HDR Pixels Review and Comparison

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Dana Diezemann published her presentation "High Dynamic Range Imaging, A short summary" at Image Sensors Europe held in London in March 2020. Few slides from the presentation:

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4 Generations of Tower GS Pixels

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Tower Semiconductor posts an article on its global shutter pixels development:
  • Gen 1: Our first generation of GS pixels went into production with relatively big (around ~5um) size, about ~20e of noise and a decoupling ratio between PD and MN of around 60dB. Despite being relatively lower performing than the best-in-class CCD pixels at that time, Tower Semiconductor’s GS technology was a huge market success, mainly because of much higher supported speeds at a higher resolution, which is hard to support using CCD technology. This initiated the shift in industrial cameras from CCD to CIS technology.
  • Gen 2: Our second-generation pixels were developed during our cooperation with Intel’s first RealSense™ IR camera. Originally intended for commercial applications like gesture control and 3D rendering, we adapted the technology in 2014 for industrial applications by combining 180nm periphery with 110nm metal lines in the pixel. This innovation enabled us to offer a pixel as small as 3.6um with noise of about 3e and rejection ratio of about 65dB (for the smallest pixel).
  • Gen 3: Our third generation of GS was developed using the 110nm Cu metallization technology in our TPSCo fab in Japan. In this version we had two embedded micro-lenses, that helped focus the light on the small diode area in this pixel, and also incorporated a tungsten shield (exactly like in best in class CCD), which helped in preventing light from reaching the MN, the pixel size was reduced down to 2.7um as well as a further reduction of the noise to 2e and increase in the rejection ratio to 70dB.
  • Gen 4: Our fourth, and the latest, generation of GS pixel was announced earlier this year. It is based on our 300mm wafer 65nm light pipe technology and improved tungsten shield, further enhancing the Gen3 performance. This technology allowed us to introduce the first 2.5um GS pixel with excellent performance (references IEDM, IISW), and are currently in the final development stage on further reduction of the pixel size to 2.2um.
  • Next-gen: Looking ahead, we are already developing our next generation GS pixel which will be based on Back-Side Illumination (BSI) technology. This generation would incorporate new innovations in process integration and device design to keep the MN isolated from unwanted light while maximizing light incidence on to the photo diode.

Tower "Looking Ahead" presentation also talks about other prospective markets:

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Sigmaintell Puts Galaxycore at #1 in Units Market Share

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IFNews quotes Sigmaintell's somewhat optimistic forecast on this year's smartphone camera market. Sigmaintell puts Galaxycore at #1 in terms of unit market share. Almost 1/3 of all mobile phone image sensors are made by Galaxycore:

"GalaxyCore's main product is 2 / 5M, benefiting from the strong demand for 2M sensors from the multi-camera macros and depth of field of terminal manufacturers, Galaxycore Micro performed well in the first quarter. According to data from Sigmaintell, shipments of Galaxycore Micro camera sensors (including feature phones) in the first quarter of 2020 were approximately 400 million units, an increase of approximately 164% year-on-year. After entering the second quarter, the mobile phone brands began to adjust their product strategies in April. The camera upgrade trend of products with RMB 1,000 and below has significantly slowed down. The four-camera upgrade trend has been delayed. Dual-camera and three-camera are still the main market forces. Will affect its market growth rate in the second quarter and this year."

"It is expected that the global smartphone camera sensor shipments will be about 5 billion this year, maintaining a growth rate of about 5% year-on-year.

According to data from Sigmaintell, global mobile phone camera sensor shipments were approximately 1.41 billion units in the first quarter of 2020, of which smartphone camera sensor shipments were approximately 1.29 billion units, a year-on-year increase of approximately 37%. At the same time, before the outbreak, upstream and downstream are very optimistic about the market demand for camera sensors, so many agents have large quantities of stocks at this time (about 1-2 months of inventory). Under the dual pressure of a sharp decline in demand and a large supply chain inventory, the shipment of camera sensors in the second quarter will further decline.

"ToF has gradually become the standard for high-end smartphones, and currently known applications have three main aspects: one is to assist in improving the shooting effect; the other is to realize the face unlocking function; the third is to use space ranging, 3D scanning, 3D modeling and other functions.

As we all know, since the iPhone12 series in the second half of this year has two products with ToF on the market, the four major domestic terminal manufacturers are also accelerating the development of D-ToF. From the perspective of the supply chain, chip manufacturers (including Omnivision Technology and Galaxycore, etc.) are actively increasing the development of ToF hardware and software. According to data from Sigmaintell, global ToF shipments for smartphones will be approximately 90 million units in 2020.

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Sony Defines its Starvis Sensor Category

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Sony publishes a short presentation explaining what sensors belong to Starvis class:

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iPhone 11 Pro Optical Zoom vs Almalence Super-Resolution

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Almalence compares its computational super-resolution zoom used in Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro camera with dedicated telephoto camera in Apple iPhone 11 Pro:

"As every high-end smartphone, iPhone 11 Pro uses a dedicated telephoto camera module to achieve the maximum zoom quality. It appears however, that simply utilizing a telephoto module, even of a great design and quality which is undoubtedly the case with an Apple’s product, is not enough to achieve the top zoom performance. According to the DxOMark benchmark, iPhone 11 Pro achieves Zoom Score of 74 while, for example, Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro hits 110, a drastic 1.5x difference!

To go beyond the camera hardware capabilities, top Zoom performers utilize a computational imaging technique, Super Resolution Zoom. As its name suggests, it uses super resolution technique to increase the resolution of the images suffering from the lack of pixels in case the target zoom level exceeds the optical zoom of the telephoto module.

iPhone 11 Pro zoom camera
Almalence super-resolution zoom
iPhone 11 Pro zoom camera
Almalence super-resolution zoom

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LiDAR News: Outsight, Hitachi-LG, Velodyne, OS Lab

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Sabbir Rangwala, a former Princeton Lightwave LiDAR business leader, writes in Forbes article:

"On the AV front, there is sobering news. The COVID crisis has put tremendous cash flow pressures on automotive OEMs, with subsequent scaling back of investments on AVs. Ford is in a particularly difficult situation with its dismal stock price, difficulty in obtaining financing and suspending their dividend payments. It is likely that they will need substantial help and delay their AV efforts.

GM-Cruise recently announced an 8% reduction in staffing in areas such as business strategy, design, and product development, following on the heels of Ike, Velodyne, and Kodiak. Zoox, the vaunted Silicon Valley unicorn with an ambitious vision of using purpose-built battery driven AVs for ride sharing is finding a difficult time raising more money and could likely get acquired.

And hold your breath – even Waymo had to raise almost $3B recently because they acknowledged that developing AVs is expensive (and presumably because the new Alphabet management is getting what we all routinely go through – the “other bets” syndrome). These events are likely to multiply and trickle down, with a natural impact on the survival of many AV focused LiDAR companies. They all simply cannot survive going forward.

It is likely that less than 10 independent companies will survive as stand-alone AV LiDAR entities over the next couple of years. The remainder will either pivot successfully into other applications or get acquired (by the captives or the stronger independent LiDAR companies). Or, unfortunately, face bankruptcy.

Like some other automotive LiDAR companies, Outsight is looking for the alternative markets for its 3D semantic camera. ZDNet reports that such a new application could be automatic mask wearing or fever monitoring and screening in public places:

Hitachi-LG Data Storage posts a handwashing quality monitoring application for its LiDAR, in addition to a similar video posted a couple of days ago.

Velodyne adopts its LiDAR for human-worn scanning, in partnership with NavVis:

Another recent Velodyne announcement presents a hand-held LiDAR use:

BusinessWire: Meanwhile, SOS LAB LiDAR startup has secured series A+ investment of $8M led by Korea Development Bank (KDB), bringing the company’s total capital raised so far to $14M.

Jiseong Jeong, the CEO of SOS LAB says: “The implementation of Solid-State LiDAR is a must for car LiDAR commercialization. This is because there are advantages in terms of price and durability as it can be mass produced in small sizes and components. However, satisfying the fixed standard (size, amount of power, distance, etc.) is the challenge Solid-State LiDAR must overcome. SOS LAB finds the solution to the challenge through the core technology. Our new product can detect distant objects by delivering high power despite its small size, which is a beam-steering technology that does not have any moving parts."

SOS LAB stated that it has not only entered into an MOU with ON Semiconductor in January but also establishing partnerships with OEMs and electronic component manufacturers at home and abroad for the development of LiDAR. It showed strong confidence about the commercialization of car LiDAR sensor for 2021.

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Image Sensors at VLSI Symposia

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This year, VLSI Symposia is to be held on-line on June 14-19. Its agenda includes 7 image sensor papers:

  • CB2.1 (Invited) - A 2D-SPAD Array and Read-Out AFE for Next-Generation Solid-State LiDAR
    Tuan Thanh Ta, Toshiba Corp., Japan
  • CB2.2 - A 36-Channel SPAD-Integrated Scanning LiDAR Sensor with Multi-Event Histogramming TDC and Embedded Interference Filter
    Hyeongseok Seo, Sungkyunkwan University, Republic of Korea
  • CB2.3 - A 3.0µW@5fps QQVGA Self-Controlled Wake-Up Imager with On-Chip Motion Detection, Auto-Exposure and Object Recognition
    Arnaud Verdant, CEA-Leti-MINATEC, France
  • CB2.4 - A Low Noise Read-Out IC with Gate Driver for Full Front Display Area Optical Fingerprint Sensors
    Yongil Kwon, Samsung Electronics, Republic of Korea
  • CB2.5 - An Always-On 4x Compressive VGA CMOS Imager with 51pJ/pixel and >32dB PSNR
    Wenda Zhao, The University of Texas at Austin, USA
  • TN1.8 - Ultrahigh Responsivity and Tunable Photogain BEOL Compatible MoS2 Phototransistor Array for Monolithic 3D Image Sensor with Block-Level Ssensing Circuits
    Chih-Chao Yang, Taiwan Semiconductor Research Institute, Taiwan
  • FF.7 (Forum) - Smart Vision Sensor
    Hayato Wakabayashi, Sony Semiconductor Solutions, Japan

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Samsung CIS Presentation

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Samsung has updated its System LSI presentation with 2020 data:

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Lumotive Presents Smartphone LiDAR

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EETimes: Lumotive, a Seattle-based LiDAR startup, expands its offerings to smartphones:

"With samples available in the fourth quarter of this year, the Lumotive X20 and Lumotive Z20 LiDAR systems target the automotive and industrial automation markets, respectively. Lumotive’s M20, addressing needs of the consumer and mobile markets, will be introduced in 2021.

The X20 targets long-range automotive applications with range over 120 meters in bright sunlight and a 120° x 30° field of view. The Z20 will have a shorter range (~ 50 meters) but an expanded 70° vertical field of view to address industrial and short-range automotive needs.

Looking for alternative applications beyond the slowing automotive market, Lumotive finds inspiration in Apple iPad LiDAR and designs a mobile version of its LiDAR:

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5 Days of Free On-Line SPAD Webinars

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University of Glasgow, UK, QuantIC group announces a series of 5 Webinars on June 1-5:

Detector Development:
Enhanced detectors underpin many of our demonstrators where increased sensitivity to single- photons at challenging wavelengths and/or higher count rates unlocks pathways to new imaging applications. These sensors will be used across all the sectors covered in these webinar series.

Life Sciences:
The QuantIC programme is delivering paradigm-shifting quantum imaging systems to our innovation partners. Biomedical imaging is an area where QuantIC seeks to expand its contributions. These will primarily be in through body imaging and microscopy. There is strong industry interest in both fluorescence and super-resolution microscopy to improve performance utilising SPAD arrays and other components. This webinar will showcase the progress made in this area to date.

Computational Methods:
The role and impact of computational imaging and machine learning in quantum imaging systems is growing significantly. Our initial focus will be on a Bayesian framework coupled with machine learning methods to develop these methods in partnership with the quantum sensors to make integrated systems where the overall performance is optimised for the limitations and advantages that quantum derived data presents.

Imaging through complex media such as fog, rain and snow are some of the most topical challenges in the autonomous vehicles and assisted drivers’ landscape. This webinar will discuss how we are working with end users and technology providers, to deliver system demonstrators combining optimisation of detector technology, image reconstruction for low-photon and low-cost visible and infrared LIDAR.

Security and Sensors:
Quantum phenomena will have impact in broad areas of security and sensors. We are developing quantum LIDAR, radar and covert imaging systems and developing UK capability for near IR SPADs and SPAD arrays for security and defence. Additionally, we continue to develop monitoring systems for secure infrastructure e.g. airports, rail stations, utilising different wavelengths. This session will showcase the latest demonstrator capabilities.

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Japan Display Inc. to Enter Image Sensor Business

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JapanTimes, Mainichi: Japan Display Inc. (JDI) formed in 2012 through the merger of the display operations of Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba announces its intention to enter image sensor business. The first product is 15um pixel-based bendable sensor developed with the University of Tokyo that can detect biometric information such as fingerprints and heart rate waves.

"We would like to foster our sensor products as a key pillar of our business that currently relies on the smartphone and the auto market," says JDI President Minoru Kikuoka. The company plans to introduce its image sensor products to the market in a few years, he added.

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Yole Predicts Thermal Imaging Boost in Post-Coronavirus Era

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Yole Developpement analyst Dimitrios Damianos says “For sure, the COVID-19 outbreak will have a big impact on the thermal detector and imager markets and industrial landscape at different levels.”

Indeed the automotive market did not show impressive interest for thermal technologies in the past,” explains Dimitrios Damianos. “In addition, such technology is not yet considered as a very important ADAS system in a car.

But, in parallel, the demand for surveillance and thermography systems linked to fever monitoring will increase in various infrastructure such as airports, hospitals, public areas and warehouses. Therefore, Yole expects a positive impact in this specific industry.
In term of volumes, Eric Mounier, Fellow Analyst at Yole explains: “For thermal imagers, we expect more than 1.5 million fever detection cameras to be deployed in 2020 and in the next 3-4 years cumulatively at airports, businesses and other infrastructure. In US$ value, we estimate the total market to be US$7.6 billion in 2020, generating an impressive 76% YoY growth.

In the current context, Yole’s analysts explore a new hypothesis: what if a thermal imager gets inside every smartphone? What if a major smartphone maker, like Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, Samsung or Apple, introduces a phone with a temperature measurement option now? Dimitrios Damianos asserted: “Naturally people are worried about COVID-19. It wouldn’t be outrageous to use something to measure their body temperature frequently, which happens to be constantly in or near their hands, namely their smartphone or their smartwatch.

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Newsight Imaging Raises $7M in Round A Investment

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Newsight Imaging has completed a $7M series A round of financing led by Infinity Capital with the participation of George So. The new investment brings Newsight’s total funding, including government grants, to $15M.

The series A financing follows a prototype design with ZKW, a automotive lighting system company, a number of design wins of the NSI1000 eTOF enhanced-Time-Of-Flight chip, and the pilots and engagements in the spectral analysis field with Mekorot, the national water company of Israel, and recently a pilot of at-home coronavirus detection reference design at a leading Israeli medical center.

We welcome our new investors to the Newsight family” said Newsight Imaging’s CEO Eli Assoolin. “While the world came to an almost complete stop due to the Corona Virus situation, Newsight’s team worked intensively to utilize our powerful machine vision chip capabilities with recent technology for water and beverage detection, and built a patent pending device solution for at-home virus detection that is expected to enable fast recovery to normal market conditions and become a key factor that will allow normal life to resume. With Infinity’s guidance and with Dr. George’s strategic partnership, we are confident about Newsight’s scaling and will continue now to round-B fundraising, which is supposed to bring the company to much greater revenues and to new exciting markets.

Newsight will soon offer SpectraLIT, a reference design for spectral analysis:

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GEO Reports that 20 Car Models with its Vision Processors Enter Mass Production in Q4 2019

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BusinessWire: GEO Semiconductor announces that Q4 2019 was a record quarter for GEO with 20 vehicle models from major automotive OEMs successfully launched into production.

GEO, a fabless chip company headquartered in San Jose and focused on the fast growing automotive camera market, develops application specific camera video processors with both the GW4 and GW5 product lines. These products feature HDR processing, eWARP technology, overlay graphics, and in the case of the GW54x0, a DSP processor to enable computer vision processing in the camera head.

GEO won the first automotive camera program in 2015 and has been consistently growing market share each year for the past five years. The typical timeline from a design win to start of production in the automotive market is between 18 and 30 months.

The OEMs that started shipping GEO’s CVP product in Q4 are located in Japan, South Korea, and China, and the primary applications include Back-Up Cameras, Surround View Camera Systems, Car DVR, as well as Rearview Mirror Camera systems.

GEO has developed an extremely competitive automotive CVP product portfolio, created and supported by an outstanding team that has established GEO as experts in Camera Video Processing technology for automotive applications,” said Dave Orton, CEO of GEO. “GEO has proven itself as a leader in providing technical solutions and has developed the applications and quality infrastructure to insure our customers are able to ramp through production with confidence.

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SmartSens Announces 1080P with 60ms Power-Up Time

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PRNewswire: SmartSens announces the launch of SC210IoT – a 1080P 30fps low power video sensor for IoT devices. What sets the SC210IoT apart are superior low-light sensitivity, AEC function to enable fast wake-up from intermittent system operation, and lowered power consumption optimized for always-on applications.

The integrated AEC function speeds up a transition from power-off or sleep mode to active streaming with response time as low as 60~70ms, while other devices often take more than 100ms for a stable exposed image. This is said to be a leap forward in applications that collect crucial, timely visual data such as home and commercial surveillance equipment. The SC210IoT consumes 60mW in active state, while its standby power is lower than 10uW.

"The new product launch in our SmartPixel series is geared towards the future of IoT and not the past," said Chris Yiu, CMO of SmartSens. "SC210IoT is only the beginning of a long line of new sensor products to come. We will be seeing OEM to bring innovative products to accommodate in our modern daily life."

SC210IoT is available for sampling immediately and mass production in June 2020.

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Omnivision Announces its First IR-Enhanced Nyxel Sensor for Automotive Applications

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PRNewswire: OmniVision announces the expansion of its Nyxel NIR technology into the automotive market with the new 2.5MP OX03A2S image sensor for exterior imaging applications that operate in low to no ambient light conditions within 2 meters of the vehicle. Nyxel technology is said to achieve the world’s best automotive QE of 40% at 940nm.

The OX03A2S combines Nyxel technology and a 3.2 micron pixel to provide the world’s best low light performance of any automotive image sensor. Additionally, our dual conversion gain technology enables optimal HDR performance,” said Mathew Arcoleo, product marketing manager at OmniVision. “This new automotive imaging benchmark opens new possibilities for exterior, close-range cameras within the camera belt, operating in near or total darkness.

Automotive cameras using the OX03A2S will also require less illumination, thus reducing materials cost and overall power consumption. Additionally, this sensor has a 1/2.44” optical format and comes in an a-CSP™ package that is 50% smaller than the competition to keep cameras out of sight and improve styling.

While this RGB-IR sensor is primarily intended for day and night machine vision applications, it can also provide viewable IR-enhanced RGB images during daytime conditions. Nyxel technology also enhances RGB image captures in bright conditions by improving sensitivity.

This new OX03A2S image sensor is available now, and is AEC-Q100 Grade 2 certified.

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Sony to Separate Image Sensor Business Next Year?

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Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation announces its new management structure that looks like a preparation to spinning it off as a separate business entity starting April 1st next year:

  • Terushi Shimizu - President and CEO
  • Goh Asayama - In charge of Mobile business 1
  • Satoshi Yoshihara - In charge of Mobile business 2
  • Mitsuru Yamashita - In charge of Industrial business
  • Hideki Somemiya - In charge of Solutions business
  • Yoshihiro Yamaguchi - In charge of Manufacturing
  • Keiichi Ohno - In charge of R&D
  • Shinji Sashida - In charge of Sales
  • Yasuhiro Kono - CFO
  • Hitoshi Morise - In charge of Human Resources and General Affairs
  • Yasuhiro Kono - Senior General Manager of Planning & Control Division

Sony Corporate Strategy Meeting does not say anything definite about semiconductor business separation:

Imaging & Sensing Solutions

  • Due to the uncertain market environment, Sony is carefully reviewing its capital expenditure plans in this segment in relation to projected demand through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, but its goals of maintaining the global number one position in imaging and gaining the global number one position in sensing remain unchanged.
  • Sony is also strengthening its focus on sensing solutions for mobile devices that "connect people to people," and automotive sensing solutions that "support people," which are expected to grow over the long term.
  • Based on its belief that image sensors will be key devices in the AI era, Sony intends to leverage its world-leading stacked CMOS image sensor technology and provide AI sensing solutions that deliver new value across a broad range of applications.

Here is a couple of slides from the Strategy meeting:

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Sony and Microsoft to Connect AI-Enabled CIS to Azure Cloud for Enterprise

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PRNewswire: After a year since the first announcement, Sony Semiconductor Solutions and Microsoft re-announce their partnership to create solutions connecting AI-powered smart cameras and video analytics for their mutual customers. The companies will embed Microsoft Azure AI capabilities on Sony's intelligent vision sensor IMX500, which extracts useful information out of images in smart cameras and other devices. Sony will also create a smart camera managed app powered by Azure IoT and Cognitive Services that complements the IMX500 sensor and expands the range and capability of video analytics opportunities for enterprise customers. The combination of these two solutions will bring together Sony's imaging and sensing technologies, including the unique functionality of high-speed edge AI processing, with Microsoft's cloud expertise and AI platform to uncover new video analytics opportunities for customers and partners across a variety of industries.

"By linking Sony's innovative imaging and sensing technology with Microsoft's excellent cloud AI services, we will deliver a powerful and convenient platform to the smart camera market. Through this platform, we hope to support the creativity of our partners and contribute to overcoming challenges in various industries," said Terushi Shimizu, Representative Director and President, Sony Semiconductor Solutions.

"Video analytics and smart cameras can drive better business insights and outcomes across a wide range of scenarios for businesses," said Takeshi Numoto, CVP and commercial chief marketing officer at Microsoft. "Through this partnership, we're combining Microsoft's expertise in providing trusted, enterprise-grade AI and analytics solutions with Sony's established leadership in the imaging sensors market to help uncover new opportunities for our mutual customers and partners."

For example, retailers can use smart cameras to detect when to refill products on a shelf or to better understand the optimal number of available open checkout counters according to the queue length. Additionally, a manufacturer might use a smart camera to identify hazards on its manufacturing floor in real time before injuries occur.

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Teledyne e2v Reports Surge in CCD Demand for Coronavirus Diagnostics

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GlobeNewswire: Teledyne e2v is supplying its large pixel CCDs for COVID-19 diagnostic instruments. In the past few weeks, the UK CCD Fabrication team have been producing hundreds of CCD77-358 devices that will be designed into camera systems to support COVID-19 diagnostics.

Miles Adcock, President of Teledyne e2v Space & Quantum said: “The Coronavirus outbreak has triggered increased demand and interest for CCD and CMOS sensors. We expect to have manufactured several times the forecasted annual demand for the CCD77-358 devices by the end of this quarter alone. Our ability to expedite and meet urgent requirements is testament to the drive and commitment of the Chelmsford CCD Fabrication Operations team.

The CCD77-358 sensor is back-illuminated and has an image resolution of 512 x 512 pixels, a large pixel size of 24µm in size and a high dynamic range.

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Samsung Unveils 50MP Sensor with All-Pixel PDAF

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BusinessWire, BusinessWire: Samsung introduces ISOCELL GN1, a new 50MP sensor with 1.2μm pixels. The ISOCELL GN1 is Samsung’s first image sensor to offer both Dual Pixel and Tetracell technologies.

With innovative pixel technologies, Samsung has been at the forefront of offering high-performance image sensors that closely cater to increasingly diversifying market needs. The ISOCELL GN1 is part of that commitment to deliver stunning images to consumers in any environment,” said Yongin Park, EVP of sensor business at Samsung. “We will continue to introduce image sensor solutions at the cutting-edge that will lead the next trends in mobile photography.

The GN1 auto-focuses with 100 million PDAF agents. When capturing images, a single pixel output is created by merging the outputs from the two photodiodes within the pixel. Samsung also provides a software algorithm that takes light information from each photodiode to produce image resolutions comparable to 100MP.

For low-light photography, the GN1 adopts Tetracell technology, a pixel-merging technique that improves the pixels’ capacity to capture and process more light. By binning four pixel signals into one, Tetracell doubles the image sensor’s pixel size to 2.4μm and quadruples the light sensitivity to take brighter 12.5MP photographs.

In addition to Dual Pixel AF and Tetracell technologies, the GN1 comes with Smart-ISO that intelligently selects the optimal ISO, real-time HDR that captures the scene in multiple exposures simultaneously, and gyro-based EIS. The image sensor supports video recording at up to 8K resolution at 30fps.

Samsung ISOCELL GN1 has started mass production this month.

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Thoughtography: Interaction of Mind with Image Sensor

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PsyArXiv, a free preprint service for the psychological sciences, publishes paper "Modern Thoughtography: Mind Interaction at a distance with digital camera sensors: a pilot study" by Luciano Pederzoli, Marco Bilucaglia, Elena Prati, Marzio Matteoli, and Patrizio Tressoldi from EvanLab, Università IULM, and Università di Padova, Italy.

"The main purpose of this pilot study was to verify the possibility of mentally and distantly influencing the digital sensor of a professional photographic camera to make a pre-chosen image appear on it. This study is part of a rich field of research on mind-matter interaction which by now has an approximately 70 year history, as documented by Duggan (2017).

In this case here it was decided to verify the possibility of influencing sensors of modern professional photographic cameras specifically because they now have a large number of pixels and each pixel also has a very high signal/noise ratio, so that for each pixel we can record a brightness range of 12 bits, or 4096 different values.

Three participants experienced in distant mind-matter interaction techniques took part in a total of 48 trials. In 7 out of 48 trials (14.5%) the value of the Structural Similarity Index of the target image chosen by the participant for the distant mental influence trial on the camera’s sensor was greater than that obtained when the target was different.

Although still preliminary, these results suggest that it may be possible to use modern professional cameras to study the effects of distant mind-matter interactions.

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Front-View Automotive Camera Market Grew 95% in 2019 in China

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ResearchInChina report "Automotive Vision Industry Chain Report 2019-2020 (I): Monocular Vision" says:

"About 23 million cameras were pre-installed in new passenger cars in China in 2019, up 11.7% on an annualized basis, as is revealed by ResearchInChina.

Front-view monocular cameras and surround-view cameras grew by 95.6% and 23.9% year-on-year respectively, while both rear-view and side-view cameras dropped.

The Tier1 suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, Aptiv, Denso, Valeo, Veoneer, ZF, etc. occupy more than 90% share of the front-view monocular camera market, so that Chinese visual ADAS vendors that rarely ever break monopoly turn to focus on surround-view cameras, rear-view cameras, commercial vehicle vision ADAS and other markets.

"For safer driving on roads, European Commission approved EU rules requiring life-saving technologies in vehicles. The advanced systems that will have to be fitted in all new vehicles are: intelligent speed assistance; alcohol interlock installation facilitation; driver drowsiness and attention warning; advanced driver distraction warning; emergency stop signal; reversing detection; and event data recorder (“black box”). Most of these technologies and systems are due to become mandatory as from May 2022 for new models and as from May 2024 for existing models."

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Ams to Demo Under-Display 3D Sensor for Smartphones in 2H 2020

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SeekingAlpha: Ams Q1 earnings report mentions the directions of its R&D and production efforts. The company plans to demo its behind-OLED-display (BOLED) 3D sensing in the second half of this year.

"In display management, we are seeing further adoption of our behind-OLED light sensing in high-volume Android smartphone and mobile device platforms, which includes several recent releases. This unmatched technology moves light and proximity sensing invisibly behind the OLED display so OEMs can remove bezel-placed elements from the device front and maximize the screen-to-body ratio.

Our strong market success continues to be driven by leading Android OEMs while we move along a multigeneration road map for this technology. All in all, we are shipping significant volumes of our wide range of advanced display management across the leading consumer OEMs.

We continued our strong R&D investments for further innovation in optical sensing. Leveraging our unmatched behind-OLED capabilities into 3D sensing, we are progressing with our developments to move front-facing 3D sensing invisibly behind the display. Based on active stereo vision technology, we continue to expect to demonstrate behind-OLED 3D solution in the second half. Here, we work to combine ams VCSEL illumination, near-infrared sensing, software and algorithm from our portfolio to create a high-performance 3D offering. We address the market trend to reduce visible components on the device front and expect significant market interest in 3D behind-OLED technology in mobile devices. Generally, both active stereo vision and structured light technology are able to support behind-OLED 3D sensing. So we plan to explore all paths for innovation in front-facing 3D.

Then, in Q&A part of the earnings call:

"...The question about structured light behind the OLED. Based on our technical information, it appears that it's possible, it's doable, and that's why we are keen to explore all the ways related to structured light, but also for active stereo vision to move this technology behind the OLED screen because I strongly believe that will be the future, that you don't see any sensors on the display in a smartphone anymore. And because of that reason, we see a future for those either structured light or active stereo vision behind-OLED.

Q: Just on the timing of structured light, is it the same timing that you have for active stereo vision, a product that could be showcased over the next 6 months or it will be after active stereo vision on your road map?

A: It will be later than active stereo vision, that's correct. So active stereo vision will happen this - in the second half of this year. Structured light will be a bit later. But we are working, as always, on road maps for the next quarters and years ahead so that we are always available to be the first to offer new technology to our customer base.

Q: The 3D behind-OLED, you added now structured light. When are you expecting industry adoption? As you mentioned, you will have it in the second half. And potentially what content could we look at for both ASV and structured light?

A: So 3D behind-OLED, that's, as I mentioned before, is, I think, a very attractive solution for our customer base, and we expect a very nice adoption from the end customers. Obviously, the industry adoption will be not this year, will be next year, probably end of next year. Our customer base have to use designs after we demonstrated with our demonstrator, what we will release during the second half of this year. So we have to be a bit sensitive, but I think in the - the discussion with customers will start end of the year and continues into next year. And then it depends on the road map of customers when they bring this to market. But it's certainly, and that's why we're investing in this technology, a very positive and unique selling point for our customer base related to their end customers.

Ams application note for its TCS3701 BOLED Color and Proximity Sensor explains how it works:

"The IR transmissivity of an OLED display is inherently low, primarily due to the required layers of metallization that are present. In order to get the most reflected IR energy through the display to the photodiode, any non-essential, IR-blocking materials on the bottom side of the display (protective barriers, copper, glue, etc.), must be removed to essentially create an aperture on the bottom side of the display. The design and the shape of this aperture should be optimized to maximize proximity signal and to minimize crosstalk. An optimized display aperture is one that is aligned with the device’s package (or rubber boot) aperture and is the same shape but slightly oversized. The ideal aperture design for the sensor will consider the sensor’s Field-Of-View (FOV), boot thickness, air gap, mechanical tolerances, assembly tolerances, etc. The same guidelines above apply to the emitter Field-Of-Illumination (FOI)."

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On-line Masterclass on Recent Developments in CMOS Image Sensors

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Image Sensors Europe hosts an on-line masterclass "Developments In CMOS Image Sensors Since IS Europe 2019" by Albert Theuwissen.

"The world of CMOS image sensors is changing at a pace that we never have seen before. New applications, new technologies, new features are constantly added to the large portfolio of CMOS devices that are out in the market. In this way the performance as well as the possibilities of the devices is constantly improved.

During Image Sensors Europe 2019 conference, a masterclass was organised around the recent developments in the CIS world and due to the the success of it, Albert Theuwissen and Smithers have created this follow up online masterclass to review the year and report on the latest developments.

Several subjects will be discussed : small pixels, new colour filters, new ToF image sensors, new stacked devices, global shutter devices, high-dynamic range techniques, etc. Some topics that are not yet announced at the moment of writing this abstract will be included as well, because one can be sure: further developments of the CIS technology will not stop on a short notice! Still exiting times are ahead for the imaging engineers and the imaging community.

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USA-China Trade War Creates Opportunities for Smartsens

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EJInsight: Lap Man, a founder of Beyond Ventures in Hing Kong and one of SmartSens investors, believes that the tension between the USA and China creates new opportunities ahead for chip makers like SmartSens Tech. “Under the trade war, many firms have no choice but to consider using chips made in China, which presents a unique opportunity for Chinese chipmakers.

Beyond Ventures has participated in a funding round of SmartSens Tech, led by Samsung and ARM China.

Digitimes writes about Smartsens (in Microsoft translation):

"Headquartered in Shanghai's Weihe River High-tech Development Zone, a CIS component manufacturer has achieved the world's first shipment of security monitoring applications for two consecutive years, namely - SmartSens.

As a CIS company founded in 2011, it "miraclely" opened up about innovation - since 2015, SmartSens has moved into the field of security surveillance and has grown rapidly and received attention; Multiple areas, such as artificial intelligence, have handed over some remarkable transcripts.

SmartSens' rapid growth is inseparable from the partnership with the drivers behind Taiwan's supply chain. In the competitive field of integrated component factory strong hand ring, CMOS sense from "traditional" to "intelligent" change, during which the change of AI technology is a very big challenge to CMOS sensing components, but also has great opportunities for development.

SmartSens CMO Chris Yiu says the key requirement in the field of security surveillance is near-infrared sensitivity, as most security surveillance cameras use NIR LED lights for night vision imaging. SmartSens' partnership with Taiwan Plant is dedicated to improving the sensitivity of sensing components in the 850-940nm range and is the first to launch new products with these improvements in 2017.

"All of SmartSens' mid- to high-end products now offer this near-infrared enhancement as standard. We see this as an essential technological improvement for the entire industry, Chris Yiu said.

SmartSens Taiwan institutional investment Puxun Innovation General Manager, "Image recognition will become the focus of the future semiconductor industry growth, as a leading technology CMOS image sensor chip company, SmartSens in recent years has been at the forefront of technology, and very optimistic about SmartSens and fabs, sealing plant depth cooperation brought about by the comprehensive effect." The Pusus Innovation team will work with partners in the industry to continue to help SmartSens thrive.

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Beyond Ventures: US-China Trade War Creates Opportunities for Smartsens

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EJInsight: Lap Man, a founder of Beyond Ventures in Hong Kong and one of SmartSens investors, believes that the tensions between the USA and China create new opportunities ahead for chip makers like SmartSens Tech. “Under the trade war, many firms have no choice but to consider using chips made in China, which presents a unique opportunity for Chinese chipmakers.

Beyond Ventures has participated in a funding round of SmartSens Tech, led by Samsung and ARM China, according to Lap Man.

Update: Smartsens CMO Ms. Chris You has contacted me and corrected the above statements: "First, I should note that Mr. Lap Man’s opinion is his alone, and although he is an investor, he does not represent SmartSens’ viewpoint. Therefore, I believe your title could mislead some readers to think that SmartSens is attempting to benefit from the current situation. However, the truth is quite the opposite: It is our opinion that neither semiconductor customers nor anyone in the semiconductor supply chain can truly operate independently at this time, and no party benefits from a trade war."

Digitimes writes about Smartsens (in Microsoft translation).

Update: Smartsens kindly sent me a high-quality human translation of the article. See the quotes below.

"SmartSens Technology has emerged as one of the area’s premier CIS vendors. The company is located in Shanghai’s Caohejing High-Tech Park and has held the honor of World's No. 1 CIS Vendor in Security Surveillance Shipments for the past two consecutive years [TSR Report H1 2019]. Founded in 2011, SmartSens has focused on delivering high-performance CIS solutions for security applications and has also gained traction in several other vertical markets such as automotive electronics, consumer electronics (such as drones and robots), and artificial intelligence (with applications such as facial recognition-based payments).

SmartSens’ rapid growth can be tied to its innovative pairing of high-quality CMOS sensors with cutting-edge artificial intelligence, much of which is rooted in the capabilities of its Taiwanese supply chain. For example, the SmartGS™ series SC132GS, based on the global shutter technology using the BSI Stacked process fabricated in Taiwan’s major foundry company, has excellent performance at high frame rate of 120fps, optimized near-infrared sensitivity and excellent shutter efficiency.

The company’s CMO Chris Yiu ...noted that the key requirement in security surveillance applications is near-infrared sensitivity, because most security surveillance cameras use 850-940nm range NIR LED lights for night-time image capture. SmartSens’ partnership with its Taiwan factory has been committed to improving the sensitivity of the NIR range, and resulted in an industry first, when it launched its CIS solution in 2017. "Today, all mid- to high-segment SmartSens products provide this near-infrared enhancement as a standard feature, but we pioneered this pathway, and we continue to advance the technology for the benefit of the entire industry," said Ms. Yiu.

Eric Chu, General Manager of SmartSens’ Taiwan institutional investment company WK Innovation Ltd., noted: "Image sensing will become the focus of future growth in the semiconductor industry. As a leading CMOS image sensor chip company, SmartSens has been at the forefront of sensor innovation in the many touchpoints of our supply chain. We’re optimistic about the positive feedback loop brought on by in-depth collaboration between SmartSens and the fab and packaging and testing plants."

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Vidicon vs CCD vs CMOS at CERN

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GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany, publishes Arxiv.org paper "Video Cameras used in Beam Instrumentation -- an Overview" by B. Walasek-Hoehne, K. Hoehne, R. Singh. The paper has been presented at CERN Accelerator School: Course on Beam Instrumentation, in June 2018, Tuusula, Finland.

"Imaging systems have been an integral part of many beam monitors since the early days of accelerator diagnostics. The main application remains the observation of scintillating screens during commissioning, alignment and routine operation with the beam. Recorded images are often further analyzed to characterize the beam distribution for machine optimization. This report provides an overview of imaging technologies and market trends of today. The image sensor, like TV tubes and solid state sensors (CCD, CMOS and CID), with particular focus on the aspects important for beam instrumentation will be discussed. Digital image acquisition as well as camera interfaces and radiation effects will be also presented."

"For the video tube camera like Vidicon, there is no radiation limit as proven by many years of operation at CERN SPS and only aging of the optics caused by irradiation can limit the system performance.

In comparison, a standard CCD camera at the same position went out of order within two weeks.

"The CID-based camera exhibits a significant improvement for operation in a radiation rich environment as compared to the CCD and CMOS-based cameras. No significant change in the camera performance like quality of image, loss of contrast and resolution was observed. This is inline with the tests performed by the manufacturer. These devices were found to be tolerant to gammas, neutrons, high energy electrons and proton radiation to at least 30 kGy. First noticeable degradation in the image quality was reported for 140 kGy exposure.

CCD and CMOS are typically not radiation hard; they can survive irradiation up to 100 Gy.

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Omdia: Under-Display Fingerprint Market Grew 8x in 2019, Keeps Growing in 2020

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Omdia: Global shipments of fingerprint-on-display (FoD) sensors expanded by nearly a factor of eight in 2019 as these devices increasingly replace conventional capacitive chips in smartphones.

A total of 228.3M FoD sensors were shipped in 2019, up 674% from 29.5M in 2018, according to Omdia. With FoD sensors having reached the sweet spot for market pricing, FoD shipments are expected to continue rising at a tremendous rate in 2020, expanding to more than 400M units.

FoD sensors have become a critical biometric identification technology for smartphones,” said Calvin Hsieh, director, touch and user interface at Omdia. “Today’s smartphone displays are longer than ever, completely covering the front sides of handsets and leaving no space to locate capacitive fingerprint sensor chips on the surface. FoD sensors bypass this issue because they are hidden beneath the display, allowing them to avoid influencing the appearance of smartphones. This advantage is generating massive demand growth for FoD sensors.

More than 70 smartphone models integrated FoD in 2019. FoD technologies are mature and affordable, so the ASP of a fingerprint module can be as low as about $3 to $4, which is more cost-effective than alternative 3D facial recognition technologies.

Goodix is the leading FoD solution supplier with a 50% market share. The company has benefited from sales to Chinese smartphone brands.

Optical imaging CIS solutions accounted for a 79% shipment share of the FoD market, while the ultrasonic approach held 21% of the market in 2019. Due to growing market demand and more suppliers entering the business, Omdia estimates the optical imaging CIS solutions will grab an 88% share of shipments in 2020. FoD solution providers are also offering thinner microlens types of FoD solutions, which can reduce space usage to make room for more battery capacity inside of smartphones.

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Sony Announces CIS with Embedded AI Processor

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PRNewswire: Sony announces the upcoming release of two intelligent vision sensors, said to be the first image sensors in the world to be equipped with AI processing functionality. Including AI processing functionality on the image sensor itself enables high-speed edge AI processing and extraction of only the necessary data, which, when using cloud services, reduces data transmission latency, addresses privacy concerns, and reduces power consumption and communication costs. The new products are aimed to a diverse range of applications in the retail and industrial equipment industries and contributing to building optimal systems that link with the cloud.

The pixel chip is back-illuminated and has approximately 12.3MP eff. In addition to the conventional image sensor operation circuit, the logic chip is equipped with Sony's original DSP dedicated to AI signal processing, and memory for the AI model. This configuration eliminates the need for high-performance processors or external memory, making it ideal for edge AI systems.

Signals acquired by the pixel chip are run through an DSP and AI processing is done in the process stage on the logic chip, and the extracted information is output as metadata, reducing the amount of data handled. Ensuring that image information is not output helps to reduce security risks and address privacy concerns. In addition to the image recorded by the conventional image sensor, users can select the data output format according to their needs and uses, including ISP format output images (YUV/RGB) and ROI specific area extract images.

The new sensor products from Sony perform ISP processing and high-speed AI processing (3.1ms processing for MobileNet V1) on the logic chip, completing the entire process in a single video frame. This design makes it possible to deliver high-precision, real-time tracking of objects while recording video.

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SK Telecom Starts Deploying Photon Shot Noise-Based Security

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SK Telecom together with Samsung and Switzerland-based ID Quantique officially introduces the Galaxy A Quantum, said to be the world’s first 5G smartphone equipped with a quantum random number generator (QRNG).

The Galaxy A Quantum is equipped with the world’s smallest QRNG chipset S2Q000 measuring 2.5mm x 2.5mm. This QRNG chipset allows smartphone holders to use selected services in a safe and secure manner by generating true random numbers that cannot be hacked.

Users of the Galaxy A Quantum will go through two-factor authentication (2FA) – i.e. ID login and quantum one-time password (OTP) authentication - when they log in with their T-IDs. By adding OTP authentication as an extra layer of protection, the new QRNG-powered smartphone ensures strong protection for users’ online accounts.

2FA for T-ID is expected to be well utilized as T-ID login is applied to SK Telecom’s 28 services including 11st (online marketplace), T Map (mobile navigation), Wavve (OTT platform), Flo (music streaming), T Membership (subscriber membership) and Nugu (AI platform/speaker).

Customers will also benefit from advanced protection while making payments via the SK Pay app at offline affiliate stores such as convenience stores and restaurants. Going forward, SK Telecom plans to expand the feature to the mobile apps of SK Pay affiliate stores.

Last year, SK Telecom and ID Quantique have been awarded quantum communication network building projects in the U.S. and Europe (EU), and applied QRNG to SK Telecom’s 5G authentication center (AuC) for the first time in the world. Going forward, SK Telecom will expand its footprint in the quantum security business by integrating QRNGs to more devices and networks.

Securing mobiles phones has become a top priority for mobile operators, who are also looking to generate new revenues,” Says Grégoire Ribordy, co-founder and CEO of ID Quantique. “With its compact size and low power consumption, our latest Quantis QRNG chip can be embedded in any smartphone, to ensure trusted authentication and encryption of sensitive information. It will bring a new level of security to the mobile phone industry.

With the release of the Galaxy A Quantum, we are opening a new chapter in the history of the quantum security industry,” said Ryu Young-sang, VP and Head of MNO Business of SK Telecom. “We will offer differentiated security solutions to enable our customers to use ICT services in a safe and secure manner in the hyper-connected era of 5G.

ID Quantique adds few more details pn its solution inside Samsung smartphone:

"Generating strong keys from a reliable entropy source is the cornerstone of any security system. IDQ’s Quantis QRNG chip (IDQ250C2) is the first Quantum Random Number Generator designed and manufactured specifically for mobile handsets. It generates provably unbiased and unpredictable randomness with high entropy from the very first bit from the shot noise of a light source captured by a CMOS image sensor, a patented quantum technology from ID Quantique.

IDQ’s Quantis QRNG chip (IDQ250C2) is low profile, small footprint, and now makes our connected world more secure.

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