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NEC Develops Light Analysis Technology that Enables Identification of Plants and Animals from the Sky- Light analysis technology to aid in rescue operations and resource mapping -

*** For immediate use November 9, 2012

Tokyo, November 9, 2012 - NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) developed a highly accurate light analysis technology that can assist with advanced levels of search and observation, such as locating people or ships adrift at sea, or identifying species of plants within densely wooded areas.

In recent years, the development of technologies that can closely analyze information gathered from the surface of vast land areas or water bodies is steadily advancing. Specifically, technologies that can identify the properties and conditions of objects by analyzing how their light composition (spectrum), including wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye, is reflected by objects. Accordingly, there are high expectations for how these technologies can assist with the rescue of lost ships and individuals, environmental surveys and global observations that help to preserve biodiversity.

Currently, although spectrum cameras (*1) can make reliable observations from airplanes during clear conditions, they cannot reliably produce accurate information during cloudy weather. Moreover, they are limited to detecting subjects that are near a reference object, such as a completely white sheet, that has been positioned beforehand and whose light composition is already known.

NEC's new technologies can accurately and reliably estimate information (surface reflectance) on a subject's properties based on observations of its spectrum under both clear and cloudy skies.

"These technologies will enable cameras mounted on airplanes to accurately identify different species of plants and to locate ships in distress, even under cloudy conditions, which is difficult for conventional technologies to perform," said Yasunori Mochizuki, vice president, Information and Media Processing Laboratories, NEC. "Furthermore, since a subject's surface reflectance can be estimated just by observing its spectrum, there is no need for using a reference object. As a result, new surveys of natural resources can be carried out through observations of heavily forested areas without the installation and interference of a reference object."

Key features of these technologies include:

  1. Observations under clear or cloudy weather conditions
    This is the world's first method for estimating daylight composition (daylight model) with any wavelength intensity between 300nm and 4,000 nm under both clear and cloudy skies. These technologies produce highly accurate observations of subjects regardless of changes between sunny and cloudy weather, while reducing estimation error by 70% when compared to existing methods.

  2. Surface observation of any land or sea area
    NEC's newly developed daylight model, used in combination with Color Constancy Theory (*2), enables the surface reflectance of a subject to be estimated just by observing its spectrum. As a result, there is no need to use reference objects, and subjects, such as people or vegetation, can be observed throughout any kind of surface terrain.

NEC aims to commercialize these technologies within the next two years while continuing their development as part of contributing to public safety and supporting the expansion of business throughout the agricultural, environmental and resource management fields.

NEC showcases the daylight model segment of these technologies on November 13 at the 21st International Conference on Pattern Recognition (ICPR2012) from November 11 - 15, 2012 at the Tsukuba International Congress Center, Tsukuba Science City, Japan.



*1) A spectrum camera is a camera that records the intensity of each light's wavelength distribution as an image.

*2) Color Constancy Theory is a calculation theory where the light composition of a light source and the surface reflectance of a subject are modeled based on various parameters. These parameters are estimations based on observations of color information and spectrum, which are used to reconstruct the light composition of a light source and the surface reflectivity of a subject.

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