Friday, August 29, 2014

Omnivision Reports Quarterly Results, Keeps Quiet on Buyout Offer

PRNewswire: During the last fiscal quarter ended on July 31, 2014, Omnivision shipped 249 million sensors. The non-GAAP gross margin was 22% and net income was $54M, bringing the company cash and short-term investments balance to $524M.

Revenues for the quarter were $406.5M, as compared to $331M in the previous quarter, and $373.7M a year ago. The company expects revenues in the next quarter will be in the range of $360M to $390M.

SeekingAlpha publishes the company's earnings call transcript. Few quotes:

Shaw Hong, CEO:

"The Company's Board of Directors is reviewing and evaluating HCM's proposal. No decision has been made with respect to the proposed transaction. And there are no assurance that this or any other transaction will be consummated. We are focused on our operating our [bench] (ph). We do not intend to provide update with respect to this or any other transaction except as required by applicable law. We think you in advance for your understanding."

"We are also developing a full complement of ASIC with advanced image procession functions by combining our sensors with image processing and other peripheral functions. We can offer our customers with complete imaging system solution, such as in our machine vision products. In our core smartphones, tablet and PC market cameras are enabling new application such as capturing 3D depth information using computational photography to improve image quality and developing new human interface applications. We have partnered with industry leaders to enable 3D depth sensing for both smartphones and tablets."

"We are extremely pleased with our success in China and we expect this market will continue to be a major driver of our future goals."

"We expect India to rapidly grow to become a significant geography for OmniVision over the next few years."

Ray Cisneros, SVP of Worldwide Sales and Sales Operations:

In our first fiscal quarter, we shipped 249 million units, as compared to 201 million units in our prior quarter. The increase in volume was predominately driven by increases in 5-megapixel and HD sensors. The average selling price in our first quarter was $1.63 as compared to $1.64 in our prior quarter.

"Unit sales of 3-megapixel to 5-megapixel category represented approximately 40% of total shipments as compared to 34% in the prior quarter for the same category. The significant increase in unit shipments in this category was predominately driven by larger 5-megapixel sensor shipments to the mainstream smartphone segment in Asia."

Dongbu Foundry to be Sold in September

EETimes: Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (HSMC), Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) and three private equity groups Hahn & Company, Askveritas and Bain Capital have expressed interest in acquiring image sensor foundry Dongbu HiTek. Dongbu and its main creditor, Korea Development Bank, agreed to select the preferred bidder in September 2014. Some of the past and current Dongbu customers are Pixelplus, SiliconFile, SETi, Clairpixel, Rayence, Foveon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

iPhone 6 Camera Expectations

Chipworks analyst Ray Fontaine publishes an analysis "iPhone’s Cameras – What’s Coming in the iPhone 6?" based on the history of iPhone cameras:

Himax To Manufacture 1.12um Pixel Sensor at TowerJazz-Panasonic Fab

Business Wire: TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor Co. announce its first third party CIS customer, Himax Imaging, that is developing the next generation high end cameras for smart phone applications using TPSCo’s 1.12um pixel. The pixel incorporates cutting edge light loss reduction technologies using a proprietary 65nm process, allowing 1.12um pixel with a QE of 74%. Through proprietary design and processing the dark current at 60C is measured at 6.5 electrons per second, and the readout noise is 0.9 electrons.

"Himax Imaging has been focused on delivering high value image sensors to mobile, consumer, surveillance and automotive markets with our ultra low power and low noise architectures. After extensive evaluation of TPSCo’s 1.12um state of the art pixel, we believe that our architecture combined with TPSCo’s advanced 65nm CIS process, which provides extremely low dark noise, high quantum efficiency, and excellent angular response, will enable DSC quality performance for our next generation of high resolution image sensors," said Amit Mittra, VP and CTO of Himax Imaging.

"We are very pleased that Himax Imaging is putting their trust in TowerJazz and is now working with us through TPSCo to enable technological advances for its next generation products," said Avi Strum, VP and GM, CMOS Image Sensor BU, TowerJazz.

"By utilizing the advanced features of our 1.12um-pixel CIS 65nm process, Himax Imaging will offer evermore innovative technology to meet their customers’ -- some of the world’s leading device manufacturers -- growing demands for both high quality, yet cost-effective, cameras for high end smart phone applications. We are excited to work with Himax Imaging and look forward to more product engagements in the future," said Guy Eristoff, CEO, TowerJazz Panasonic Semiconductor Co.

TPSCo’s 1.12um-pixel CIS platform includes: advanced 65nm specialty process for CIS, color filters and micro-lenses, stacked light pipe technology for enhanced optical performance, optical/device simulations design optimization, operating voltage of 1.2/1.8/2.8V, 4LM metallization (3LM-Cu and 1LM-Al) and 32nm pitch M1. For mobile and DSC applications, the features include: high resolution sensors, demanding frame rate, high sensitivity and dynamic range, low dark current, and high angular response performance.

Reuters adds that, according to its sources, "the deal would bring in $20 million a year in revenue for the [TowerJazz-Panasonic] joint venture"

Eric Fossum Receives SMPTE Camera Origination and Imaging Medal

The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) announces its 2014 award winners. "The Camera Origination and Imaging Medal honors the recipient by recognizing significant technical achievements related to invention or advances in imaging technology including sensors, imaging processing electronics, and the overall embodiment and application of image capture devices. Eric R. Fossum will receive the 2014 award in recognition of his leadership in the invention and development of the complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) active pixel sensor (APS) technology. This advancement was first published in 1993 while Fossum worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Additionally, he promoted the new technology to a broad range of manufacturers as a new way of making camera image sensors. CMOS image sensor technology is now widely deployed in motion picture and television cameras, cell phones, medical devices, security systems, and many other professional and consumer applications."

Congratulations, Eric!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Entangled Photon Imaging Promises Unique Features

Nature: A group of researchers propose a photography which uses light that has not interacted with the object being photographed. "This form of imaging uses pairs of photons, twins that are ‘entangled’ in such a way that the quantum state of one is inextricably linked to the other. While one photon has the potential to travel through the subject of a photo and then be lost, the other goes to a detector but nonetheless 'knows' about its twin’s life and can be used to build up an image.

Normally, you have to collect particles that come from the object to image it, says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna who led the work. “Now, for the first time, you don’t have to do that."

One advantage of the technique is that the two photons need not be of the same energy, Zeilinger says, meaning that the light that touches the object can be of a different colour than the light that is detected. For example, a quantum imager could probe delicate biological samples by sending low-energy photons through them while building up the image using visible-range photons and a conventional camera. The work is published in the 28 August issue of Nature.

In fact, the paper has been already published today:

"Quantum imaging with undetected photons"
Gabriela Barreto Lemos, Victoria Borish, Garrett D. Cole, Sven Ramelow, Radek Lapkiewicz & Anton Zeilinger

"Our experiment is fundamentally different from previous quantum imaging techniques, such as interaction-free imaging or ghost imaging, because now the photons used to illuminate the object do not have to be detected at all and no coincidence detection is necessary. This enables the probe wavelength to be chosen in a range for which suitable detectors are not available. To illustrate this, we show images of objects that are either opaque or invisible to the detected photons. Our experiment is a prototype in quantum information—knowledge can be extracted by, and about, a photon that is never detected."

The implementation is quite complex and, probably, can only be used in specialized niche applications, if at all: "Our experiment uses two separate down-conversion nonlinear crystals (numbered NL1 and NL2), each illuminated by the same pump laser, creating one pair of photons (denoted idler and signal). If the photon pair is created in NL1, one photon (the idler) passes through the object to be imaged and is overlapped with the idler amplitude created in NL2, its source thus being undefined. Interference of the signal amplitudes coming from the two crystals then reveals the image of the object. The photons that pass through the imaged object (idler photons from NL1) are never detected, while we obtain images exclusively with the signal photons (from NL1 and NL2), which do not interact with the object."

Softkinetic Presents Human Tracking Library for PS4

PR Newswire: SoftKinetic announces the DepthSense Human Tracking Library (HTLib), for PlayStation 4(PS4). DepthSense HTLib was designed to track up to four players simultaneously, monitoring 21 different joints on each player, like shown in the promotional video:

Movidius Myriad 2 and Project Tango Presentation

BDTi publishes an article on Movidius' recently announced Myriad 2 vision processor, said to be 20 times more power effective than the company's previous generation chip. The sensor is used in Google Project Tango devices, and the article is accompanied by a video presentation by Johnny Lee, the Tango technical leader:

Toshiba Reveals 20MP/22fps Sensor

Business Wire: Toshiba launches T4KA7, a 1/2.4-inch, 20MP BSI sensor enabling 6mm z-height camera modules for smartphones and tablets. The new sensor features 1.12um pixels and improved frame rate of 22fps, 1.8 times faster than that of Toshiba’s previous 20MP sensor.

T4KA7 sample shipments start today. A reference module incorporating the new product is currently under preparation and will be available from Sept 1.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

3D Sensor Market Forecast

Markets and Markets publishes its "3D Sensor Market by Technology" report. The company analysts expect the 3D sensor market to reach $3.4B by 2020 at a CAGR of 23.43% in 2014-2020.

3D Sensor Market by Regions