Sony’s image sensors with built-in AI could make surveillance tech smarter

15 May 2020

The new IMX500 and IMX501 sensors. Image: Sony

This week in future tech, new image sensors from Sony come with AI capability built in, removing the need for additional hardware.

Sony has announced two new models of its intelligent vision sensors which, it claims, are the first in the world to be equipped with their own AI processing capabilities. Sony said this enables high-speed edge AI processing, as well as reducing transmission latency, addressing privacy concerns and reducing power consumption.

While the tech giant has said that the IMX500 and IMX501 sensors could soon appear in smartphone cameras, it also said there is significant potential in the world of the internet of things (IoT) and smart camera systems increasingly being used in retail and security.

Examples given included a smart camera at the entrance of a facility being able to count the number of people entering, or being used on a ceiling so that it can conduct heat mapping of store visitors.

Speaking with The Verge, Sony vice-president of business and innovation, Mark Hanson, said: “Now we’ve eliminated what would normally be a 60 frames per second, 4K video stream to just that one ‘Hey, I recognise this object’.

“That can reduce data traffic [and] it also helps things like privacy.”

Honeywell debuts AI camera that detects rising body temperature

Staying with AI imaging, Honeywell has revealed new temperature monitoring technology called ThermoRebellion. It uses thermal cameras and AI to detect elevated body temperature and can validate if an individual is wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

As individuals pass in front of a high-resolution thermal imaging camera, their skin temperature is automatically detected within two seconds and displayed on an accompanying monitor. Honeywell is piloting ThermoRebellion at two of its US production facilities, including its new N95 face mask manufacturing centre in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Protecting worker safety is the top priority for any building operator and today, more than ever, managers are looking for innovative solutions to enhance their health screening processes,” said Renaud Mazarguil, president of Honeywell’s gas analysis and safety business.

“We’ve developed this breakthrough technology to automate and streamline the monitoring of an individual’s temperature and reduce the need for invasive monitoring.”

AI uses dishwasher signals to get health info

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a system called Sapple that analyses in-home appliance usage to better understand our health patterns, using just radio signals and a smart electricity meter.

Using two in-home sensors, Sapple examines use of everyday items such as dishwashers, stoves and hair dryers, and can detect where and when a particular appliance is being used. Its ‘location sensor’ uses radio signals to sense placement, and covers an area equivalent in size to a one-bed apartment.

“This system uses passive sensing data and does not require people to change the way they live,” said MIT PhD student Chen-Yu Hsu, lead author on a new paper about Sapple.

“It has potential to improve things like energy saving and efficiency, give us a better understanding of the daily activities of seniors living alone, and provide insight into the behavioural analytics for smart environments.”

Sweat could power future wearable devices

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have published a paper to Advanced Materials describing how a new generation of wearable devices could be powered by human sweat instead of conventional batteries.

This can be achieved using a new flexible supercapacitor that replaces the electrolytes found in conventional batteries with our own sweat. It can be charged with just 20 microlitres of fluid and can survive 4,000 charging cycles.

It works by coating polyester cellulose cloth in a thin layer of polymer. When the cloth absorbs its wearer’s sweat, the positive and negative ions in the fluid interact with the polymer’s surface, creating an electrochemical reaction that generates energy.

“Conventional batteries are cheaper and more plentiful than ever before, but they are often built using unsustainable materials which are harmful to the environment,” said Prof Ravinder Dahiya.

“That makes them challenging to dispose of safely, and potentially harmful in wearable devices, where a broken battery could spill toxic fluids onto skin. What we’ve been able to do for the first time is show that human sweat provides a real opportunity to do away with those toxic materials entirely, with excellent charging and discharging performance.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic