The Future of Infrared Cameras

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Lyon, France — Initially developed for the military market by US defense companies, use of uncooled infrared (IR) cameras in commercial applications has been growing over the last ten years. In the infrared spectrum, Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) is the most commonly used wavelength (8-12 microns). Thermography and a variety of vision enhancement applications are the main growth markets for uncooled IR cameras.

This camera cost reduction will continue through 2015 in the thermography business and will also be a strong factor in the vision market (also called night vision or vision enhancement) with the growth of the security/surveillance and automotive markets.

Driven by the continued cost reductions, the volumes of cameras sold will triple by 2015 from more than 200,000 cameras today to more than 700,000 units, meaning +23 % annual growth rate. The revenue growth will be about + 9% as market prices for the cameras decrease.
FLIR (US) has been, and remains, the pioneer of uncooled IR cameras with a vertically integrated business model (internal detector production) and a presence in all markets. This domination will be challenged at two levels in the future:

At the camera level: camera manufacturers specialized in each market have strong distribution networks and market presence. In the thermography business, Fluke will take market share from FLIR. In the security/surveillance market, visible camera leaders will enter the IR camera business (Axis, Bosch, Pelco).
At the detector level: new detector suppliers will arrive on the market from the MEMS and semiconductor industry with low cost/high volume product capabilities (Sensonor, Bosch, Faun Infrared…).
One of the major cost components for uncooled IR cameras is the IR detector. Hence, detector cost reduction is one of the major keys to further widespread use of IR cameras.

Microbolometers are the dominant uncooled IR detector technology with more than 95 % of the market in 2010.

Microbolometer manufacturers were few up to now, often owned by camera manufacturers, which limited the cost competition at the detector level. More than 75 % of the production is based in USA, due the original development of the technology by US Defense Department.

This landscape will change in the next five years: many new players (Sensonor, Faun Infrared, Bosch…), focusing only on selling detectors, often in Europe, will enter on the market place with aggressive price strategies.

Vanadium Oxide (VO x), the current dominant microbolometer material, will be challenged by a-Si material and new silicon based materials introduced by new market entrants, thanks to their cost structure, and easier to manufacture.

Detector/Microbolometer product lines are mainly segmented by format from small format (typically 160 x 120) to large format (640 x 480). Price reduction will be huge with –58 % expected between 2010 and 2015 for small format. Larger format will be under less price pressure.

The following technical trends make detector cost reduction possible:

At the packaging level: Wafer Level Packaging and even Pixel Level Packaging will play a huge part in reducing cost, -20 % at least.
At the pixel level: smaller pixel size (17 microns is becoming a standard) will allow smaller detectors.
At the integration level: 3D integration, wafer bonding techniques will allow the production of microbolometers in standard MEMS or CMOS foundries.

COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THE REPORT:

Axis Communications, Acreo, Aerius, Agiltron, Argus, e2v, Audi, Autoliv, BAE systems, BMW, Bosch, Automotive, Bosch Security Systems, Bullard, Dali, Chauvin Arnoux, Current Corporation, Dalsa, DAS Photonics, Draeger, DRS technologies, Electro Optic Sensors, EO C, ETH , Extech, GE Security, FocalPlane Santa Barbara, Fraunhofer IMS, Faun Infrared, FLIR, Fluke, GM, Goodrich, Guide Infrared, Honda, Honeywell, Infrared Solutions, INO , Ipht Jena, Invisage, Irisys, ISG , Jenoptik, KTH , L3Com, Leti, MetuMET , Mikrosistemler, Mitsubishi Electric, MSA , Murata, NE C Avio, NTT , Noble Peak Vision, OKS I, Omnivision, Panasonic, Pelco, QinetiQ, Raytheon, Redshift, Sarnoff, Satir, Samsung, Scott, SCD Semiconductors, SensArray Infrared, Sensonor, Silex, Sirica, Sony, Sumitomo Electric, Testo, Thermoteknix Systems, Toshiba, Tyco, Tyndall, Umicore, Ulis, Vigo, Xenics, Ziptronix.

HOME STAR Profiled in Home Energy Magazine

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The proposed HOME STAR energy retrofit program is the focus of an article published in the May/June issue of Home Energy Magazine, coauthored by Efficiency First’s national director, Jared Asch, and the association’s policy chair, Matt Golden. The article begins:

For years, those of us who work in the energy remodeling field have been promoting the personal and environmental benefits of home performance retrofits. Now industry leaders and policymakers are focusing on yet another compelling reason for Americans to invest in energy efficiency improvements—they create jobs. With one in four construction workers currently facing long-term unemployment, our nation desperately needs to cultivate sustainable employment opportunities that will breathe life into the troubled construction sector and help our economy get back on track. Large-scale retrofitting of American homes can be a big part of the solution.

Asch and Golden go on to provide a basic overview of the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act now pending in Congress. If you’re not already familiar with this important legislation, the Home Energy article is a good place to begin. Read the full text online at www.homeenergy.org/article_full.php?id=710.

Infrfared to be Incorporated in the Gaming Industry - Specifically, Microsoft's XBOX 360

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Project Natal takes on Wii
Republished from The Los Angeles Times

REDMOND, Wash. — On a blustery January morning, Michel Laprise found himself in a private conference room within Microsoft Corp.’s labyrinthine campus here, surrounded by 15 of the company’s sharpest analytical thinkers.

Laprise started his presentation by dumping a pail full of sand on top of the conference table, alarming executives who worried about the wiring embedded in the table for PowerPoint presentations and technology demos. Armed with three rocks, a small wooden elephant and a flashlight, he spent an hour weaving a tale of a boy on a quest to locate meteors that have fallen from the sky and to uncover their meaning.
At the end of his talk, the artistic director for Cirque du Soleil got a standing ovation.
 
“It was amazing,” said an awestruck Don Mattrick, the 46-year-old executive who heads up the juggernaut’s multibillion-dollar video game business. Mattrick had invited Laprise to help Microsoft figure out an unconventional way to launch a new technology that would let people play games without the use of joysticks or controllers. “He used the power of words to share what he saw in his imagination. He was a great raconteur.”

Code-named Project Natal, the technology consists of three small motorized sensors — a camera, infrared depth sensor and a multi-array microphone. Attached to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, the device interprets gestures, such as when players swing their arms to hit a golf ball, lean to steer their way through an obstacle course or swivel their hips through a dance routine. It also can recognize faces and associate them with their profiles.

For the last 35 years, Microsoft has strived to push technology into every corner of the world. Its Windows operating system powers 90 percent of all computers, and its software can be found on devices that sit in people’s pockets, purses, cars and living rooms. Yet in an ironic twist, the company’s next big feat required Microsoft to make its high-tech wizardry invisible.

So it hired one of the best illusionists out there — Cirque du Soleil, the French Canadian entertainment company known for its visually arresting extravaganzas and ethereal, new age music. In addition to the 21 permanent and traveling shows, Cirque has a special events business that does a handful of private and corporate events each year (clients have included the royal family of Dubai and the 2007 Super Bowl).

For Microsoft, Natal is critical to the future of its ambition to be at the center of entertainment in the living room. And like a besotted suitor who spared no expense, Microsoft gave Cirque free rein over both the creative aspects of the performance and its budget.

“This is a massive investment for Microsoft,” said Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s executive producer for the company’s E3 events. “For us, it wasn’t about the money. It was about creating an experience that would be remembered forever.”

In this incarnation, Natal is applied to video games. Designed to perch on top of a living room TV and attach to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, the device can recognize faces, obey simple voice commands and track body movements and gestures.

It has been compared with Nintendo Co.’s Wii, which rocked the video game world in 2006 with its motion-sensing Wii remote. Natal is Microsoft’s attempt to one-up Nintendo, which has sold an estimated 74 million Wii consoles, compared with 43 million Xbox 360s. While the Wii has gained traction with a broad demographic ranging from toddlers to seniors, the Xbox 360 is perceived as a “hard-core” game machine for adrenaline junkies looking for elaborate ways to blow things up.

“Microsoft is deadly serious about expanding their reach with Natal,” said Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles. “But people buy consoles based on the software, and right now, we just don’t know what games are actually going to be on there. Once we get a chance to see those games, then we can better evaluate things.”

Another challenge: Getting the attention of consumers who don’t normally play video games, much less the shoot-em-up’s that the Xbox 360 is known for.

EasyJet Using Infrared Technology to Avoid Ash Clouds Surrounding Iceland

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EasyJet will use infrared technology to help its aircraft avoid the remains of the ash cloud caused by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
The Luton-based airline is trialling a new technology called AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector); a system that involves placing infrared technology on an aircraft to supply images to both the pilots and an airline’s flight control centre. The system produces images that will enable pilots to see ash clouds up to 100km ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes of between 5,000ft and 50,000ft.
At ground control level, staff will be able to use information from the AVOID system to build an accurate image of the volcanic ash cloud in real time, and subsequently open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption.
Dr Fred Prata, senior scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), invented the AVOID system. He said: “AVOID enhances the theory around volcanic ash clouds with live data. EasyJet is committed to bring our technology to life.”
The first test flight is to be carried out by Airbus on behalf of EasyJet within two months. If it proves successful, EasyJet will trial the technology on its own planes with a view to installing it on enough aircraft to minimise future disruption from ash.

House Passes Energy Efficient Homes Tax Credit Extension

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On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4213 that included the extension of the $2,000 federal tax credit for energy efficient new homes.  Below is the language that was passed:
 
SEC. 206. NEW ENERGY EFFICIENT HOME CREDIT.
 
12 (a) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (g) of section 45L is
13 amended by striking ‘‘December 31, 2009’’ and inserting
14 ‘‘December 31, 2010’’.
15 (b) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendment made by this
16 section shall apply to homes acquired after December 31,
17 2009.
 
The extension of the energy efficient homes credit was part of an omnibus tax extension bill.  Since the House version differs in total content it must go through a reconciliation process with the Senate.  Since the House and Senate language for the energy efficient homes credit extension it will not be affected by the reconciliate process.  Once the House and Senate passes the bill, President Obama must sign it.
 
RESNET efforts now need to be directed in extending the credit to homes that meet 50 on the HERS Index and extending the credit to 2014.

NASA's Airborne Infrared Observatory Sees 'First Light'

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(re-published from sciencedaily.com)

"With this flight, SOFIA begins a 20-year journey that will enable a wide variety of astronomical science observations not possible from other Earth and space-borne observatories," said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It clearly sets expectations that SOFIA will provide us with "Great Observatory"-class astronomical science."
The highly modified SOFIA Boeing 747SP jetliner fitted with a 100-inch diameter reflecting telescope took off from its home base at the Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. The in-flight personnel consisted of an international crew from NASA, the Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Md., Cornell University and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) in Stuttgart. During the six-hour flight, at altitudes up to 35,000 feet, the crew of 10 scientists, astronomers, engineers and technicians gathered telescope performance data at consoles in the aircraft's main cabin.
"Wind tunnel tests and supercomputer calculations made at the start of the SOFIA program predicted we would have sharp enough images for front-line astronomical research," said SOFIA project scientist Pam Marcum of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "A preliminary look at the first light data indicates we indeed accomplished that."
The stability and precise pointing of the German-built telescope met or exceeded the expectations of the engineers and astronomers who put it through its paces during the flight.
"The crowning accomplishment of the night came when scientists on board SOFIA recorded images of Jupiter," said USRA SOFIA senior science advisor Eric Becklin. "The composite image from SOFIA shows heat, trapped since the formation of the planet, pouring out of Jupiter's interior through holes in its clouds."
The highly sensitive Faint Object infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) used for these initial observations was operated in flight by its builders, a team led by Cornell's Terry Herter. FORCAST captures in minutes images that would require many hour-long exposures by ground-based observatories blocked from a clear infrared view by water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere. SOFIA's operational altitude, which is above more than 99 percent of that water vapor, allows it to receive 80 percent or more of the infrared light accessible to space observatories.
The SOFIA program is managed at Dryden. Ames manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with USRA and DSI.


For more information about SOFIA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/sofia
For information about SOFIA's science mission, visit: http://www.sofia.usra.edu
To see video of SOFIA in flight, click here