Previously, I had covered some applications where commodity-priced camera modules have been used for machine vision. These applications, which were mostly based around the cameras that your typical smartphone or tablet are equipped with, were more than just reading and interpreting a barcode of some sort in order to look up data. Rather they were about interpreting a control stick typically soaked in liquid that is used as part of urinalysis or to observe the character of blood vessels on one’s face to read one’s pulse.
But NEC is implementing machine vision using one’s smartphone to determine whether an object like a luxury handbag or a pair of name-brand sneakers is a “knock-off” or not. Here, they use the camera with a macro-lens attachment to identify the “fingerprint” that the metal or plastic material’s grain yields through its manufacture. This typically applies to items made of these materials or where an item is equipped with one or more fasteners, trim items or other fittings made of these materials.
NEC wants to see this technology not just apply to verifying the authenticity of new goods but also be used to allow the manufacturers to check that repair and maintenance of goods is “up to snuff” or follow the distribution and retail chain of these goods.
The manufacturers have to “register” these items in order to create the “reference database” that relates to their goods. As well, users would have to use a macro-equipped device such as a smartphone equipped with a macro-converter attachment or a “clip-on” camera with this kind of lens. They will offer the lenses as a 3D-printed attachment to suit most of the popular handsets and tablets. It could also open up a market for small-form Webcams and similar cameras that come with macro lenses or multi-function lenses.
A missing part of the question would be whether the technology would apply to goods made out of soft materials like cloth or leather. This would take it further with identifying clothes, footwear and “soft-material” luggage or checking whether the material used to upholster furniture reflects what the manufacturer or customer wants for the job.