What role does Europe have in the development of machine vision?
Through the last three decades, the machine vision industry in Europe has achieved a leading position in the world. This success was made through a mixture of highly innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises and the unique network of applied research centres all across the continent. In addition, strong customer industries like the automotive industry have pushed the machine vision sector in Europe to new limits over the years. This, together with a fruitful relationship with leading research bodies such as Imec in Belgium or the Fraunhofer network has formed the basis for an extremely vivid and competitive industry.
What are your objectives for the EMVA over your three-year presidency?
One focus I want to set is the worldwide cooperation with the other machine vision associations. Already, the cooperation within the G3 initiative and the Future Standards Forum proves how beneficial it is for all partners to have that common approach. Besides standardisation, one area where EMVA is going to intensify the cooperation will be in terms of aligning the methodology of generating market data in order to offer more qualified market data coming from more geographic sources.
Overall, EMVA aims to grow further by offering new services and to attract new members. One of the strengths of EMVA today is the high number of component suppliers in its membership. In future, we want to make an effort to broaden the membership among system suppliers and integrators. The first concrete new services will be visible later in the second half of the year; cooperation with national associations to form local/regional groups in certain areas with regards to local languages and network clusters is one example. We already see this happening in France, and we will continue working on this elsewhere in Europe. In addition, we also want to sharpen our profile as an interface between academia and industry – education is the key word here.
What do you see as the major growth sectors in Europe?
The increasing trend towards traceability along the value chain, which can be all the way down to the end consumer who wants to know more details about the product than ever before, provides good opportunities for the machine vision industry. The advance of 3D imaging will further push robot vision. Logistics is an ever growing market, and other sectors like traffic and medical have become very attractive over the last few years for machine vision players. Still, traditional applications and industries such as quality inspection and the automotive industry will remain a pillar for the business for most of the vision suppliers in Europe.
What are the important technological challenges facing the industry?
Embedded systems will play a much more important role in future machine vision systems. They allow for much smaller and compact solutions while they meet most image processing requirements. In this way, embedded vision technology lowers the cost of ownership of machine vision. Also, with regards to Industry 4.0, embedded systems are integrated into the factory processes to a much higher degree than standalone PC-based systems.
What will be the most significant commercial change in the industry in the coming years?
Again, embedded vision will play a role here. There are already a lot of people working on embedded vision solutions which are not as yet connected at all to machine vision applications. For instance, each smart phone today contains processing power dedicated to vision tasks which are linked to the integrated camera. So, what we might see in the future are new players in our industry with a completely different, non-industrial background. Besides, rather than being a significant change, the trend towards consolidation within the industry that we have seen in the last few years will continue.