Visual search will become the next phase of search engines for electronic component manufacturers and distributors on websites and in mobile apps.
Few visual search engines today, if any, can identify the details in electronic components, though several engine options, such as EyesFinder, Blippar, Snap36, and VizSeek, have emerged. Some will no doubt give it a try. Retailers also have begun integrating visual search into their apps. The more sophisticated ones base the technology on artificial neural networks.
Neiman Marcus offers a search engine in its mobile app that lets consumers snap a photo of a piece of clothing, either a piece of clothing someone's wearing or a photo in a magazine, and search for the product to see if it's available. The search engine also will return similar products if it doesn't find the exact item. Could the ability to visually search out electronic components be far behind?
The Future Is Visual
At least for now, electronic components distributors and manufacturers are among those that have not been quick to offer visual search on their websites or in app, but that will change.
John LeDuc, manager of technical content at DigiKey Electronics, believes image Search will become valuable once the technology advances making it easier to upload pictures into the search engine. "It will be especially true for mechanical-type devices," he told EBN in an interview
DigiKey, an authorized distributor of electronic components for more than 650 industry-leading suppliers, has an enormous breadth of product, more than one million, accessible from the company's website. The company processes more than two million Internet orders out of the 3.2 million orders processed annually.
Others industry executives agree. Former DigiKey CMO Tony Harris, who now serves on the board of several companies and runs a digital marketing and management consulting firm, said every search engine must have several platforms that allows visitors to search products on the website. "The next generation of search, Web 3D, speaks to two universal languages, signs and images," he said. "It's something that will impact the electronic components industry."
Visual In 3D Printing
The creators of VizSeek, a subscription-based visual search engine developed by Imaginestics and Purdue University, have come as close to what the electronics components industry needs. Karthik Ramani, a professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, helped to create the 3D modeling engine.
VizSeek CEO and co-founder Jamie Tan thinks the engine can solve what some in the electronics manufacturing supply chain consider an overwhelming problem. Finding the one part in the millions that will fit the bill of materials when so many look the same.
Indiana-based startup Imaginestics will begin by making VizSeek available to search products like electrical supplies, tools, hardware accessories, fans and HVAC systems, and lighting and plumbing fixtures, with plans to add components in the future. The lack in their immediate plan opens the door for distributors and manufacturers to build their own visual search engine into their website and mobile apps.
VizSeek allows users to search for parts with an image rather than keyword or part number, but it also lets users search for 3D models, and eventually will allow users to print those models on a 3D printer. Manufacturers will have the option to search and print a part in 3D to repair a robotic arm in a manufacturing facility, for example. The mobile apps will become available through Apple Store and Google Play in the coming months.