CV is a nascent market but it contains a plethora of both big technology companies and disruptors. Technology players with large sets of visual data are leading the pack in CV, with Chinese and US tech giants dominating each segment of the value chain.
Listed below are the leading public companies in computer vision, as identified by GlobalData.
Alphabet – US
Google has been at the forefront of CV applications since 2012. Over the years the company has hired several ML experts. In 2014 it acquired the deep learning start-up DeepMind. Google’s biggest asset is its wealth of customer data provided by their search business and YouTube. In 2016 Google unveiled its custom TPU chip, specifically designed to accelerate the operations in ML neural networks. The tech giant is currently marketing its AI strategy as an attempt to “democratize” access to AI tools and ML with pre-built models and easy-to-use services.
Amazon – US
Amazon has been pushing CV technology in different areas of its business for a number of years. They have been under pressure from civil liberties groups to stop selling its Rekognition software to police forces, citing the risk of potential abuse by the authorities. In 2019 a proposal to stop selling the technology to government agencies won only 2% of approval among its shareholders. Amazon’s heavy investment in ML and sensors coupled with its advanced cloud operations, illustrate the company’s leadership in key technologies to enable CV. In 2019 the company announced its drone delivery service. This uses CV and ML algorithms to detect and avoid people, animals, and even wires.
Ambarella – US
Ambarella combines its deep neural network AI processor architecture and expertise in video processing to provide CV SoCs. There is high demand for the company’s technology, particularly from automotive and security camera companies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Ambarella is also highly exposed to China. In 2019 one of its biggest customers, Hikvision, was included by the Commerce Department into the so-called Entity List, which restricts its ability to do business with American firms.
Baidu – China
With access to China’s more than 700 million internet users, Baidu’s biggest asset in CV is its visual data set. This is capable of fuelling AI algorithms and constantly improving them. Baidu is also a rising star in autonomous driving technology, developing auto brains which are available to car makers for free. Baidu’s technology, Apollo, has been designated as the main platform for autonomous driving by the Chinese authorities.
Facebook – US
Facebook’s assets in CV include its huge cache of user photos and videos and the ownership of the popular video-sharing platform Instagram. The social media company uses facial recognition to help users find out when they appear in other people’s photos. When creating its massive People in Photo Albums dataset, Facebook used more than 37,000 photos of 2,000 individuals, including children, taken from Flickr photo albums. This dataset has been reused all over the world, including the National University of Defense Technology in China to improve video surveillance.
Hikvision – China
The world’s largest vendor of video surveillance systems has been expanding into the US market but US lawmakers have warned against the potential use of these devices, causing Hikvision’s US sales to fall in 2019. Concerns about the safety of China-made technology have escalated as relations between the US and China worsen. In addition, the Hangzhou-based company has been in the spotlight for providing facial recognition and surveillance systems to police in Xinjiang, home to the Uyghurs. The United Nations estimates that roughly a million Uyghurs have been detained in the region.
IBM – US
IBM made an early move in AI with Watson. Since then the company has invested heavily to bring AI to businesses. IBM has access to billions of medical images through its acquisition of Merge Healthcare. However, despite this impressive data set, Watson has struggled to live up to expectations. Since 2018 the company has been under scrutiny, particularly Watson for Oncology, for offering physician users inaccurate advice.
Intel – US
The semiconductor giant has been expanding its AI platform through the acquisitions of Movidius and Nervana, as well as CV chip maker Mobileye. Intel is rapidly moving into the GPU market and is expected to launch the Xe graphics card in 2020. With this new discrete graphics card, Intel plans to combine GPUs with its CPUs to focus on AI and ML applications.
Microsoft – US
Microsoft has become one of the leading providers of CV API platforms. In 2019 the tech giant invested in AnyVision, a CV start-up based in Israel providing face, body, and object-recognition software. In the same year, Microsoft pulled from the web its database of 10 million faces, which has been used to train facial recognition systems around the world. The move followed press reports, and allegedly violation of the EU’s GDPR.
Nvidia – US
Nvidia has dominated the GPU market for years. Its second generation Tensor Core GPUs are designed to accelerate both AI training and inference for computer vision. In 2019 it acquired Mellanox, an Israeli company that specialised in high-performance interconnect technology. However, the chip maker has seen its revenues fall due to the economic slowdown in China, along with the US Department of Commerce’s decision to blacklist leading Chinese CV companies expected to further impact Nvidia’s sales.
This is an edited extract from the Computer Vision – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.