The IoT Era and Why Precision Optics Will Be Key

The IoT Era is Upon Us

As the Internet of Things (IoT) swiftly expands to include more devices, the competition amongst them increases. Many IoT devices depend on computer vision capabilities, which have evolved into the ability to recognize specific objects.  In order to be best at seeing and recognizing things, these devices must have optics of the best quality and clarity. Because of this, we will certainly see increased demand for high quality optics to improve the accuracy and usefulness of these devices.

The world of IoT is predicted to grow steadily, although slower than initially predicted – IoT growth forecasts have been revised from roughly 50 billion down to around 30 billion connected devices by 2020. Within that world, there are numerous technologies that require compact optics, the most obvious being self-driving cars, drones, and security systems. 

The Importance of Optics in IoT Devices

Clearly the quality of your product’s optics can make a huge difference in its effectiveness and delivery of its most advanced capabilities; for example, the safety of a self-driving car can hinge on its ability to “see” its surroundings, and the value of a security system may easily depend on how good the images it collects are, for example, of a culprit.

The OEM companies that strive to impress consumers and wow them with great features will be the first to admit that these questions of product quality and attention to detail are always on their customers’ minds, particularly when they are forking over a large wad of cash for a new IoT gadget. Safety, performance, and accuracy all make a difference. In other words, tiny technologies matter.  Our active alignment technology may perform minute adjustments during assembly of the smallest optics around, but these miniscule details are the ones that create a big difference in the resulting optical performance. The quality of these optics is our top priority for customers because as many of these devices get smaller and thinner, the need for precision optics will only increase.

Smart Homes and Security Challenges

smart home graphic

Smart home      (credit: asid.org)

Inventive minds have created a plethora of smartphone-connected home devices, from thermostats and security cameras to locks that can be monitored and controlled remotely via the home Wi-Fi network.  Some of the smart products out there include the popular Nest thermostat, August Home locks and doorbells, the new LED color-changing lights from Philips, and numerous remote-access security cameras such as the iSmartAlarm.

However, the new interconnected home has revealed opportunities for hackers, including a recent incident in which a smart refrigerator was accessed remotely and used to obtain the owner’s email credentials.  This is one reason why, despite the useful nature and variety of smart home products available, the smart home has yet to be fully embraced and catapulted into the mass market.  In fact, recent research from Argus Insights has found that overall demand is actually dropping for smart home products, most likely due to issues of cost and the threat of hackers.

To solve the latter problem, companies such as Dojo Labs and Cujo have developed monitoring devices that plug into your router to detect suspicious activity. For example, if a hacker is trying to access your web camera, these devices have the ability to automatically block that access.

Hacked security graphic

The threat of hackers (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Security, both for the Wi-Fi network and for the home itself, is the current area of growth.  Another research agency, Parks Associates, has found that connected cameras have helped drive double digit growth in sales of home security system installations, with nearly 6 million home security customers using a smart home device as part of their security system.

The internet of things is a more promising concept when we are also provided with peace of mind, so security will be front and center in the upcoming years of growth for these interconnected devices.

Marvels of Micro Technology: Compact Camera Module Market to Reach $51B

So, what is on the cool technology docket for 2016? Some exciting new products will be coming onto the market, many of which will include connectivity and embedded cameras, ready for connecting to the internet of things (IoT).  We are thrilled that cameras are becoming more prevalent, and indeed, significant growth is projected in the compact camera module (CCM) market. The demand for thinner devices and higher quality cameras, as well as the now-essential automotive camera, are driving the market.

According to a new report by Yole Developpment (Lyon, France), the compact camera module market is likely to more than double by 2020, reaching $51 billion. Currently, mobile phone cameras account for 73% of the market. The automotive camera market is swiftly growing and will soon take over as second most prevalent in the market, expected to grow at a CAGR of 36%, and should reach $7.9B by 2020.

What else is driving growth? New technology shifts. In burgeoning areas such as 3D, computational, motion, and infrared cameras, multiple sensors, projectors, and others, high quality optics are required. Due to these shifts, the camera module will ultimately become the go-to product for multi-sensing.

Finally, in a boon to Kasalis’ area of the market, the assembly portion of the industry, Yole projected a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20% (image below). That’s great news, and we hope to embrace and evolve with these burgeoning shifts toward multi-sensing technologies throughout the next five years and beyond.

Compact Camera Module (CCM) Market 2015

The Internet of Things: Optics Opportunities

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a vast array of opportunities for optics given the sheer number of technologies that will be connected to the internet in the future. From wearables to home monitoring systems, and from the tiniest camera modules to gesture recognition optics, the highest quality components will be in demand for groundbreaking technologies in our networked future.  In burgeoning healthcare, automotive, smart homes, and communication developments, exciting challenges await for our optics assembly equipment and, of course, the entire manufacturing sector.

Smart car, smart phone, smart watch, drone

The Internet of Things (IoT) will drive future growth. (Source: Jabil)

The Internet of Things is poised to be a major driver of economic growth in the near future. Cisco predicts that by 2020 there will be 50 billion things connected to the Internet, generating revenues of more than $19 trillion. However, building the IoT up to that level will not be a simple task.

In April 2015, Jabil sponsored a Dimensional Research global survey of more than 300 supply chain professionals at companies that manufacture electronics goods. While 75 percent of those surveyed are planning, developing or producing IoT-related products, 77 percent admit they lack the expertise in-house needed to deliver them.  That shows there are some major knowledge gaps that must be filled, but once they are, there is great potential for producing new internet-enabled products and services.

Those surveyed saw value in using data from the IoT to drive product innovation.  About half of them believed that data gathered from the IoT could potentially help in: delivering new product capabilities; creating new products, services, or business models; understanding failures to improve quality; and measuring feature usage to inform user design.  It is an exciting time for the Internet of Things as we look toward the future.  We at Kasalis hope to contribute meaningfully to the digital integration of the world around us.

Camera and Sensor Technology Advances for Smartphones

The ubiquity of smartphones has perpetuated creative thinking and an amazing number of advancements in mobile technology.  The vast continuum of purposes for smartphone cameras and camera attachments has been consistently growing, widening recently to include advanced applications such as thermal imaging and spectrometry.  This year, a few cutting edge companies have revealed some news in these up-and-coming areas of innovation.

seek-therm

A goat in the wild, highlighted by its heat signature, from Seek Thermal.

Thermal detection is a burgeoning area, in which Seek Thermal and Flir Systems, for example, are thriving by producing cameras that send real-time thermal imaging to a smartphone.  Seek Thermal recently updated its thermal camera to include a manual focus lens to enable focus on anything from 8 inches to 2,000 feet away.  Flir Systems updated to its Flir One to be less bulky and work with Android or iOS systems. The thermal images show people and objects with colors representing relative temperature, and can be used for detecting heat leaks in a building, electrical problems, or wildlife.

Scio spectrometry tool

Scio spectrometry tool

Another product, the SCiO, is a Bluetooth-connected device that will tell you what it is pointing at, on a molecular level.  Developed by Consumer Physics, its first major applications are in pharmaceuticals, food, and plant hydration.  It aims to detect the nutritional quality of food and the difference between real and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.  It performs these feats by using a built-in spectrometer to detect and analyze the molecular makeup of an object. When the data is uploaded to a cloud server, it is then compared against a database of results.  Because the price of sensors has decreased drastically, and the company has raised over $2.5 million in funds on Kickstarter, they will be offering the SCiO for a very reasonable price of about $250 for a research-level product. The SCiO falls loosely into the growing category called the Internet of Things, the networking of the physical world within existing internet infrastructure.