Microsoft is integrating Azure AI into Sony’s smart camera sensors

19 May 2020

A Microsoft office building. Image: Observer/Depositphotos

Microsoft is partnering with Sony to make AI-powered smart cameras and video analytics solutions for enterprise customers.

Last week, Sony announced it was developing two new image sensors that come with with their own built-in AI processing capabilities. It said that these sensors enable high-speed edge AI processing, while reducing transmission latency, addressing privacy concerns and reducing power consumption.

Sony added that the IMX500 and IMX501 sensors could soon appear in smartphone cameras, as well as IoT applications and smart camera systems for retail and security.

Now, Microsoft has announced that it is partnering with Sony to embed Azure AI capabilities on the IMX500 intelligent vision sensor, which extracts useful information from images in smart cameras and other devices.

Collaboration between Sony and Microsoft

In a statement published on Monday (18 May), Microsoft said that it is working with Sony Semiconductor Solutions to make AI-powered smart cameras and video analytics easier to access and deploy for their mutual customers.

Sony plans to create a smart camera managed app powered by Azure IoT and Cognitive Services, which Microsoft said will complement the IMX500 sensor and expand the range and capability of video analytics opportunities for enterprise customers.

Terushi Shimizu, representative director and president of Sony Semiconductor Solutions, said: “By linking Sony’s innovative imaging and sensing technology with Microsoft’s excellent cloud AI services, we will deliver a powerful and convenient platform to the smart camera market.

“Through this platform, we hope to support the creativity of our partners and contribute to overcoming challenges in various industries.”

The future of video analytics

Microsoft said that video analytics has emerged as a new way for enterprise customers to uncover new revenue opportunities and streamline operations.

“For example,” the company said, “retailers can use smart cameras to detect when to refill products on a shelf or to better understand the optimal number of available open checkout counters according to the queue length.” Microsoft also suggested that the technology could be used to identify hazards on the manufacturing floor in real time, using AI, before any injuries occur.

The company said that, traditionally, these kind of applications that rely on gathering data distributed among many smart cameras across different sites struggle to optimise the allocation of computing resources. Through the partnership, the two companies want to simplify access to computer vision solutions, while enabling partners to embed their own AI models.

“This integration will result in smarter, more advanced cameras for use in enterprise scenarios as well as more efficient allocation of resources between the edge and the cloud to drive cost and power consumption efficiencies,” Microsoft said.

Sony will target its smart camera managed app powered by Azure towards independent software vendors specialising in computer vision and video analytics solutions, as well as smart camera original equipment manufacturers that want to add the technology to their hardware offerings.

A Microsoft office building. Image: Observer/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic