Sony has developed new technology for using the small cameras in phones and tablets to check the health of users' skin.
The company said Monday its new "Smart Skin Evaluation Program," or SSKEP, can analyze different wavelengths of light reflected from a subject's skin to determine texture, pigmentation and melanin levels. Blemishes below the surface of the skin can also be detected.
Sony said SSKEP uses its CMOS image sensor technology, where it is an industry leader, together with newly developed software that inspects digital image data one pixel at a time for possible irregularities. The company said that non-visible light, including that near the infrared spectrum, can be used to peek beneath the skin's surface.
Sony said it "anticipates a diverse range of applications" for the technology, but offered no specifics. In Japan, skin health care products, as well as analysis and treatment at clinics, is a booming industry, especially for women patients.
The company said it wants to expand the use of its CMOS sensors, which teardowns have shown are used in advanced phones such as Apple's iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. It aims to expand them to serve as "sensors" rather than simple cameras, capable of detecting and analyzing movements, shapes and colors in different contexts.
While struggling Sony is moving to outsource many of the components used in its electronic products as part of its restructuring plan, the company is actively promoting its image sensors, especially those used in portable gadgets. In June, Sony said it will invest US$1 billion to increase production of such sensors by September 2013.
In August, Sony began sales of its new "stacked" image sensors. The chips use a technology that "stacks" their processing circuitry under the pixels used to capture images, as opposed to laying it alongside as in current versions, leading to a smaller footprint that is more power efficient with faster processing.