Archives for January 2016

Sony Earnings Call Transcript

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SeekingAlpha publishes Sony quarterly earnings call transcript. Few quotes on the company's image sensor and camera module business status:

"We believe that demand for our devices could decelerate in the near term. In our image sensor business, we have changed our forecast to assume a slowdown in the growth of the market for smartphones. In fact, there's a risk that the market for high-end smartphones might decrease due to the issue in emerging markets I just mentioned.

In light of this situation, the management team of Sony is taking quick action. We have instructed our sales team to more aggressively approach smartphone makers, particularly those we had to turn away last year when we were supply-constrained. We have made the decision to postpone our plan to reach production capacity of 87,000 wafers per month by the end of September 2016.

Finally, we are seriously considering utilizing a portion of our facility in Oita we bought from Toshiba to manufacture logic instead of photodiodes which could lead to a reduction in the cost of our sensors. Although we are taking these actions so as to mitigate the downsized rate in this business, we are confident that in the long-term prospects of image sensors, because we think there is room to expand their use in [indiscernible] cameras, automobiles and the Internet of Things.

We also believe that one of our competitive advantage in the image sensor space comes from the fact that we manufacture the sensor in-house. Thus, we believe that the investments we have made in production capacity for sensors will be variable going forward.

"The possibility that we might have to impair assets in our camera module business comes from problems we had when we're starting up this business. And the decrease in projected future demand from high-end smartphone makers."

"Last fiscal year, we received larger orders than expected in image sensor business. This cause our ability to supply the market to be constrained, a situation that continued through the beginning of current fiscal year.

Then, in the summer of 2015, we had an issue with our production equipment, which resulted in our having to decline orders from the 13 customers. After we resolved this production issue and after new capacity had just come online orders from our customers started to decline due to softer end-user demand for smartphones.

Further complicating matters were the fact that we supply custom design sensors to some of our major customers, and there is an approximately five-month lead time to manufacture our sensors. As a result, it is difficult to switch our products in line over the other customers quickly. We believe that image sensor business will start to recover from the first quarter of next fiscal year, but we will formulate our business plan based on an assumption that growth of the smartphone market will slow.

Quotes from Q&A sennsion:

"Well, we expect to make some recovery in first quarter in fiscal year 2016 because we already have orders for that. And as I said, we are expecting now almost no growth in the smartphone market. So, I think we are currently conservative about the prospect of the fiscal year 2016.

However, currently, we are aggressively doing the promotion of the image sensor business particularly for the Chinese player which we lost when our production is constrained. So, at this moment, we are in the middle of the budget process. So I cannot specify the prize of worrying over utilization as this point in time.

"Well, in capacity, we have a plan to increase our capacity to 87,000 by September this year and approximately 20% of that capacity increase here so-called half portion. So, currently we are evaluating the current production and I think the production adjustment would be quite concentrated in that 20% portion. However, we haven't decided whether we will reduce or we will change the current planned expansion [indiscernible] at this point in time."

"Well, for next year, our so-called dual lens – dual camera platform will be launched by, we believe, from major smartphone players. However, as I said previously, recently, our smartphone market is growing and particularly, our high-end smartphone market is now slowing down. So, that may impact the demand or production schedule of dual camera smartphones by the major smartphone manufacturers. So, we believe the real start, the takeoff of smartphone with dual lens camera will be in the year of 2017."

"And as for the modules, as you may know, we are a newcomer in this business. And two years ago, we started this business. However, at the beginning, we had failed to supply the initial product. And after that, we are gradually improving our production itself. And now we are keeping very high yield level. At this moment, the forecast for the smartphone business itself is now declining. That's why we explained about the possibility of the impairment of the module.

And as for the size or timing of the impairment of the module, at this point in time, we cannot comment on that. But as Takeda-san said, approximately a little bit less than 15% of the Device asset is in module.

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Sony Reports "Significant" Decrease in Image Sensor Sales

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Sony reports its earnings for the fiscal quarter ended on Dec. 31, 2015. For the Device segment, "Sales decreased 12.6% year-on-year (a 16% decrease on a constant currency basis) to 249.9 billion yen (2,082 million U.S. dollars). This decrease was primarily due to a significant decrease in sales of image sensors, reflecting a decrease in demand for mobile products, and a significant decrease in battery business sales. This sales decrease was partially offset by an increase in sales of camera modules which were lower than originally forecasted and the impact of foreign exchange rates. Sales to external customers decreased 7.5% year-on-year.

Operating loss of 11.7 billion yen (97 million U.S. dollars) was recorded, compared to an operating income of 53.8 billion yen in the same quarter of the previous fiscal year. This significant deterioration was primarily due to the deterioration in the operating results of the battery business, including the recording of a 30.6 billion yen (255 million U.S. dollars) impairment charge related to long-lived assets, increases in depreciation and amortization expenses as well as in research and development expenses for image sensors and camera modules, and the impact of the decrease in sales of image sensors.

Sony also revises its future sales forecast:

"Sales are expected to be lower than the October forecast primarily due to significantly lower than expected sales of image sensors and camera modules, reflecting a decrease in demand for mobile products and lower than expected sales in the battery business. The forecast for operating income is expected to be significantly lower than the October forecast primarily due to the impact of the above-mentioned decrease in sales and the recording of an impairment charge related to long-lived assets in the battery business during the current quarter.

Sony is currently formulating its business plan for all of its business segments for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017. With regard to the camera module business, there is a possibility that factors such as a decrease in projected future demand, which caused a downward revision in the forecast for the current fiscal year for the business, could continue to have a negative impact on the business going forward. It is therefore possible that the above-described business environment might result in an impairment charge against long-lived assets in the camera module business.

Update: Few more slides from the Sony earnings webcast:

The webcast gives quite many details and explanations on the image sensor and camera module business, starting from time 6:49 to 12:26. In Q&A #1, Sony says that it expects the business recovery to start in Q1 next fiscal year, beginning in April 2016.

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EETimes on Stacking and FD-SOI in Image Sensors

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EETimes publishes its analysis of stacking and FD-SOI trends in image sensors, helped by Yole Developpement. Few quotes:

"Yole estimated that in 2015, 27% of CIS revenues were generated from stacked chips, which the firm described as “roughly the market share of Sony.”

It is
[Pierre Cambou's, activity leader, Imaging & Sensors at Yole Développement] opinion that “up to now, only Sony is mastering the [chip stacking] technique.” Although Samsung and Omnivision publicized stacked chip releases, they have not been able to scale up, Cambou observed.

One Japanese industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told EE Times that he suspects Sony is likely well advanced in its FD-SOI project for CMOS image sensors.

Yole’s Cambou believes that FD-SOI could open a host of new possibilities for next-generation CIS. The challenge of FDSOI is the added cost (per mm2) that puts even more strain on the yield issue, said Cambou. At the same time, it is “probably a good opportunity for Sony to deepen the gap with its competitors.

Two Yole's slides from the article:

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Samsung and OmniVision Stacked Sensors Reverse Engineering

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Chipworks publishes Samsung S5K3P3SX and OmniVision OV23850 1st generation stacked sensors analysis reports. Few slides from the Chipworks' presentation:

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Hua Capital, CITIC Capital and Goldstone Investment Complete Acquisition of OmniVision

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PRNewswire: OmniVision and a consortium composed of Hua Capital, CITIC Capital, and Goldstone Investment announce completion of the previously announced acquisition of OmniVision. Trading of OmniVision common stock on NASDAQ has been halted before the opening of the market today and will be suspended effective as of the close of business today. OmniVision stockholders will receive $29.75 per share in cash, or a total of approximately $1.9 billion.

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Movidius Signs "Substantial" Sales Deal with Google

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Independent: Movidius signes a "substantial" sales deal with Google. The deal is said to be the first in an expected series of announcements to be made by Movidius with big international companies as it seeks to establish a global position at the top of the emerging IoT market.

Google intends to use Movidius vision processor to build as-yet unnamed products that can handle large amounts of computer processing by themselves without having to beam the raw data back to servers or data centres for interpretation.

"Think of a security camera," Sean Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of Movidius. "Using our chip, it can understand what it's seeing or hearing without being told by a more powerful machine in a data centre. In this way it can act with more autonomy and in a more unsupervised way."

"What Google has been able to achieve with neural networks is providing us with the building blocks for machine intelligence, laying the groundwork for the next decade of how technology will enhance the way people interact with the world," said Blaise Agϋera y Arcas, head of Google's machine intelligence group in Seattle. "By working with Movidius, we're able to expand this technology beyond the data center and out into the real world, giving people the benefits of machine intelligence on their personal devices."

Update: Movidius publishes a Youtube video with explanations:

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ST Reports SPAD Business Success

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STMicro Q4 2015 earnings call gives few bits of info on its SPAD business: "in our Imaging business, we started to demonstrate success with our refocused strategy of specialized image and photonic sensors. In fact, our FlightSense technology was integrated in over 20 phones during 2015 and we passed the milestone of 50 million units shipped."

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Self-Driving Car Forecast

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McKinsey & Company comes with both more optimistic and less optimistic forecasts of self-driving car adoption - the next big market for image sensors:

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Videantis Partners with Almalence

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Videantis licenses Almalence image enhancement algorithms that increase resolution, improve low light sensitivity, and expand DR. Videantis licenses low-power vision/video processor IP suited to run such algorithms more efficiently in silicon, said to achieve up to 100x performance increase, and 1000x power reduction as compared to CPUs and GPUs. Besides targeting mobile phones, the purpose for cooperation is to bring Almalence’s SuperSensor technology to the automotive semiconductor market.

Hans-Joachim Stolberg, videantis CEO, said, “The next big increase in image quality will not come from new lenses or sensors, but from computational photography algorithms such as Almalence’s. Our customers are already experiencing the “wow” effect of the Almalence algorithms and we’re excited to bring their revolutionary software to the videantis processor architecture, enabling the low power and high performance levels that are needed to bring this technology to embedded camera devices.

As we started porting our algorithms to the videantis processor, we were impressed with the low power and high performance levels achievable. We can now run our most complex algorithms in higher resolutions and frame rates,” stated Eugene Panich, Almalence CEO. “It’s clear to us why several semiconductor companies have already adopted the videantis processor architecture for their visual processing needs.

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Image Processors at ISSCC 2016

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EETimes publishes a nice summary of image and vision processor papers at the oncoming ISSCC:

"Image processing in fact is one of the most popular ISSCC topics, appearing in the session on “Digital Processors” and again in the session on “Next-Generation Processing.” While dramatic new application areas for image processors include gesture-recognition and augmented reality, automotive driving assistance systems (ADAS) are among the most popular. With research and development on autonomous vehicles increasing, the need for faster detection of obstacles in a vehicle’s path becomes acute. Head mounted displays with augmented reality (HMD/AR) systems are intended to calculate the scenario for what’s going to happen on the roadway ahead of a speeding car. Processors in the imaging sessions will describe the impact of deep learning algorithms (like convolutional neural networks, CNN or K-nearest-neighbors, KNN). These processers support a range of machine learning applications, including computer vision, object detection (apart from what’s on the roadway), and handwriting recognition."

"One paper from KAIST (in the “Next-Generation” session) will present a low-power natural user interface processor with an embedded deep learning engine. The device is fabricated in 65nm CMOS. It claims a higher recognition rate over the best-in-class pattern recognition. Another paper from KAIST presents a dedicated high-performance advanced driver assistance SoC, capable of identifying potentially “risky objects” in automotive systems. This chip is also implemented in 65nm CMOS, and, Kaist claims, was successfully tested in an autonomous vehicle."

"In the “Digital Processors” session, Renesas will present a 12-channel video-processing chip for ADAS — implemented in 16nm FinFET CMOS."

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Image Sensor Courses in Europe

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CEI-Europe announces four Image Sensor courses to take place in Barcelona and Amsterdam in Q2 2016. The courses leader is Albert Theuwissen.

Introductory level courses, aimed at engineers, managers and product developers new to the field, are:
And for those with a good understanding of electronics, physics and mathematics, advanced courses include

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IS Auto vs AutoSens

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Robert Stead sent me an email clarifying the difference between IS Auto and AutoSens conferences:

"It has come to my attention recently that the position regarding IS Auto and AutoSens is not 100% clear, and there is some confusion as a result of both events being in the marketplace and who is organising each. As such I wanted to write to you personally to clarify the situation and ensure you have all the information so you can decide which event you attend in 2016.

In 2014, I was working with Smithers and set up the IS Auto conference along with conference chairman Patrick Denny, and several other advisors including Sven Fleck, Alain Dunoyer, Martin Edney, Martin Punke and Mike Brading. We ran two very successful events in 2014 and 2015.

In July 2015 I decided to leave the Smithers company and set up my own business (Sense Media) in order to focus on events in digital imaging and other sensor fields. The first of these events is AutoSens, which will retain focus on automotive imaging as a core topic, but which will broaden the scope slightly to include RADAR and LiDAR sensors, as well as more in depth discussion of image processing, standards, system architecture, computer vision and more.

My company will focus on growing this event and community year-round, and broaden the coverage for automotive imaging with increased engagement with the academic community, more international attendance and several new initiatives designed to benefit the engineering community.

All of the advisors who have worked with me previously have all decided to join the AutoSens board and prioritise this event, I am delighted and humbled to have their support and we all believe that AutoSens is the best way to support the automotive imaging community. In Patrick Denny's words, “I believe what Rob is doing with AutoSens is in the best interests of my customers, my suppliers, and my competitors and I give my full backing to this project”.

Other figures in the digital imaging world who have backed AutoSens include Albert Theuwissen, who will deliver an expert workshop at the AutoSens conference.

This message is just intended to present you with the facts, and clarify who is behind the AutoSens event. The AutoSens team and Advisory Board are highly motivated to deliver an event that is of high technical quality and helps engineers throughout the supply chain who are working to develop and improve automotive vision systems. We hope you will join us on this journey.

A full speaker announcement will come next week including confirmed speakers from both established and new entrant OEMs, as well as news about other exciting developments.

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Sony to Acquire LTE Modem Maker

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Sony has reached an agreement with Israeli LTE modem maker Altair Semiconductor to acquire the company for $212M.

"By combining Sony's sensing technologies - such as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and image sensors - with Altair's high-performance, low power consumption and cost-competitive modem chip technology, and by further evolving both, Sony will strive to develop a new breed of cellular-connected, sensing component devices."

"With the acquisition of Altair, Sony aims to not only expand Altair's existing business, but also to move forward with research on and development of new sensing technologies."

"With the markets for wearable and IoT devices expected to continue to expand, Sony aims to deliver component devices that feature both sensing and communication capabilities."

Sony expects to complete the acquisition in early February, 2016.

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Heptagon Announces Multipoint ToF Rangers

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BusinessWire: Heptagon introduces SHILAH and TRINITY ToF 3DRanger sensors. Each sensor can be dynamically configured for a single point or a range of independent measurement points. SHILAH provides 12 measurement points with a 70-degree wide field of view, and TRINITY provides 9 measurement points in a 30-degree field of view. Both are complete modules with an integrated microprocessor, algorithms, optics, a ToF sensor and a light source. Heptagon patented “phase modulation” ToF pixel measures the distance up to 3 meters in normal lighting conditions depending on configuration.

The new multipoint rangers enable applications like scene analysis, edge extrapolation or advanced object detection. In smartphones, for example, these 3DRangers will allow fast autofocus lock for primary and front-facing cameras.

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Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 review – a great telephoto prime for Fuji X!

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Fujifilm's XF 90mm f2 is a bright telephoto lens for X-series bodies. It's the longest prime in the X-series, delivering classic telephoto coverage of 135mm that's ideal for shooting portraits at a comfortable distance, along with capturing close-range sporting action. The f2 focal ratio easily achieves a shallow depth-of-field, the quad-linear motor claims fast and quiet autofocus, and like most recent Fujifilm lenses, it's also sealed against dust and moisture. In my Fujifilm XF 90mm f2 review I'll put it through its paces, with in-depth comparisons against the 56mm f1.2!

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ToF Imaging Tutorial

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Austrian JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH publishes ESSCIRC 2015 tutorial on ToF imaging by David Stoppa, FBK, delivered on Sept. 18, 2015. Few slides:

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Sony CIS Roadmap

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Sony publishes an overview of its CPSE 2015 exhibition booth with info on its new sensors, some to be announced in 2016:

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Lindsay Grant Joins Omnivision

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As Lindsay Grant shows on his LinkedIn page, he has left ST Imaging after 16 years, and joined Omnivision in Santa Clara, CA as VP of Process Engineering.

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Sony to Use FD-SOI in its Stacked Sensors

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EETimes reports from FD-SOI Forum held on Jan 21 in Tokyo, Japan: "the biggest FD-SOI news, which surfaced as chatter and whispering during coffee breaks at the Forum (rather than on the formal agenda), is that Sony is looking to use FD-SOI for the image signal processor (ISP) on stacked CMOS Image Sensors (CIS).

Although this buzz was also confirmed outside the Forum, neither Globalfoundries nor Sony is talking.

Three industry sources, however, independently told EE Times that chip stack CIS will open FD-SOI’s much needed, genuine volume market. Sony, today, is the world’s largest CIS supplier.

Word on the street is that Sony will be working with Globalfoundries on chip stack CIS, instead of Samsung. The Japanese consumer electronics giant wants to avoid any potential conflict with Samsung (who is also in the CIS business).

Ray Fontaine, Senior Technology Analyst at Chipworks, said that Sony is using its 65nm process for some of its stacked chip ISPs and TSMC 40nm for the ISPs of others (including recent iPhone stacked chip CIS).

Pierre Cambou, activity leader, Imaging & Sensors at Yole Développement, said that using FD-SOI for ISPs “would be a very interesting technical option to minimize the heat generated by the ‘ISP’ secondary chip.

Presently, Sony uses Globalfoundries FD-SOI process for its 10mW low power GPS chip, with main end application being Casio GPS watches. However, its next generation has been reported to use ST 28nm FD-SOI process.

Update: Samsung FD-SOI slide suggests that there is an activity on integrating it with CIS:

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Dynamax CEO Murder Trial

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Rochester Democrat & Chronicle publishes a report from the Dynamax Imaging CEO Jim Tan murder trial. "Tan's son, Charlie, was charged with second-degree murder in the death. The trial ended in a mistrial as jurors did not reach a unanimous verdict and County Court Judge James Piampiano later made the startling ruling to dismiss the charges against the 20-year-old Cornell University sophomore altogether."

"Coworkers — who later either couldn’t be reached or declined to discuss Jim Tan — testified that the 49-year-old could be tyrannical and brow-beating.

Michael Sullivan, a senior production manager at Dynamax who’d worked with Jim Tan even before Tan founded Dynamax in 2003, said Jim Tan was a bully who tried to intimidate him and would “tell people different stories to pit them against each other” and would gather workers together to belittle them in front of their coworkers.

Meghan Johnson, a 27-year-old production technician at Dynamax and likely the last person to communicate with Tan through email, said she largely avoided Tan’s tantrums, but that she had seen them — seen him yell, belittle people and throw things around the office.

Thanks to MJ for the link!

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8th Fraunhofer IMS Workshop on CMOS Imaging – Seeing the Future

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The 8th Fraunhofer IMS CMOS Imaging Workshop in Duisburg, Germany will takes place on May 9-10, 2016. The workshop agenda includes a lot of interesting stuff:

Advances in CMOS Imaging
  • CMOS Image Sensors: Masterpieces of 3D-Integration
    Albert Theuwissen, Harvest Imaging
  • Improving Customization by Image Simulations
    Karsten Sengebusch, Eureca
  • Switching from Sensing for Imaging to Imaging for Sensing
    Pierrre Cambou, Yole
Technology and Testing
  • Foundry Services for CIS
    Gerhard Spitzlsperger, LFoundry
  • Test Solutions for High End Imagers
    Marcus Verhoeven, Aspect Systems
Single-Photon Sensing
  • SPADs in CMOS Technology
    Alexander Schwinger, Fraunhofer IMS
  • SPAD Sensors for 3D Range Finding
    Carl Jackson, SensL
  • Time-Correlated Single Photon Counting with SPAD Arrays
    Simone Tisa, MPD
  • Miniaturization of 3D sensors
    Markus Rossi, Heptagon
  • Practical Depth Imaging
    Giora Yahav, Microsoft
Automotive Sensors
  • Driving Vision Applications in ADAS
    Heinrich Gotzig, Valeo
  • Optical Sensors for ADAS
    Thomas Fechner, Continental
Advanced Applications
  • Embedded Cameras for Drones
    Benoit Pochon, Parrot
  • Image Sensors for Space Applications
    Bart Dierickx, Caeleste
  • Trends in the Industrial Camera Market
    René von Fintel, Basler

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MALS Focusing System in AR Applications

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Korea-based SD Optics publishes a demo video of its MALS focusing system in AR applications:

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Apple Code Hints of Internal Work on Li-Fi

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AppleInsider reports that the recent versions of iOS code have been found to contain references to Li-Fi. "In addition to the software references, Apple is known to be working on hardware implementations for light-based wireless data transfer, or optical wireless communication."

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Himax Launches Ultra Low Power Sensor for Computer Vision Apps

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GlobeNewsWire: Himax Imaging announces the HM01B0, an ultra-low power QVGA sensor that consumes less than 700µW when operating at QQVGA resolution of 30 fps, and less than 2mW when operating at QVGA resolution with support for even lower power modes.

The HM01B0 ultra-low power consumption allows the sensor to be placed in a constant state of operation, enabling “always on”, contextually aware, computer vision capabilities such as feature extraction, proximity sensing, gesture recognition, object tracking and pattern identification.

The HM01B0 integrates a motion detection circuit with an interrupt output pin, and an automatic exposure and gain control loop to minimize host processor computation as well as data communication to reduce system power. The sensor utilizes an advanced 3.6µm pixel technology that offers sensitivity of below 1 lux. The sensor’s reflowable chip scale package measures less than 5mm2 and requires only three passive components to support a highly compact camera module and miniature wafer level module assembly.

Our image sensors for notebook and smartphone applications, such as our ¼" 8MP MIPI sensor, have been among the lowest power in the industry,” stated Jordan Wu, CEO of Himax Technologies. “We believe that the HM01B0 is the lowest power CMOS image sensor in the industry with similar resolution, while offering outstanding sensor performance and high level of feature integration. We are excited to build upon our core competence to develop a new class of sensors that will support very low power computer vision to enable new applications across smartphones, tablets, AR/VR devices, IoT, and artificial intelligence for consumer, medical, and industrial markets. With this new ultra-low power sensor, Himax has been working with leading consumer electronic brand customers and major platform providers to help develop innovative features and reduce power consumption of existing cameras. We have received a good level of interest from quite a few of the industry’s leading players.

Himax believes its HM01B0 is the best solution on the market to meet the ever-growing computer vision and power saving expectations and can be universally adopted for mobile devices, AR/VR devices, IoT, and artificial intelligence applications. The HM01B0 will be available in both monochrome and color options. The sensor can also integrate into Wafer Level Modules to be available for selected customers and partners in Q1 2016.

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FlexEnable and ISORG Present 1MP Flexible Image Sensor

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FlexEnable (used to be Plastic Logic) and ISORG reveal the world’s first large area flexible fingerprint sensor on plastic designed for biometric applications. With an 8.6 cm x 8.6 cm active area, 84µm pitch (78µm pixel size with 6µm spacing) and 1024 x 1024 = 1048576 pixel resolution, the flexible sensor is 0.3 mm thick and can operate in visible and NIR up to wavelengths of 900 nm. Other that fingerprint, the technology is also capable of measuring the configuration of veins in the fingers, providing additional security versus that of a surface fingerprint alone.

This new sensor is made by deposition of organic printed photodetectors (OPD) by ISORG onto a plastic organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane, developed by FlexEnable. The large label-thin sensing area can be applied to almost any surface – and even wrapped around the objects in our daily lives that we typically come into contact with – such as a car steering wheel that recognises the driver as soon as the wheel is touched, or a credit card with integrated biometric detection.

Chuck Milligan, CEO of FlexEnable, said: “FlexEnable’s ground-breaking flexible electronics technology in combination with ISORG’s unrivalled expertise in OPDs and large area image sensors brings game-changing capabilities for biometric detection that can be applied to almost any surface – anything from door handles to wrists. For example, imagine a mobile device whose surface or edges know who is holding or touching the device. Such capabilities are viable because of the flexibility, thinness, and much lower cost per unit area compared to silicon area sensors.

Jean-Yves Gomez, CEO of ISORG, said: “This break-through development will spark the creation of next-generation products in biometrics. No other solution can offer large area sensing as well as finger print and veins recognition while being flexible, light and robust. Moreover, our team is able to provide reference design as well as image improvement algorithms and illumination solutions to ease the sensor integration into new applications.

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Biological Eye Evolution

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National Geographic publishes a nice article on biological eye evolution and vision of different animals:

The magazine also publishes a short video on that:

Thanks to DSSB for the link!

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Camera Module Industry Report

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ResearchInChina publishes the 2015 update of its "Global and China CCM (CMOS Camera Module) Industry Report." Few quotes, starting from CMOS image sensor market overview:

"In CIS field, shipments are expected to amount to 4,196 million units in 2015 and 4,390 million units in 2016, up 8.8% and 4.6% against the previous year, respectively, compared with annual growth of 11.5% in 2014, indicating a further slowdown. The market size is predicted to be USD9.16 billion in 2015 and USD9.628 billion in 2016, a year-on-year rise of 4.6% and 5.1%, respectively, compared with annual increase of 10.7% in 2014. Except for On-Semi, Sony and Sharp, all other vendors experienced declines... On-Semi is a bellwether in automotive CIS field, seizing nearly 50% market share. As integration went well very after acquisition of Aptina by On-Semi, combined with explosive growth in automotive camera market, On-Semi embraced rapid development in its CIS business, and is expected to record revenue of USD720 million in 2015, including USD400 million from automotive field, a surge of more than 100%.

Global CCM market size was worth USD16.247 billion in 2015, a year-on-year rise of 3.8% from 2014, the slowest rate since 2010. It is expected that growth rate will continue to decelerate in 2016, only 1.3%, but bounce back slightly to 1.6% in 2017 with a market size of USD16.732 billion.

Largan Precision still outshined others in Lens field with high-speed growth, while the rest of vendors almost all suffered setback in Lens business, except for the vendors with automotive Lens business which witnessed significant growth in such field but with a low ASP. Sunny Optical still ranked first globally in automotive Lens; Kantatsu, a subsidiary of Sharp, made its way into the supply chain of Apple with considerable performance growth.

Japanese companies dominated OIS market with Alps and Mitsumi tied for the first place and both being major suppliers for Apple. In addition, Mitsumi also aggressively marched into Chinese mainland market, planning to invest JPY25 billion to expand capacity over the next two years with the aim of competing for the global champion with Alps.

Bi-Direction and Close-Loop have become two main technologies in VCM field. Japanese vendors exited from low-end VCM field and focused on OIS or Bi-Direction and Close-Loop. The emergence of mainland Chinese companies in low-end market resulted in fierce competition.

In an increasingly competitive CCM field, the majority of companies were caught in the price war and the market became more concentrated. Many vendors registered higher shipments but smaller revenue, even the number of pixel increased. Sharp, performing the best, became the second largest supplier for Apple that placed more orders with Sharp so as to reduce its reliance on LG-INNOTEK, but LG-INNOTECK was still the largest supplier for Apple and ranked first by revenue globally. Cowell, the third largest supplier for Apple, also did very well, and was one of few companies with improved gross margin. SEMCO won more orders from Samsung. Sunny Optical, the No. 1 mainland Chinese vendor, maintained the momentum of strong growth but with a stagnant gross margin, and started shifting its focus to Lens field in the hope of raising its overall growth margin. LITEON selectively gave up low-end business and saw a decline in orders from its major customer Samsung, leading to a collapse in revenue. MCNEX found strong growth in revenue by relying on automotive business.

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Sigma 24-35mm f2 ART review – flexibility and quality!

Camera Labs and DSLR Tips latest news and reviews        Go to the original article...

The Sigma 24-35mm f2.0 DG HSM Art is a unique lens offering the popular wide-angle focal lengths with a constant and unusually bright aperture for a zoom. It becomes the second zoom in the ART series, following the 24-105mm and is available in Canon, Nikon, and Sigma mounts with the chance to swap the mount should you change systems in the future; it's also compatible with Sigma's USB dock for fine-tuning or firmware updates. It's fairly large, heavy and expensive, but essentially does the job of three fixed wide-angle primes, and as Thomas discovered, the quality is a lot better than you might expect. Find out why this could be the ultimate wide-zoom in his Sigma 24-35mm f2 review!

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Ceva XM4 Vision Processor Gets Best Processor IP Award

Image Sensors World        Go to the original article...

MarketWired: The Linley Group announces the winners of its annual Analysts' Choice Awards which recognize the top semiconductor products of 2015. Ceva XM4 vision processor won the Award in Best Processor IP category.

"Our awards program not only recognizes excellence in chip design and innovation, but also recognizes the products that our analysts believe will have an impact on future designs," said Linley Gwennap, founder and principal analyst at The Linley Group. "These products significantly improve the design of systems in their target applications."

CEVA XM4 applications

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e2v Proposes Pulsed Antiblooming Gate

Image Sensors World        Go to the original article...

e2v patent application US20160005785 "Image sensor with anti-blooming gate" by Frédéric Barbier and Frédéric Mayer gives the following explanation of the excessive dark current resulting from a positive bias of the antiblooming gate G5:

"If the potential applied to the gate G5 is 0.6 to 1.1 volts, the potential in the active layer 12 beneath the gate G5 will be positive, equal to around 0.2 volts for example. There then exists a strong local electric field beneath the gate at the surface of the silicon towards the edge of the photodiode which is maintained at 0 volts by the surface region 16. This electric field acts by lowering the forbidden band of the semiconductor and by therefore increasing the probability of electrons passing into the conduction band. This is a physical effect of band-to-band tunnelling, which creates a leakage current. Electrons are generated beneath the gate without the lighting being the cause; they will go to be stored in the photodiode with the highest potential. This current can be likened to a dark current since it exists independently of the lighting. This dark current, specifically due to the presence of a difference between the potential beneath the gate and the surface potential of the photodiode, is particularly bothersome when detection of weak lighting is desired. It can be several hundred times higher than if the potential beneath the gate was nil."

Whether this explanation is correct or not, the patent application proposes a pulsed anti-blooming bias to minimize the dark current:

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