Monday, March 14, 2011

Is this machine vision consolidation?

Interesting news out of Germany: camera manufacturer NET (short for New Electronic Technology) is buying image processing experts iv-tec. I’ve been predicting consolidation among camera makers for some time, but this strikes me as being more like vertical integration.

NET’s niche has really been FireWire cameras, although they do sell
the Eyespector smart camera family. Meanwhile iv-tec have some serious expertise in digital image processing, as evidenced by these movies on their web site. Machine vision cameras, and especially smart cameras, of course rely on image processing software, so there is some logic to the acquisition. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that these two companies have been working together for some time, but where is this leading?

Well here’s my hypothesis: iv-tec are doing some interesting things in the field of 3D, especially with stereo image processing. 3D is a growing machine vision application area, especially for the bin-picking challenge, so I would expect to see NET bring out some 3D products in the near future. Now SICK and AT with their structured light products pretty much have the 3D market sewn up, but maybe there’s room for a stereo approach too. If so, NET may be well positioned to be first to market.

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