Human is the most intelligent species among all the living creatures. Human has evolved over time, starting from discovering fire during early age, till now it is continuously evolving. Creations and Inventions made by the human race have eased our lives. One such creation is Artificial Intelligence. The term Artificial Intelligence means intelligence which is not natural. It is the result of a complex machine learning algorithm that enables the computer to learn from its experiences and evolve over time.
The use of AI in Image Processing has been increasing with time. Earlier, in Image processing or editing, the photographer or the photo editing professionals use to correct various parameters of an image in order to make it visually impressive. This requires a lot of technical knowledge and skills along with expert judgement in analyzing that the image is good enough. With the advent of AI in image processing, very less or we can say almost no technical knowledge and skills are needed. Fantastic looking processed images can be made just with a click. The AI algorithm is structured in such a way that it can automatically detect and edit an image.
Fig. 1 Priority patent application filing trend
While AI came into trend much early, it was only after 2014 that prominent innovation in Image Processing using AI actually started. After 2014, the priority patent application filing has been increasing ever since and reached the highest mark of 5,837 total applications. Also, the priority filing count for the year 2019 can be expected to overshoot the priority filing count of 2018, as some of the patent applications filed in 2019 are yet to be published. It is worth to mention here that in the last five years the priority application filings have increased with a CAGR 84.84%.
Fig. 2 Top Innovating Jurisdictions
What accounts for this sudden increase in the number of patent applications?
In China, over 13,000 priority patent applications were filed in the domain whereas, in the United States, the number of priority patent applications filed were less than one-fourth of the applications filed in China. This shows that the US is way behind China in the innovation in the domain. China can be regarded as the world leader in the domain of AI Image Processing. On digging a little deeper, it is observed that of the huge number of patent applications filed in the domain in China, a majority of them are filed by educational institutions of China. The top assignees of the domain are Chinese universities which indicates that a significant amount of research in the domain is going on in Chinese universities. Surprisingly, the top assignee in the domain of AI Image Processing is not a corporate entity but a Chinese University named Xidian University with a portfolio of 327 patent families.
Fig. 4 Top Universities holding patents related to AI Image Processing
Fig. 5 Top Companies holding patents related to AI Image Processing
Who is leading the Image Processing AI patent race?
The top company assignee is Samsung Electronics with a portfolio of 211 patent families which is very less as compared to that of Xidian University. The top spot of China as an innovation hub and as a market may be attributed to the Chinese universities and companies that are innovating in the domain. However, one thing must be noted here that most of the Chinese companies innovating in the domain are restricted to the Chinese geography only. The Chinese companies such as Tencent Technology (Shenzhen), Beijing Sensetime Technology Development and Pingan Technology are late entrants in the domain, but they have developed a significantly strong patent portfolio in the domain. Thus suggesting that new entrants are focusing on IP creation.
The present time may be called as a golden period for AI Image Processing as a lot of research and innovation is presently going on in the field. The field of AI Image Processing is currently growing as more and more innovation is happening, the company which will focus on making their patent portfolio stronger now would most likely be in a better position in the later time.
China is the single biggest market for the domain. China is followed by the US which is closely followed by Japan, Europe, Korea and Germany. The reason for China being the biggest market is the Chinese companies and universities. Chinese companies such as Tencent Technology (Shenzhen), Pingan Technology, Beijing Sensetime Technology Development, and Beijing Kuangshi Technology Development are the top patent filers. Google is the top filer in the US followed by IBM, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics. Also, the Chinese companies which are innovating in China are showing very little interest in other market jurisdictions.
In the upcoming time, the investor’s focus is likely to shift towards China as it is the biggest innovation hub and also possess the biggest market potential with a population of more than a billion people.
With the increasing trend of AI Image editing applications in the market and more and more social media apps offering the AI image filters, the consumption of AI Image processing products is constantly increasing among consumers.
So, we can say that China is the biggest innovation hub and also the biggest market for the domain of AI Image Processing. China is followed by the US and Japan as the second and third biggest innovation hub and also market jurisdictions, respectively. The domain is witnessing increasing R&D indicating that the research products will be commercialized in the coming time. Further, companies are focusing on creating a strong IP portfolio which will restrict others from using the protected technology while at the same time providing the patent holders to leverage their portfolio by out-licensing their patent rights. This era is the AI era, the AI technology will not restrict itself, at least for two to three decades from now, but will only expand its ambit.