For years, the evolution of image sensors has been about packing in more pixels and slimming down their size to fit into smaller devices. Now, they're about to get smart. Today, Sony is unveiling the IMX500 and IMX501, two 12.3-megapixel sensors with onboard AI processing chips. They'll be able to handle "light" machine learning tasks — like recognizing if a stray dog or cat enters your backyard — on their own, without sending any video to the cloud or another system. Instead, they can deliver anonymous metadata pings to alert you about what they've seen.
This may not sound very exciting as first, but as Mark Hanson, Sony's VP of Technology and Business Innovation told me, it could make cameras significantly more useful. For one, it's a way to ensure better privacy, since the sensors can handle AI tasks entirely on-device. That's something that could be particularly useful in Europe, where the new GDPR guidelines severely limit how organizations can use surveillance video. The closer data can stay to their source device, the better.