs.
Sony is targeting market segments, including security and industrial cameras, so manufacturers can load their own AI solutions into the memory of the IMX500, and Microsoft offers an Azure Cloud AI option.
The partnership has embedded Azure AI into the IMX500, and Sony will create an Azure IoT Services-based smart camera management application that enables video analysis in the cloud.
For manufacturers, this helps them add advanced functionality to existing products. Smart cameras, for example, that combine Sony chips with Microsoft Azure AI can track when shelves need replenishment, understand customers’ shopping habits, and monitor potential industrial hazards.
In addition to the new features, Sony and Microsoft want the platform to be easier to scale, affordable and efficient. For example, the IMX500 can weigh the computational load and intelligently move work to the cloud. Customers are also able to program specific tasks to meet safety procedures.
The new approach is expected to attract independent software vendors of computer vision and video analytics systems, as well as camera manufacturers who want to add new features to their own products. At the same time, enterprise customers can analyze video through the AI model to better leverage existing hardware resources.
Finally, the Sony IMX500 not only captures 12.3 megapixel still images, but also captures videos of 4K to 60fps / 1080p to 240fps. However, the video frame rate drops to 30fps when AI processing is fully operational.
Sony plans to start offering bare-chip in April and package chip samples in June, with the first commercial products using the IMX500 expected to be available in the first quarter of 2021.