Broadcom patent shows method for using cloud-computing to improve smartphone image quality

by Gannon Burgett

posted Friday, February 20, 2015 at 1:52 PM EDT


A recently published patent from Broadcom lays out the framework for a cloud-based infrastructure designed to communicate and share information with your smartphone to improve its imaging capabilities.

Surface level, the groundwork laid out in the patent is straightforward – a smartphone communicates with online databases to bring in image-relevant information that can be used to better adjust settings and post-process a photograph. Where things get really interesting is when you dive into the methodology behind where the information is derived from.

The first example laid out in the patent relies on aforementioned databases, such as those provided by weather organizations, to determine the best settings and processing methods for your images.

Say for example, you’re shooting outside at 5pm on a sunny day; your smartphone would be able to share its GPS location with the online weather database, and in return, the weather database would be able to send back all relevant weather information to your smartphone. Your smartphone would then use that information to properly adjust settings, from aperture and shutter speed, to determining if you’ll need fill flash, based on where the sun is at the moment. In the case of an image that’s already been captured, the information can be used to change variables such as white-balance.

The second example given in the patent proves even more interesting than the first. Rather than using online databases as the means of information, Broadcom states the supplementary data could be derived from other images taken in a similar location and environment.

No clear examples were given but taken to its logical conclusion, this could feed the camera information based on other photographs taken in the same location and lighting situations. We’re not sure whether this means pulling the information from existing platforms such as Flickr or a proprietary one from the company utilizing the technology, but it’s an interesting concept that lends credit to the growing trend of relying on metadata to improve how images are taken.

If this technology seems unnecessary, it might be now. But as cloud computing becomes more powerful and faster data speeds become more ubiquitous, this macro-level computing power could dramatically impact how capable our pocket-sized cameras are.

Considering it’s a patent, there’s no telling when – or if – this will ever come to a smartphone or connected camera, but seeing it in writing gives us hope it's not too far off. 

(via Image Sensors World)