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Sony’s sensors business turns to a software model

Sony’s image sensor business is looking to replicate the success of its PlayStation operation, and plans to sell software by subscription for data-analysing sensors. It's a significant move by the company.

“We have a solid position in the market for image sensors, which serve as a gateway for imaging data,” said Sony’s Hideki Somemiya, who heads a new team that is developing sensor applications.

According to Somemiya, analysis of such data with artificial intelligence (AI) could create a massive market opportunity for the company, pointing to the recurring nature of software-dependent data processing versus a hardware-only business.

Sony has developed an image sensor with an integrated AI processor that can be installed almost anywhere and its supporting software can be modified or replaced wirelessly.

Sony is hoping that customers will subscribe to its sensor software service through monthly fees or licensing, much like how gamers buy a PlayStation console and then pay for software or subscribe to online services.

The range of possible end markets is huge but adopting a software-centric approach will require a change of mindset on the part of the company, which has been under considerable pressure to sell off its sensors business.

While it’s an interesting move the potential of a sensor software subscription service is hard to quantify, according to analysts, and it could take many years for it to become a driver of growth.

Neil Tyler

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