Computer vision hasn’t passed ‘awareness phase,’ survey shows

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The majority of organizations agree that computer vision has the potential to transform key areas of business, but only 10% are using it today. That’s according to an IDG survey commissioned by Insight, a business-to-business technology consultancy, which asked 200 IT leaders about their awareness, adoption, and perceptions of computer vision.

Computer vision is a type of AI technology that allows machines to understand, categorize, and differentiate between images. Using photos from cameras and videos as well as deep learning components, computer vision can identify and classify objects and then react to what it “sees.”

Respondents to the IDG survey overwhelmingly believe that computer vision can grow revenue (97%) while saving time and money (96%). Forty-five percent cited opportunities for cost cutting and efficiency gains, while an equal percentage called it an “innovation driver,” pointing to computer vision’s ability to help bring products to market. Over 70% of companies said that computer vision could improve security and employee safety, while 58% said that it could detect anomalies during manufacturing and support customer experiences, for example by spotting long checkout lines to bolster service where needed.

Varies by industry

Of course, computer vision can be used for nefarious purposes, like monitoring the responses of ride-hailing customers to in-car advertisements. Last week, AnyVision, a controversial Israeli facial recognition startup, raised $235 million in venture capital from SoftBank and Eldridge Industries. Public records and a 2019 version of its user guide show how invasive the company’s software can be; one school using it saw that a student’s face was captured more than 1,000 times during the week.

But the goals for implementing computer vision vary based on industry. According to the survey, executives in the energy (56%) and health care (51%) sectors ranked adopting computer vision as a high priority for product development, while only 44% in retail did the same. Augmenting current processes and improving employee experiences is a driving factor for 47% in the energy sector but only 46% in health care and 43% in manufacturing. And while 53% in the energy and utility sector say that computer vision is a way to stay head of the competition, just 41% from transportation agree.

“We were not surprised to find computer vision squarely in the awareness phase. It’s an extremely complex emerging technology that requires a significant investment, with an average return of two to three years and real-world examples just starting to materialize to prove the business case,” Amol Ajgaonkar, chief architect of intelligent edge at Insight, said in a statement. “However, the upside is incredible, and as more organizations shift from investigating to investing in the visual side of AI, those that get ahead of the curve and effectively capture ROI will gain a significant advantage in their respective fields. If you imagine a world where workers didn’t have to go into ‘danger zones,’ or quality control moved from a manual review process to an entirely automated one, intelligent use of cameras can orchestrate smoother operations.”

In any case, the report’s findings imply that there’s an appetite for deployment, with 37% of respondents saying they have “definite” plans to implement computer vision and 44% committing to investigating the technology. The computer vision market could grow from $10.9 billion in 2019 to $17.4 billion by 2024 if the current trend continues, as external investments in computer vision startups surpasses $3.5 billion.

“Top-line growth is king, but bottom-line growth is the throne. With computer vision, you get both, and this is why we’re seeing such a positive market outlook for this technology,” Adrian Walker, CEO of machine vision company Aiza, wrote in a column published in VentureBeat last August. “As the technology proliferates across new sectors, it will be critical for business leaders to assess how computer vision could impact the trajectory of their organization.”

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