Wednesday, November 17, 2010

VISION 2010 – Parting views

After three demanding days on the show floor and travel home from Stuttgart (in many cases delayed by a fierce storm over northern Europe), it’s clear that VISION 2010 was a major success, a relief to the organizers and exhibitors, and a good omen for 2011.

(Figure: The Mid-Size Robocup Team: Tech United Eindhoven put on a show)

In no particular order, here are some observations:

- This tradeshows is alive and well. It drew a record 6800 visitors, 1600 exhibitors, and 323 exhibiting companies. Forty four percent of the exhibitors came from outside Germany, primarily from the US and South Korea. Thirty five percent of the visitors came from outside Germany

- Most companies reported strong to torrid growth in the past months. Basler, for example, grew very fast but expects sales will soften in the first and second quarters of 2011, before strengthening again in the second half of next year.

- A price war is being waged in some lower-ends of the camera world. Several of the competing vendors are German and continue making their cameras in Germany despite higher labor costs. Their plan is to win on the basis of innovation and quality. Part of their strategy is to use consumer interfaces, move from CCD to CMOS sensors, add capabilities in software not hardware, and continue developing smaller camera footprints.

- Several of the larger camera vendors told me that over 60 percent of their business is non-industrial--that was surprising but shouldn’t have been. It’s been predicted for several years and now it’s true. Growth is very fast in transportation/traffic management, security, and point of sale/entertainment applications. Each sector (especially security) has its own barriers to entry, with large, established system vendors and low-cost competition from “legacy” CCTV cameras.

- According to system integrator Luster LightVision in Beijing, the Chinese machine vision market is roughly $76 million industrial and $50 million non-industrial, with transportation and logistics the fastest growing segments. 2010 will be the year that machine vision really takes off although it is hampered by the fact that the markets are so cost-sensitive, there is little interdisciplinary system design knowledge or machine vision expertise, and the industry organization is weak.

- GigE is seeing steady global growth, with the GigE Vision standard being used in some non-machine vision applications, including embedded military and medical applications.

- Tradeshows are inspiring because they give engineers a chance to get out of the office, lab, or factory and talk to suppliers, developers, or speakers at technical session. Google may be a great tool for search or for comparing components, but human interaction is a better source of innovation, or maybe for learning that someone else has already solved your problem. Engineering management should encourage their staff to get out, ask questions, and see what the world is doing.

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