Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sony Image Sensor Business Strategy

Sony IR Day 2018 held on May 22 (today) has quite a detailed presentation on its semiconductor business targets and strategy. From the Sony official PR:

"In the area of CMOS image sensors that capture the real world in which we all live, and are vital to KANDO content creation, aim to maintain Sony’s global number one position in imaging applications, and become the global leader in sensing.

Through the key themes of KANDO - to move people emotionally - and "getting closer to people," Sony will aim to sustainably generate societal value and high profitability across its three primary business areas of electronics, entertainment, and financial services. It will pursue this strategy based on the following basic principles.

CMOS image sensors are key component devices in growth industries such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and more. Sony's competitive strength in this area is based on its wealth of technological expertise in analog semiconductors, cultivated over many years from the charge-coupled device (CCD) era. Sony aims to maintain its global number one position in imaging and in the longer term become the number one in sensing applications. To this end, Sony will extend its development of sensing applications beyond the area of smartphones, into new domains such as automotive use.

...based on its desire to contribute to safety in the self-driving car era, Sony will work to further develop its imaging and sensing technologies.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hamamatsu Sensors in Automotive Applications

Hamamatsu publishes a nice article "Photonics for advanced car technologies" showing many applications for its light sensors:

Samsung Presentation

Samsung System LSI Investor Presentation dated by April 30, 2018 shows the company success in image sensor business:

  • 1/3 Global Smartphones use ISOCELL image sensors
  • 4.6 out of 10 Chinese smartphones use ISOCELL sensors
  • 28nm image sensor process

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Anafocus Keynote at EI 2018

Electronic Imaging Symposium publishes a keynote "Sub-Electron Low-Noise CMOS Image Sensors: Large Format, Fast, 0.5e-rms CIS with Oversampled 2‐Stage ADCs" by J. A. Segovia, F. Medeiro, A. Gonzales, A. Vellegas, and A. Rodriguez-Vazquez, Teledyne-Anafocus and Universidad de Sevilla.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Omnivision Keynote at EI 2018

Electronic Imaging publishes Omnivision keynote presentation "Automotive Image Sensors" by Boyd Fowler and Johannes Solhusvik. The presentation covers many areas from HDR to LiDARs:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Imec and Holst Centre Unveil Organic Fingerprint Sensor

Imec: Holst Centre, a joint initiative of imec and TNO, have demonstrated a new class of flexible, large-area sensor technology for detecting finger- and palmprints. At less than 0.2 mm thick, the new sensors can be embedded into objects such as mobile phones and door handles to create “invisible” yet secure access control systems that can tell if the print is from a living person rather than a phantom or counterfeit.

Two demonstrators are shown: Measuring 6 x 8 cm, a 200-ppi demonstrator is large enough for 4-finger scanners that are currently used by border control authorities and delivers sufficient image quality for basic identification applications. Meanwhile, a slightly smaller 500-ppi demonstrator offer even higher image quality, compatible with FBI standards and enough for law enforcement agencies to visualize minutia and pores for more robust identification.

As with Holst Centre’s earlier flexible X-ray detectors, the fingerprint sensors combine an organic PD frontplane, an oxide TFT backplane, and a thin-film barrier for protection against the environment. All three technological elements have been or are being transferred to industry for scale-up and commercialization. The sensors read the finger- or palm print by detecting visible light (400 to 700 nm) reflected from the surface of the skin. However, they can also detect light that penetrates someway into the skin before being reflected. This allows them to sense a heartbeat from changes in the capillaries within the hand, and thus verify that the print comes from a live person.

By using different PD materials, the sensors’ band can be extended to other wavelengths such as NIR. This could enable new identification verification modes based on, for example, the pattern of veins in a hand, which is believed to be even more specific to an individual than a fingerprint.

The flexible fingerprint sensor demonstrator shows the versatility and maturity of the flexible electronics technologies that Holst Centre is developing. With the underlying technology already in use in the flat-panel industry, there is a fast route to manufacturing and we are looking for industrial partners to take that step,” says Hylke Akkerman, Program Manager at Holst Centre.

ST Focuses on 3D Imaging

ST Micro 2018 Capital Markets Day was used to present the company focus on all types of 3D imaging: SPAD-based FlightSense, structured light (probably Apple Face ID IR sensor), and also indirect ToF:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Machine Learning to Reduce High-ISO Noise

MSN, DPReview: Machine learning is often presented as a tool to improve high-ISO. Intel and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champlain are to present their AI algorithm in June:

"The Intel and UIUC team claims the algorithm can now amplify low-light images the equivalent of up to 300 times the exposure, without the same noise and discoloration that programs like Photoshop might introduce or having to take two separate images."

Imaging Resource publishes an interview with Sony managers called "A.I. is the future of mirrorless cameras:"

"That kind of technology is improving very fast. For example, our current processor has some general computing unit, but maybe in the next generation, the general computing CPU should become more designed for AI."

In a half-year old video, Sony Teruo Hirayama and Sony’s strategic advisor also the director of the MIT Media Lab, Joichi Ito discuss how image sensors and AI will combine to enhance human capabilities and open up new possibilities in the future:

Omron MEMS Thermal Sensor

Omron publishes a video demoing its low-resolution thermopile sensor:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Framos Offers Sony SLVS-EC RX as FPGA IP

Framos SLVS-EC RX IP Core shortens design time with the latest generation of Sony image sensors. The SLVS-EC interface (Scalable Low-Voltage Signaling with Embedded Clock) has up to 8 lanes and 2.376 Gbps throughput per lane. When compared to Sony’s 2nd-generation CMOS image sensors with S-LVDS interfaces, the SLVS-EC interface doubles the overall output speed to 19 Gbps. SLVS-EC has more than three times higher bandwidth per lane.

Thanks to RP for the link!

Industry is Watching Market Response on Huawei Triple Camera

Digitimes: If Huawei is doing well with its P20 Pro smartphone with triple camera, other smartphone makers like Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Lenovo, Asustek, HTC, and Sony are likely to come with similar solutions too, according to Digitimes sources. Huawei reportedly plans to extend its triple-lens cameras to its other high-end smartphone models.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

iniVation Launches its Next-Generation Event-Based Dynamic Vision Sensor

iniVation, a spin-off of the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich, launches its next-generation event-based DAVIS346 sensor with USB3 interface. It features over twice the resolution and a 30% smaller compared with previous models. The new sensor features:

  • Sub-millisecond response time
  • Ultra-high energy efficiency (>90% system-level improvement compared with conventional vision)
  • Wide DR >100 dB
  • Simultaneous APS frame and event capture
  • Small form factor (40 x 60 x 25 mm)
  • USB3 connector
  • Fully isolated GPIO ports for multi-camera sync

Leti on 3D Integration

December 2017 Leti presentation on 3D integration at IEDM Workshop talks about a number of opportunities for CIS:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Omnivision Announces Design Win in Automotive Eye and Gaze Tracking Camera

PRNewswire: OmniVision collaborates with Smart Eye to integrate its automotive 2MP image sensor with Smart Eye's sensing algorithm library in a turnkey driver and cabin monitoring solution that targets automotive OEMs.

"Automotive OEMs need image sensors that are certified to ASIL B for level-3 autonomous vehicles, beginning with 2021 models," said Marius Evensen, senior automotive technical marketing manager at OmniVision. "The OV2311's ASIL B certification includes advanced safety features."

Eye- and gaze-tracking cameras need to be small and unobtrusive so that drivers do not feel they are being monitored, but smaller cameras tend to run hot and create excess system noise. The OV2311 sensor in a chip-scale package consumes half the power of competing 1MP solutions, keeping the temperature under control without sacrificing performance. Its high pixel density enables a wide field of view for a larger headbox to adjust for various driver seat positions, along with precise images for tracking gaze. Additionally, the wider field of view opens the opportunity for sensing throughout the cabin interior, including passengers as well as the driver.

"OmniVision's OV2311 is now the benchmark for the driver monitoring industry. Our combined solution benefits automotive OEMs needing a complete hardware and software package that has been thoroughly tested and is ready to implement in a wide variety of vehicles," said Karolina Wikander, head of business management at Smart Eye.

LFoundry 2017 Report

LFoundry 2017 report contains interesting info about the foundry, its customers, and the relationships with its mother company SMIC:

"The year began with the clear, challenging objective of equipping the Avezzano plant with further, alternative production capacity compared to its traditional focus on image sensors, made necessary by the growing demand from China and Asian markets.

This demand, however, then saw a sudden turnaround, and, at the same time, a strong increase in the request for image sensors on the part of our largest, long-standing customer. Therefore, we spent the second part of 2017 involved in another important company reorganisation process, undertaken in order to guarantee this long-established customer sufficient supplies to meet their growing demand for image sensors.

Today, LFoundry is an increasingly strong candidate to become a SMIC centre of excellence for CMOS Image Sensors, and to take on the role of strategic partner of the world leaders in the application of image sensors in the automotive field.

More Info on SensL Acquisition by ON Semi

The Irish Times times publishes an article on ON Semi acquisition of SensL:

"Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed but industry insiders told The Irish Times it was a “high double-digit deal”. The Bank of Ireland-backed Delta fund had a 45 per cent stake in the company prior to the acquisition with management and employees owning the bulk of the remaining shares.

SensL, whose clients include the European Space Agency, was spun out of the Tyndall National Institute in 2004. It was founded by Carl Jackson and Joe O’Keeffe, the latter of whom went on to enjoy success as a founder of Infiniled, which was acquired by Facebook-owned Oculus VR in 2016. SensL, which is now led by Bryan Campbell, employs 25 people in Cork.

“We built the company making optical sensors that can be used in a whole bunch of different products,” Mr Jackson told The Irish Times.

“We built the business on the back of our involvement in medical imaging, where we developed a key sensor that goes into PET scanners. We’re also active in radiation detection, and three years ago started working on lidar products for the automotive market. This will be one of our core focuses going forward,” he added.

While SensL’s autonomous car technology was one big attraction for On Semiconductor, Mr Jackson stressed that the buyer was interested in all of its product lines.

Update: The Sunday Times reports "Tech sources said ON Semiconductor was paying €60m-€70m cash for Sensl, which was founded in 2004. The takeover will deliver a significant return for Sensl’s shareholders, which include Irish venture capitalists Delta Partners and Enterprise Equity."

Friday, May 11, 2018

Albert Theuwissen Lectures on Video

CEI makes available for purchase 3 videos with Albert Theuwissen lectures:

Introduction to Correlated and Uncorrelated Noise in Imagers

Characterization of Noise in Dark

Characterization of Noise with Light

Oppo 3D Sensing Update

Mydrivers: A number of Chinese news sites cover Oppo May 10th meeting devoted to the company work on the 3D sensing for smartphones. Unfortunately, most of the information is in Chinese, but one can understand that Oppo is preparing structured light based 3D face recognition and in many other applications too. The 3D camera is said to be mass production ready and Oppo plans to launch first phones with it in the next 6 months:

Physically Unclonable Function based on CMOS Sensor FPN

University of Wisconsin–Madison publishes a video "CamPUF: Physically Unclonable Function based on CMOS Image Sensor Fixed Pattern Noise" by Yongwoo Lee, Kyuin Lee, and Younghyun Kim presented at Design Automation Conference (DAC) 2018:

EMVA1288 Characterization Video

Spectronet publishes a presentation of Bernd Jähne from Universität Heidelberg on image sensor characterization with some interesting findings on PRNU wavelength dependence, QE, angular dependencies, interesting MTF shapes, etc:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Yonhap on Sony vs Samsung Competition

Korean news agency Yonhap gives its view on Sony and Samsung market shares, also quoted by Business Standard and MSN:

"Sony and Samsung currently lead the global market for CMOS image sensors, with the Japanese rival holding a slight edge.

In 2016, Sony and Samsung took up 25.6 percent and 22.6 percent of the market, respectively, industry data showed.

The two companies held 28.3 percent and 25.4 percent, respectively, last year. SK hynix Inc., Samsung's smaller South Korean rival, accounted for roughly 8 percent to 9 percent over the cited period.

Industry watchers, however, claim Sony takes up 50 percent of the market in terms of sales, hovering far above Samsung's 20 percent.

Himax Reports Q1 Results

GlobeNewswire: Himax updates on its imaging business with the new focus on 3D imaging and new product - under-display optical fingerprint sensors:

"Himax SLiMTM 3D sensing solution for premium Android smartphone is mass production ready in Q1 2018 as planned, awaits smartphone makers and their ecosystem partners to integrate 3D sensing technologies into the new end products. Each smartphone makers have different design and requirement for facial recognition and online payment, such developments are taking longer than the Company anticipated. Company now targets the end of 2018 for shipment to customers

..we are pleased to report an emerging optical fingerprint opportunity for CMOS image sensor business. Combining the leading fingerprint solution design of our partner and a low-power CMOS image sensor with superior sensitivity which we fully customized for this purpose, a number of design-in projects are already ongoing and we expect more to come.

Along with the new smartphone designs featuring edge-to-edge displays, structured light 3D sensing and ASC 3D sensing, both for facial recognition, as well as under-display optical sensor for fingerprint authentication are three new approaches for phone unlock and online payment to replace the traditional home button with capacitive fingerprint technology. Himax is uniquely positioned in that we offer critical technologies in all of the three solutions and are already a key player by forming different collaboration partnerships for each of the three alternatives.

From the company's factsheet: