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Technology career opportunities: Imaging applications
Published on December 9, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

Technology entrepreneur and business executive based in "Silicon Valley", California

As a youngster growing up in Grenada, exposure to career opportunities were limited primarily to law, medicine / healthcare, economics / accounting, teaching and a couple of engineering disciplines. Although I liked physics, I knew no physicists and had no idea what physicists did. The first time I heard of geology was when my brother started university and decided to major in that field.

Career opportunities for young people in science and technology are greater today than at any time in history and, with the rate of technological changes, new opportunities will continue to increase for many more years. Many of our students today will likely end up working in science-related careers that did not exist when I was growing up. In fact by the time many of our current students graduate from high school or university they will end up working in jobs that do not exist today.

To help provide exposure, increase interest in careers in science and technology and expand the perspective of our young people I have decided to publish a few introductory articles on interesting, emerging areas in science and technology. It is my hope that these articles will also help schools better optimize their curriculum and develop lab programs to help better prepare our students to meet the requirements of rapidly growing markets thus improving their chances of success.

This first article is on imaging. I encourage similar articles, blogs and contributions from other industry and/or content experts and would be happy to act as a coordinator -- if required.

Enabled by Dr Eric Fossum's invention of active pixel CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology, we now live in a world where imaging is ubiquitous. Based on studies done by National Geographic, Americans took a total of 80 billion digital photos in 2011 -- an average of 255 pictures per person. This number is projected to grow to 105 billion photos by 2015.

According to IDC, in 2012 more than 1.3 billion phones were sold worldwide. This number is expected to grow to over 2 billion by 2016. Enabled by camera modules using CMOS image sensors, the mobile phone has been transformed from a device that was previously used only for voice communication to one that is now also a tool for visual communication. Through the mobile phone, users can now capture and share images and video spontaneously, conveniently and inexpensively -- anywhere, anytime.

The quality of images taken by cameras embedded in mobile phones has improved dramatically over the last few years and today the battlefield for differentiation in high-end smart phones is centered around the camera.

But today's imaging applications extend beyond digital still cameras and mobile phones to include applications such as home video-conferencing (via the PC, television or tablet), automotive backup and ADAS cameras, ultra-fast DSLR cameras, surveillance cameras, activity / sports cameras, barcode scanners and many more.

Some of these applications use image sensors not for image capture but for intelligent data capture. It is highly likely, therefore, that image sensors will, in future, become the device of choice for many intelligent sensing applications.

For example weight sensors in car seats that are used to determine that there is an occupant in the seat will probably eventually be replaced by imagers that can see the occupant and determine the difference between a person and a bag of groceries. The use of imagers for this application will provide car manufacturers the ability to determine the height and size of the person, which can be used for more controlled airbag deployment.

As Moore's Law progresses, the use of CMOS image sensors will continue to enable the rapid miniaturization of low cost, high-performance imagers and open the opportunity for imagers to be used in an even wider range of applications. Cost effective digital imaging enabled by the miniaturization trends and low cost of image sensors have also resulted in a variety of very innovative businesses that capture, manage and manipulate images. YouTube, today, has nearly 800 million unique monthly visitors watching over 4 billion hours of video and approximately 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Instagram, a startup company, with 12 engineers that developed an innovative application to manipulate and share images was acquired by Facebook for a valuation of US$1 billion.

In a private transaction, GoPro a sports / activity camera company was recently valued at approximately US$2 billion.

None of these would likely exist without the enabling capabilities provided by the CMOS image sensor. Technologists and scientists at both large and small companies, around the world, are working on products and applications involving image-sensor based platforms.

It is my opinion, therefore, that over the next decade, imaging will play an even more important role in our lives. Opportunities for embedded camera and imaging-related applications are continuing to increase at alarming rates and these will provide significant, high paying, potential employment opportunities for individuals with imaging-related expertise.
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