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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Is it a business?

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PERSPECTIVE

Is it a business?

by Len Yencharis

September 2003

During these lean economic times when many professionals are looking over their shoulders for projects being cut, job functions being combined into one title and the overseas escalation of terrorism, many of us are wondering what the next growth period will be like. The economic pundits are even more confused than we are since they can no longer figure our economic cycles or if they will ever return to normal.

There are, of course, profitable companies, and the popular convention is that they are being fed by Fed dollars to support military actions overseas. There are exceptions, and they tend to be more service-oriented rather than just hardware- or software-oriented. A good example is National Instruments.

One spike of interest is biometrics. It is reaching fever pitch attention with the October 26, 2004, deadline, in which the U.S. State Department and Immigration Bureau must begin issuing visas with electronic imaging technologies to identify visitors. The technologies range from fingerprinting to photo detection. The change has been mandated by border security legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in May.

But where else are there growing areas? Confusion seems to reign in terms of product development. Support open source software? Large organizations don't like the lack of technical support, but end-users are migrating toward that path to market. Vendors build open source products to increase market share and remain competitive, but how long can they beat the bushes with pricing elasticities before it almost becomes free, like disk storage?

Overseas labor costs in China and Vietnam are as low as 37 cents/hour for assembly labor. Does this bode well for machine vision in the U.S., where long-established businesses such as furniture-makers can shut down domestic factories because it is cheaper to ship raw goods overseas than to manufacture product here? The underlying opportunity would be in the inspection of that lumber before it is shipped.

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