Tuesday, December 18, 2018

ToF Developers Conference

Espros Photonics announces ToF Developers Conference to be held in San Francisco on January 29–31, 2019:

"A successful design of a 3D TOF camera for example needs a deep understanding of the underlying optical physics - theoretical and practical. In addition, the behavioral model of the imaging system and an excellent understanding of the sensing artifacts in real applications is key knowhow. And further more, thermal management is an issue because these cameras have an active illumination, typically quite powerful. And, as a consequence,
eye-safety becomes an issue as well. A TOF camera consist of 9 functional building blocks which have to be understood and fine-tuned carefully to create a powerful but cost effective design.

So, many more disciplines than just electronics and software are in the game. It's not rocket science, but the relevant understanding of these 9 blocks is a must to know if someone gets the duty to design a 3D TOF camera

There is, at least to our knowledge, no engineering school which addresses TOF and LiDAR as an own discipline. We at ESPROS decided to fill the gap with a training program called TOF Developer Conference. The objective is to provide a solid theoretical background, a guideline to working implementations based on examples and practical work with TOF systems. Thus, the TOF Developer Conference shall become the enabler for electronics engineers (BS and MS in EE engineering) to design working TOF systems. It is ideally for engineers who are or will be, involved in the design of TOF system. We hope that our initiative helps to close the gap between the desire of TOF sensors to massively deployed TOF applications.

Course topics:

TOF history; TOF principles; main parts of a TOF camera; relevant optical physics; light detection; receiver physics; noise considerations; SNR; light emission and light sources; eye safety; light power budget calculation; optics basics; optical systems and key requirements; bringing it all together; electronics, PCB layout guidelines; power considerations; calibration and compensation; filtering computing power requirements; interference detection and suppression; artifacts and how to deal with them; practical lab experiments; Q&A; much more…

The next two ToF conferences are planned to be held in China: Shanghai on April 2, 2019 and Shenzhen on April 9, 2019.

Sony Announces 5.4MP Automotive Sensor with HDR and LED Flicker Mitigation

Sony announces the 1/1.55-inch, 5.4MP (effective) IMX490 CMOS sensor for automotive cameras. Sony will begin shipping samples in March 2019.

The new sensor simultaneously achieves HDR and LED flicker mitigation at what Sony calls the industry’s highest 5.4MP resolution in automotive cameras. Sony has also improved the saturation illuminance through a proprietary pixel structure and exposure method. When using the HDR imaging and LED flicker mitigation functions at the same time, this offers a wide 120dB DR (measured in accordance to the EMVA 1288 standard. 140dB when set to prioritize DR.) This DR is said to be three times higher than that of the previous product. This means highlight oversaturation can be mitigated, even in situations where 100,000 lux sunlight is directly reflecting off a light-colored car in the front, and the like, thereby capturing the subject more accurately even under road conditions where there is a dramatic lighting contrast such as when entering and exiting a tunnel.

Moreover, this unique method is said to prevent motion artifacts that occur when capturing moving subjects compared with other HDR technologies. The new sensor also improves the sensitivity by about 15% compared to that of the previous generation product, improving the capability to recognize pedestrians and obstacles in low illuminance conditions of 0.1 lux, the equivalent of moonlight.

This product is scheduled to meet the AEC-Q100 Grade 2 reliability standards for automobile electronic components for mass production. Sony has also introduced a development process compliant with ISO 26262 functional safety standards for automobiles to ensure that design quality meets the functional safety requirements for automotive applications, thereby supporting functional safety level ASIL D for fault detection, notification and control.*6 Moreover, the new sensor has security functions to protect the output image from tampering.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ambarella Announces 8MP ADAS Processor

BusinessWire: Ambarella introduces the CV22AQ automotive camera SoC, featuring the Ambarella CVflow computer vision architecture for powerful Deep Neural Network (DNN) processing. Target applications include front ADAS cameras, electronic mirrors with Blind Spot Detection (BSD), interior driver and cabin monitoring cameras, and Around View Monitors (AVM) with parking assist. Fabricated in advanced 10nm process technology, its low power consumption supports the small form factor and thermal requirements of windshield-mounted forward ADAS cameras.

The CV22AQ’s CVflow architecture provides computer vision processing in 8MP resolution at 30 fps, to enable object recognition over long distances and with high accuracy. CV22AQ supports multiple image sensor inputs for multi-FOV cameras and can also create multiple digital FOVs using a single high-resolution image sensor to reduce system cost.

To date, front ADAS cameras have been performance-constrained due to power consumption limits inherent in the form factor,” said Fermi Wang, CEO of Ambarella. “CV22AQ provides an industry-leading combination of outstanding neural network performance and very low typical power consumption of below 2.5 watts. This breakthrough in power and performance, coupled with best-in-class image processing, allows tier-1 and OEM customers to greatly increase the performance and accuracy of ADAS algorithms.

SEMI Forecasts Fab Investment Drop

SEMI: Total fab equipment spending in 2019 is projected to drop 8%, a sharp reversal from the previously forecast increase of 7% as fab investment growth has been revised downward for 2018 to 10% from the 14% predicted in August, according to the latest edition of the World Fab Forecast Report.

However, image sensor fab spending remains a bright spot: "Opto – especially CMOS image sensors – shows strong growth, surging 33 percent to US$3.8 billion in 2019:"

Credit Suisse on Mobile Imaging Market

IFNews: Credit Suisse report on mobile phone market analyses the market trends:

"The CIS business continues to see a shift toward higher resolutions and multi-camera phones. Multi-camera phones accounted for 65% of iPhone and 44% of Android phone production in Jul–Sep 2018 in an indication that the trend is accelerating. We now assume a multi-camera weighting of 40% (previously 35%) for 2018 and 50% (45%) for 2019, including an increase from 7% to 10% for triple-camera phones in 2019. This represents a tailwind for profits at Sony (6758), as do improvement in the sales mix accompanying the shift toward higher resolutions and larger sensors.

While the smartphone market is looking sluggish overall, we expect continued profit growth for Sony's CIS business in 2H FY3/19 and out as the number of sensors per smartphone increases, the sales mix improves (higher resolutions, larger sizes), and the company gains market share in supplying Chinese smartphone makers. We think the business could continue to drive companywide profits in FY3/20 and remain generally expectant of its potential.

TOF sensors: In our report on the previous survey, we said that some module makers think the 2019 models are likely to incorporate rear time-of-flight (TOF) sensors, but some device makers regard this as unlikely. However, based on the current survey, we now think TOF sensors will probably be first adopted in the 2020 models rather than the 2019 models.

We said in our previous survey report that Samsung was targeting a multi-camera weighting of 50% (triple camera 20%, dual camera 30%) in 2019, but our latest survey indicates a growing possibility of a 70% target triple/quadruple camera 20%, dual camera 50%). Samsung appears to be currently planning for around 10 triple- or quadruple-camera models as well as phones with 5x zoom folded optics cameras and pop-up cameras. The company is considering megapixel combinations of 48MP-16MP-13MP and 48MP-10MP-5MP for triple camera models while also looking at 48MP-8MP-5MP, 32MP-8MP-5MP, and 16MP-8MP-5MP.

In CY19, we think the smartphone manufacturers will adopt triple-camera and triple/quadruple-camera systems on a full scale, mainly in their high-end phones, and we expect them to also build large 48MP sensors into their phones. We believe companies like Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi will consider adopting 5x-zoom folding optics systems. Regarding OISs, we project that the smartphone manufacturers will use CIS technology in their main cameras and shift to shape memory alloy (SMA) OISs and away from VCM type OISs in response to the increase in lens size.

Sony will likely be the sole supplier of 48MP sensors for the spring models. Samsung LSI 12MP/48MP-sensor re-mosaic technology is lagging, and we project that it will be mid-CY19 at the earliest before it is adopted in high-end phones. Consequently, we think Samsung LSI CISs that are 48MP in the catalog specs but 12MP in actual image quality will probably be used in midrange spring models. We think that in China, demand for 24MP CISs, mainly for phones with two front-side cameras, has reached around 100mn units per year. We think that in CY19, demand for 48MP CISs for rear-side cameras could increase to roughly 150mn units.

CIS supplies remain tight, particularly for 2/5/8MP CISs manufactured using an 8-inch process. Tight supplies of CISs for high-end models in CY19, owing to the transition to large 48MP sensors, are a concern.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

IEDM 2018 HDR and GS Papers Review

This year, IEDM had quite a lot of image sensor papers. Some of them talking about HDR and GS are briefly reviewed below:

1.5µm dual conversion gain, backside illuminated image sensor using stacked pixel level connections with 13ke- full-well capacitance and 0.8e- noise
V. C. Venezia, A. C-W Hsiung, K. Ai, X. Zhao, Zhiqiang Lin, Duli Mao, Armin Yazdani, Eric A. G. Webster, L. A. Grant, OmniVision Technologies

Omnivision presented two stacked designs with pixel-level interconnects. Design A has been selected as a more optimal from the DR point of view:

A 0.68e-rms Random-Noise 121dB Dynamic-Range Sub-pixel architecture CMOS Image Sensor with LED Flicker Mitigation
S. Iida, Y. Sakano, T. Asatsuma, M. Takami, I. Yoshiba, N. Ohba, H. Mizuno, T. Oka, K. Yamaguchi, A. Suzuki, K. Suzuki, M. Yamada, M. Takizawa, Y. Tateshita, and K. Ohno, Sony Semiconductor

Sony presented its version of Big-Little PDs in a single pixel:

A 24.3Me- Full Well Capacity CMOS Image Sensor with Lateral Overflow Integration Trench Capacitor for High Precision Near Infrared Absorption Imaging
M. Murata, R. Kuroda, Y. Fujihara, Y. Aoyagi, H. Shibata*, T. Shibaguchi*, Y. Kamata*, N. Miura*, N. Kuriyama*, and S. Sugawa, Tohoku University, *LAPIS Semiconductor Miyagi Co., Ltd.

Tohoku University and LAPIS present an evolution of their LOFIC pixel with deeply depleted PDs on 1e12 cm-3 doped substrate:

HDR 98dB 3.2µm Charge Domain Global Shutter CMOS Image Sensor (Invited)
A. Tournier, F. Roy, Y. Cazaux*, F. Lalanne, P. Malinge, M. Mcdonald, G. Monnot**, N. Roux**, STMicroelectronics, **CEA Leti, **STMicroelectronics

ST and Leti explain their dual memory pixel architecture:

High Performance 2.5um Global Shutter Pixel with New Designed Light-Pipe Structure
T. Yokoyama, M. Tsutsui,Y. Nishi, I. Mizuno, V. Dmitry, A. Lahav, TPSCo & TowerJazz

TowerJazz and TPSCo show their latest generation small GS pixel available for the foundry customers:

Back-Illuminated 2.74 µm-Pixel-Pitch Global Shutter CMOS Image Sensor with Charge-Domain Memory Achieving 10k e- Saturation Signal
Y. Kumagai, R. Yoshita, N. Osawa, H. Ikeda, K.Yamashita, T. Abe, S. Kudo, J. Yamane, T. Idekoba, S. Noudo, Y. Ono, S.Kunitake, M. Sato, N. Sato, T. Enomoto, K. Nakazawa, H. Mori, Y. Tateshita, and K. Ohno, Sony Semiconductor

Sony presented its approach to shielding the storage nodes in BSI GS sensor:

Alipay Uses 3D Structured Light Camera in its Facial Recognition POS

Ecns, ChinaDaily: China's Alipay announces a major upgrade to its 'Smile to Pay' service, aiming to make its facial recognition process more accessible to merchants and customers. The new version, called Dragonfly, is claimed to be just one-tenth the size of a traditional POS terminal. It includes a 3D structured light camera to improve facial recognition accuracy, and an upgraded processor to speed up payment time.

Tens of thousands of merchants across 300 cities in China offer Alipay's facial recognition payment.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Melexis Single-Chip ToF Solution Planned for 2019

Melexis teases its 3rd generation ToF sensor to appear in 2019. It is promised to be single-chip ToF solutions with VGA resolution:

Lumileds, Melexis' ToF illumination source partner, publishes a white paper "Infrared Illumination for Time-of-Flight Applications" comparing LEDs with VCSELs:

Lucid Vision Presentations

Lucid Vision presentations on Sony polarization sensors and ToF camera are published on Vimeo:

MIPI Releases I3C Basic v1.0 Spec

MIPI Alliance releases MIPI I3C Basic v1.0, a subset of the MIPI I3C specification that bundles the most commonly needed I3C features for developers and other standards organizations. MIPI I3C Basic v1.0 provides 20 key features from MIPI I3C, including:
  • Backward compatibility with I2C
  • A multi-drop bus that, at 12.5 MHz, is over 12 times faster than I2C supports while using significantly less power
  • In-band interrupts to allow slaves to notify masters of interrupts, a design that eliminates the need for a separate general-purpose input/output (GPIO) for each slave and thus reduces system cost and complexity
  • Dynamic address assignment to avoid conflicting static addresses, providing flexibility and pin savings
  • Standardized discovery, and bus configuration and control
  • Uses standard low-cost pads and requires minimal cost in logic to support
We have seen tremendous interest in I3C from the mobile ecosystem. Now, with I3C Basic, the broader developer community can immediately and efficiently begin using these capabilities as an alternative to I2C,” said Joel Huloux, chairman of MIPI Alliance. ”In addition, we are already working with several standards organizations to integrate I3C Basic into their specifications. We believe it provides tremendous value to mobile and many other industries in multiple ways.