Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In Light of Camera Market Decline, Canon to Start Selling its CMOS Sensors

Nikkei reports that Canon will supply image sensors to other manufacturers for the first time, anticipating demand for the technology in building self-driving cars, robots and other smart devices. The plan is to start sell sensors within two years. The company has already assembled a team to launch the business.

Canon manufactures its image senors at two plants in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo and one in southern Japan's Oita Prefecture. So far, all the capacity is used in the company's digital cameras and some video cameras. With the camera market shrinking, Canon aims to offset a decline in sensor output.

Not to clash with Sony and others already holding substantial shares of the market for general-purpose CMOS sensors, Canon intends to supply specialized devices for automotive and industrial applications. Besides cars and robots, it envisions its sensors helping guide drones, as well as sharpening the vision of traffic-monitoring systems. However, other image sensor manufacturers are also pursuing automotive and industrial applications.

Canon's in-house supply of CMOS sensors ranks fifth in the world in terms of value, with a roughly 5% market share, according to Tokyo-based TSR. Sony leads the market, with a 40%-plus share, followed by Samsung Electronics at nearly 20%.

Canon is working on Super Machine Vision (SMV), a next-generation vision system that surpasses the abilities of the human vision system, by leveraging its dual-pixel AF from cameras and business machines while also taking advantage of the image-recognition and data-processing capabilities employed in face-detection and character-recognition technologies.

In an unrelated news, Canon develops a global shutter CMOS sensor that achieves expanded DR through new drive method. When the newly developed CMOS sensor converts light into electrical signals and stores the signal charge in memory, the new drive system is said to achieve a significant expansion in full well capacity. Also, because it employs a structure that efficiently captures light and each pixel incorporates an optimized internal configuration, the sensor makes possible increased sensitivity with reduced noise. The expanded full well capacity, realized through the sensor’s new drive system, and substantial reduction in noise, enabled by the new pixel structure, combine to deliver a wide dynamic range, facilitating the capture of high-image-quality, high-definition footage even when shooting scenes containing large variances in brightness.

Canon will explore various industrial and measurement applications for the newly developed CMOS sensor and consider deploying it in the field of video production for cinema production applications, TV dramas, commercials and more.

Canon GS WDR sensor prototype

Demand in Iris and Face Recognition Solutions Grows

Digitimes reports that the demand for iris and face recognition processors for smartphones is to surge, according to the newspaper's industry sources.

Pixart is expected to be among the first China and Taiwan-based players capable of rolling out related solutions. Pixart has already submitted iris recognition and eye tracking patent applications in the US, said the sources, and is set to launch related solutions as early as 2017.

Another Digitimes article says that Xintec is to start fulfilling orders for iris-recognition solutions in Q4 2016, according to a Chinese-language report. The mass production of the iris-recognition chips is expected in 2017, which will boost the backend house's revenues for the year. New orders for the iris-recognition sensors include those for the 2017 model of iPhone, the watchers were also quoted in the report.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Low Cost AR Design Challenges

Innsbruck University, Austria publishes BSc thesis "Developing a Low-Cost Augmented Reality System" by Carsten Fischer, talking about camera design issues, among other stuff:

"The goal of this document is to give the reader a better understanding of the underlying theory of augmented reality systems and which adaptations can decrease the cost of such systems, while maintaining a good experience. The requirements on the including hardware parts will be explained, before summarizing the manufacturing process and highlighting features of the including software. Finally the system will be evaluated, by conducting a user study on depth perception."

Monday, August 29, 2016

FiveFocal Offers Camera Simulator

Ex-CDM Optics (Omnivision) employees have started FiveFocal company offering Imager, a camera simulator software. The image sensor pixel model is fairly basic, making it simple enough for general public to use and understand:

The company also has a very nice blog covering different camera and optics design topics, such as camera optimizations for vision algorithms:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Peter Centen Receives SMPTE David Sarnoff Medal

SMPTE announces its 2016 Honors & Awards Recipients. The David Sarnoff Medal Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the development of new techniques or equipment that have improved the engineering phases of television technology, including large-venue presentations. The award will be presented to Peter G.M. Centen (Grass Valley VP R&D, Cameras) in recognition of his work in image sensors, imaging, and broadcast camera innovation. Centen has been at the forefront of the CCD and CMOS sensor technology, and in 2003 he was awarded an Emmy for the development of high-definition dynamic pixel management (HD-DPM) for CCD sensors.

Below is Peter Centen's HPA 2015 presentation on 4K HDR image sensors:

Interview with ULIS PM

Yole Developpement publishes an interview with Cyrille Trouilleau, Product Manager at ULIS. Few quotes:

"ULIS, a subsidiary of Sofradir, specializes in designing and manufacturing innovative thermal image sensors for commercial and defense applications... Founded in 2002, ULIS has grown to become the second largest producer of thermal image sensors (microbolometers)... ULIS is active in the surveillance, thermography, defense and outdoor leisure markets where we already sold more 500,000 thermal sensors worldwide.

...ULIS experienced strong growth in 2015, with close to a 20% increase in volume sales over 2014. Not due to exceptional event, growth we saw is supported by an increase of the demand coming from all the markets; 2016 signs remain as so positive and we expect to reach at least the same growth.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Huawei P9 Dual Camera Reverse Engineering, More

Systemplus publishes a reverse engineering report on the dual camera module extracted from Huawei P9 smartphone:

"The P9 camera module, with dimensions of 18 x 9.2 x 5.1mm, is equipped with two sub-modules each including a Sony CIS, a closed loop voice coil motor (VCM) and a 6-element lens. Doubling the number of cameras gives more light, vivid colors and crisper details. Moreover, it compensates for the fact that the module is provided without optical image stabilization (OIS). The CISs are assembled on a copper metal core 4-layer PCB using a wire bonding process. An external image processor chip is present on the phone’s printed circuit board (PCB)."

Another Systemplus report talks about I3system's Thermal Expert camera for smartphones:

"The thermal camera uses a new 17┬Ám pixel design from I3system. The I3BOL384_17A microbolometer features 384 x 288 pixel resolution, 6 times the resolution of the FLIR Lepton 3. The sensor technology in the I3system component is a titanium oxide microbolometer, technology which is not covered by Honeywell patents. The I3BOL384_17A is the consumer version of a military microbolometer."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Race to Self-Driving Car Accelerates

FoxNews: US startup Nutonomy managed to beat Uber starting its autonomous taxi trial in Singapore. Currently, their autonomous fleet has just 6 Mitsubishi i-MiEv electric cars, with the planned full launch of the service in 2018.

Meanwhile, Electronics Weekly published the details on Uber's acquisition of Otto, a startup retrofitting tracks with self-driving equipment. The 6-month old startup based in a garage south of Market Street in San Francisco was acquired for $680M plus 20% of any profits it makes from trucking. Otto has retrofitted five trucks so far.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Uncooled IR Imaging Market Report

Yole Developpement publishes report "Uncooled IR imaging industry: the market is taking off." Few quotes:

After a strong downturn in 2012 and 2013 due to the collapse of the military market, the uncooled IR imaging industry came back into a growth phase in 2014 and 2015. Today, the infrared business is still driven by commercial markets, which will continue to expand quickly, with shipments growing at 16.8% CAGR to account for 92% of the overall market by 2021. The commercial market is divided into three major sub-segments:

  • Thermography, which will account for 521,000 units in 2021. In 2015, thermography was still by far the main commercial market in terms of both value and shipments. “Since 2013, Fluke and FLIR have introduced several new products with lower pricing, which has boosted sales,” comments Dr Mounier. The trend towards lower-end thermography cameras has also prompted the introduction of low-resolution technologies such as pyroelectric sensors, thermopiles, and thermodiodes.
  • From its side, the automotive market segment will account for 284,000 units by 2021, according to Yole’s analysts. Automotive market shipments grew 15% in 2015, although the growth rate was down from 30% in 2014. Total automotive sales, including OEM and aftermarket, accounted for less than 100,000 units in 2015, generating US$61 million, which reflects strong price erosion.
  • Ultimately, surveillance and security applications will account for 248,000 units in 2021. Surveillance market shipments grew 32% in 2015 due to price erosion and the growing number of suppliers.
Until recently, thermal cameras have primarily been used in high-end surveillance for critical and government infrastructure. However, new municipal and commercial applications with lower price points are now appearing, including traffic, parking, power stations and photovoltaic plants.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Graphene Photodetectors Review

Open-access Sensors journal publishes a paper "Towards a Graphene-Based Low Intensity Photon Counting Photodetector" by Jamie O. D. Williams, Jack A. Alexander-Webber, Jon S. Lapington, Mervyn Roy, Ian B. Hutchinson, Abhay A. Sagade, Marie-Blandine Martin, Philipp Braeuninger-Weimer, Andrea Cabrero-Vilatela, Ruizhi Wang, Andrea De Luca, Florin Udrea, and Stephan Hofmann from University of Leicester and University of Cambridge, UK. The paper reviews graphene photodetecting approaches for visible, Terahertz and X-ray bands.

"The future applications of single photon counting photodetectors requires high detection efficiency with wavelength specificity, good temporal resolution and low dark counts. Graphene’s high mobility, tunable band gap (in bilayer graphene), strong dependence of conductivity on electric field, and other properties make it particularly suitable for this application. Here graphene acts as an (indirect) photoconductor with a high gain of transconductance due to the sharp field."