First launched in May 2000, eCognition  introduced the computer method for extracting information from images using a hierarchy of image objects (groups of pixels) as opposed to traditional pixel processing methods. The technology, referred to as Cognition Network Technology, was realized by Nobel Laureate Prof. Dr. Gerd Binnig together with a team of researchers at Definiens AG  in Munich, Germany.
To emulate the human mind's cognitive powers, Definiens made a departure from conventional approaches. Using patented Image segmentation and classification processes, they developed a robust method of rendering knowledge in a semantic network. The technology  examines pixels not in isolation, but in context. It builds up a picture iteratively, recognizing groups of pixels as objects. It uses the color, shape, texture and size of objects as well as their context and relationships to draw the same conclusions and inferences that an experienced analyst would draw.
The eCognition Suite offers three components which can be used stand-alone or in combination to solve image analysis tasks. eCognition Developer is a development environment for object-based image analysis. It is used in earth sciences to develop rule sets (or applications) for the analysis of remote sensing data. eCognition Architect enables non-technical users to configure, calibrate and execute image analysis workflows created in eCognition Developer. eCognition Server software provides a processing environment for batch execution of image analysis jobs.
eCognition software is utilized in numerous remote sensing and geo-spatial application scenarios and environments, using a variety of data types.
Sample application types
Generic: Rapid Mapping, Change Detection, Object Recognition By Environment: Diverse Landcover Mapping, Urban Analysis (i.e. impervious surface area analysis for taxation, property assessment for insurance, inventory of green infrastructure), Forestry (i.e. biomass measurement, species identification, firescar measurement), Agriculture (i.e. regional planning, precision farming, crisis response), Marine and Riparian (i.e. ecosystem evaluation, disaster management, harbor monitoring). Other: Defense, security, atmosphere and climate
The online eCognition community  was launched in July of 2009 and had 2124 members as of March 16, 2010.. Membership is distributed globally and user conferences are held regularly, the last having taken place in November 2009  in Munich, Germany. The bi-annual GEOBIA (Geographic Object Based Image Analysis) conference is heavily attended by eCognition users, with the majority of presentations based on eCognition software.