Eyes of the 4th Industrial Revolution, Image Sensor Patent Applications are Active
As commonly seen in science fiction movies, robots with artificial intelligence (AI) which judge and act by themselves and autonomous vehicles which run on roads without the help of drivers are coming into reality.
AI robots and autonomous vehicles must be able to recognize surrounding situations in order to judge by themselves and move, and image sensors are needed in lieu of human eyes for such purposes. An image sensor, which is a device that converts light in a camera lens into a digital signal for display as an image, is a key component used in various fields for applications such as vehicle black boxes, biometrics, and augmented reality, as well as smartphone cameras.
According to a recent analysis of CMOS image sensor patent applications by the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the number of cases, which was 190 in 2015, steadily increased to 263 in 2019. By applicant, domestic applicants, at 52.4%, are ahead of foreign applicants.
<Yearly Application Trend (Year 2015 ~ 2019)>
By company, the four major global companies, Samsung Electronics (27.5%), Sony (Japan) (16.3%) and SK Hynix (11.5%), followed by TSMC (Taiwan) (7.2%), accounted for 62.5% of total patent applications.
<The Present Status of Top 4 Applicants (Year 2015~ 2019)>
Looking at application trend by detailed technology, as image sensors are applied broadly to the automobile sector, technology for low lighting conditions accounts for 25%, and technology that increases sharpness makes up 18%. Also, as drones and personal broadcasts are increasing, hi-resolution technology applications account for 14%.
<Application Trend by Detailed Technology (Year 2015 ~ 2019)>
Together with the emergence of mobile phones, CMOS image sensors are continuously developing. Since mobile phones with cameras were first released in 1999, CMOS image sensors have developed due to the needs of consumers who want to take ever sharper and more colorful photos.
Recently, CMOS image sensors are also being applied in various fields such as autonomous driving, drones, and AI robots, and accordingly, related patent applications are continuously increasing.
The head of the Semiconductor Evaluation Department of KIPO said, “Explosive demand for image sensors is expected as they are essential components for AI, autonomous vehicles, drones, etc. for the 4th Industrial Revolution”, and, “In order to become technologically self-reliant for core parts, it is necessary to secure strong intellectual rights to protect them along with continuous research and development.”