Professor Emeritus Knut Conradsen and colleagues who received a great deal of publicity when they published a new method of image analysis that creates accurate computer renderings of glass objects. Photo: Joachim Rode

A picture says more than a thousand words

Mathematical analysis Image analysis

Imaging is all about creating images. Already widely used in, e.g., medical diagnostics and drug development, imaging is destined to become a core technology in Industry 4.0, says Professor Emeritus Knut Conradsen.

He and his colleagues have attracted international attention in the field of image analysis. Here he answers questions about imaging.

What is imaging?

Imaging is the science of creating images. Ever since early humans made cave paintings, man has attempted to reproduce the world using images.

Today we have many advanced ways to create images—e.g. using cameras, X-ray equipment, and a range of scanning technologies. We use images to understand our surroundings and the world in which we live.

The old phrase ‘a picture says more than a thousand words’ says something fundamental about humans—namely that sight is a crucial sense for us. For humans, sight is generally more relevant than smell, for example, as it allows us to see close up and far away—and we can use the same kind of mathematics to describe phenomena we see on the nano- and micrometre, metre and kilometre, and light year scale.

What is driving developments?

In particular, the sensors in all the imaging devices which are becoming ever faster and more sensitive, enabling us to collect more and better data—e.g. in connection with medical scanning.

 We can now make images of things that were previously impossible. At the same time, the large X-ray and neutron facilities such as MAX IV and ESS in Lund, Sweden, will give us entirely new opportunities to create images of processes and dynamics.

But development is also about inventing new methods—for example, hyperpolarization, [link til artiklen s.16] which enhances images from MRI scans, so you can see much more than on classic MRI images.

 In addition to advancements in sensor technology, it is also about being able to process the huge amounts of data we get from the imaging devices. Deep mathematical insight is required in order to develop algorithms and artificial intelligence so that we can automate part of the data analysis process—otherwise we simply drown in data.

How can we leverage imaging?

Imaging will become an even more crucial tool in the field of medical diagnostics. The technology will also help to create an understanding of many of the processes that take place within the human organism and provide us with a new starting point for developing new drugs.

 Imaging will become a core technology In Industry 4.0. It can be used in the design of new products and in the quality control of existing ones, as it allows us to ‘look inside’ the materials. In general, imaging can increase our understanding of the properties of materials and play an important role in the development of new ones.

Self-driving vehicles are also dependent on imaging in the form of image recognition—among other things so that they can identify whether an object in the distance is a deer or another car.

In the agricultural sector, imaging can be used for ‘precision farming’—e.g. to identify sick plants or weeds and simply treat the individual plant, thus reducing the use of pesticides.

Something similar could be envisioned for fish farms where underwater cameras could be used to monitor fish and identify disease based on altered movement patterns or patches on the fish.

Is it technologically feasible?

All of the above examples are technologically feasible—and several have already been implemented.

However, continued development in Denmark requires further investment—not only in technology development—but also in research and education.

We must maintain a high level of quality in the training of future candidates. We cannot introduce discount courses with limited opportunities for specialization, for example. This is not the way forward for Denmark if we want to be part of the technological development. Clearly, we are not the only ones to recognize the potential of imaging.