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Walking down the Quai Gailleton along the Rhone River in Lyon—as everywhere in France's third-largest city—you see buildings that are hundreds and hundreds of years old. (The town was founded as a Roman colony in 43 BCE by one of Caesar's lieutenants.) Then you look up and see, atop one of those architecturally marvelous structures, giant red letters that spell out Mitsubishi or Hitachi. Just as the waters of the Rhone and the Saone mingle here, so does old meet new.
Lyon was a wonderful site for the 2007 European Machine Vision Association Business Conference in June. More than 150 participants from 19 countries, including first-timers Israel, China and Turkey, learned about vision markets in France, Japan, China and the rest of Europe during 10 sessions. There were some fascinating presentations, ranging from how to incorporate cultural understanding when doing business in other countries to pricing to the distributor's point of view to tapping non-manufacturing applications.
According to an EMVA market survey, the American market is expected to grow by 17 percent this year, Europe by 3 percent and the rest of the world and Asia by 14 percent. The global machine vision market was $8.1 billion in 2006, estimated at $9 billion this year and more than $15 billion by 2012, thanks to rapid growth in the non-industrial market.
China, for one, is ready to explode. Professor Tieniu Tan, Acting President of the China Society of Image and Graphics (CSIG), told the assembly that the current machine vision market in China is $150 million, but is expected to exceed $500 million by 2012. The fastest-growing sectors are quality inspections, security surveillance, biometrics—"There are 1.3 billion people in China, so identification is a big issue," he says.
A number of major companies already are in China, where information technology is set to drive industrialization.