Canon’s Strategic Evolution: Beyond Cameras, Embracing the Imaging Ecosystem

Canon’s Strategic Evolution: Beyond Cameras, Embracing the Imaging Ecosystem

The company is evolving beyond its traditional identity to become a “comprehensive imaging solutions provider” through a remarkable breakthrough in developing a terahertz semiconductor

 

Canon – ranked first among Japanese companies for 19 consecutive years in patents – has achieved a remarkable breakthrough in developing a terahertz semiconductor. While Canon’s legacy lies in its renowned camera manufacturing, it is becoming increasingly evident that the company is strategically evolving beyond its traditional identity. While “camera manufacturer” accurately represents a significant portion of Canon’s history and ongoing operations, a more apt description might be a “comprehensive imaging solutions provider.”

Terahertz (THz) waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation that have frequencies between radio waves and visible light. They have some useful properties; they can penetrate materials like clothing and plastic, but are also safe for people unlike x-rays. Researchers think terahertz waves could be used for wireless communication, imaging, and analysing materials in the future.

However, generating terahertz waves currently requires large, expensive equipment. Canon researchers developed a tiny semiconductor chip that can emit relatively high-power terahertz waves. This chip contains 36 tiny antennas synchronised to emit waves together in the same direction. This synchronisation boosts the power and directivity over 10 times compared to previous small semiconductor sources.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that cameras remain a core segment within Canon’s operations. They continue to innovate in this area, particularly with high-end professional models and the burgeoning mirrorless camera segment. Additionally, their core expertise lies in imaging technologies and optics, which remain central to their products and research efforts. The company’s interchangeable-lens digital cameras (digital SLR and mirrorless cameras) have maintained the No. 1 share of the global market for 20 consecutive years from 2003 to 2022.

Breakthrough to enable practical uses

Canon leveraged its expertise in semiconductor and antenna design from products like image sensors to create this chip. It represents a breakthrough that will enable more practical uses of terahertz waves in products for sensing, imaging and potentially 6G wireless communication. Canon plans to continue improving the technology to increase what’s possible with terahertz waves.

The exploration of terahertz waves is at the forefront of next-generation wireless communication technologies, potentially ushering in the era of 6G and beyond. Terahertz waves occupy the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light – specifically in the frequency range of 0.1 to 10 THz. This band offers unprecedented data transmission speeds, potentially reaching terabits per second, which could revolutionise various sectors including telecommunications, imaging, and sensor technologies.

Transformative Projects

The advent of terahertz communications promises several transformative impacts:

  • Ultra-Fast Data Transmission: Terahertz waves can significantly increase the bandwidth available for wireless communication, enabling data transmission at terabit per second speeds. This would vastly improve internet speeds, reduce latency, and facilitate the real-time exchange of large volumes of data.
  • Enhanced Mobile Connectivity: As we move towards more connected devices and the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), terahertz technology could provide the necessary infrastructure to support massive device connectivity with minimal latency.
  • Revolution in Imaging and Sensing: Terahertz waves can penetrate materials like clothing and packaging, offering advanced capabilities in security scanning, medical imaging, and non-destructive testing of materials.
  • Innovation in Healthcare: In medical diagnostics, terahertz technology has the potential to offer non-invasive imaging techniques, improving the detection and analysis of conditions that are currently challenging to diagnose.
  • Scientific Research and Space Exploration: Terahertz spectroscopy can aid in the study of cosmic phenomena, the composition of materials, and the analysis of biological molecules, contributing to advancements in various scientific fields.

While the potential of terahertz technology is vast, challenges remain. These include the development of efficient terahertz emitters and receivers, overcoming signal attenuation in the atmosphere, and establishing global standards for terahertz communication. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts from researchers, industry stakeholders, and regulatory bodies. As these technological hurdles are overcome, terahertz waves are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of wireless communication and beyond.

 

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