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Businesses drive digital cameras

Global shipments of digital cameras are skyrocketing amid a growing number of imaging software applications for businesses.

Global shipments of digital cameras are skyrocketing amid a growing number of imaging software applications for businesses, a new survey has found.

Underlining the point, imaging software start-up Interactive Pictures today announced that three national real-estate agencies will begin using its IPIX technology to create "virtual tours" of homes via the Web.

Consumers are more likely than corporate customers to be put off by the high price tags and grainy picture resolution of digital cameras, analysts say. But with the advent of the high-quality "megapixel" digital cameras and the increased number of imaging software products for business, "prosumers" are likely to join small businesses in the front ranks of the market's rapid expansion.

A prosumer is an industry term for the technically proficient consumer.

Worldwide sales of digital cameras were up 213 percent last year, surpassing 2 million cameras shipped, according to a recent survey conducted by the Japanese publication Nikkei BizTech. This year, 3.2 million digital cameras are expected to ship.

Hoping to use digital imagery to expand the utility of their Web sites, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, and ERA will use Interactive's IPIX technology, which creates panoramic images by seamlessly joining together several different photographs from different angles. Previously, real estate and similar products could only be previewed through brochures and slide shows.

Imaging software like IPIX is also likely to be used by law enforcement agencies and insurance firms, according to Forrester Research analyst Bruce Kasrel. "If businesses have a reason for a visual representation of data then digital imaging makes a lot of sense," he said.

"Our strategy is to serve the business or 'prosumer' market first, to create market awareness," said Ed Lewis, director of marketing for Interactive Pictures. "As the technology advances, the consumer market will be ready. [But] That takes time and a lot of other advancements in the industry."