Monday, August 13, 2018

SmartSens Article Translation

SmartSens representative, The Hoffman Agency, kindly sent me a more correct translation of the company's article "Let China no longer miss the era of CIS." This comes to replace the half-broken Google translation in my previous post.

"Due to the late start and weak infrastructure of the semiconductor industry in China, the Chinese development of commercial CCD chips was completely buried and behind. The market used to be basically monopolized by Japanese manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic and Sharp. Therefore, China completely missed the CCD era. With the rise of CIS, how to break the technology and market monopoly by Japanese and European manufacturers in the image sensor field has become the biggest challenge for the Chinese semiconductor industry.

Soon after graduating from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology with his doctorate, Dr. Xu Chen went to Silicon Valley in the United States to pursue his own engineer dream. He joined the world's first company that launched commercial CIS chips, and engaged in the research and development of pixel components, the most important component in CIS development. During this time, Dr. Xu and his team developed and applied for nearly 30 patents. Since then, Dr. Xu has been engaged in technology research and development at leading CIS companies.

With the rise of Sony in the CIS field, the "Silicon Valley Power" has gradually declined, and "Asian Power" has risen to the front stage. It was at this time that Dr. Xu Chen first developed the idea of creating a Chinese brand to challenge the Japanese and European CIS giants.

In 2011, opportunities arose as China accelerated development in its tech industry. The central government introduced a series of policies designed to attract overseas talents, including the “Thousand Talents Plan.” Local governments also launched various policies to support the homecoming of oversea talents. It is at this prime time that Dr. Xu Chen returned to his motherland with his own visions, beliefs and core CIS innovations.

To Dr. Xu, successful Silicon Valley companies often share such characteristics: tech- and market-savvy founders, cohesive and go-getting teams, generous and people-oriented benefits, and compatible and diverse cultures. Not only has SmartSens, a company founded in China, inherited the Silicon Valley spirits from Dr. Xu Chen, but it continues to absorb globally educated talents to create a "Chinese core" in the CIS field. Founded on quality products and technological innovations, SmartSens is breaking the monopoly of Japanese and European manufacturers and leading China in the CIS era.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sharp ToF SPAD-based Proximity Sensor

Sharp and Socle/Foxconn come up with ST-like SPAD ToF proximity sensor, the MTOF171000C0. Sharp also makes a similar ToF proximity device, the GP2AP01VT10F, with quite a detailed spec. Application guide is available on Github. The samples are supposed to be available in August 2018.

CMOSIS/Fillfactory Key Team Joins Gpixel

Gpixel: A team of CMOS image sensors industry veterans creates Gpixel NV. Gpixel NV is structured as a privately-held company and started operation on August 9th, 2018 providing turn-key solutions to industrial and professional markets ranging from sensor design, prototyping, characterization and packaging to qualification and volume production.

Gpixel NV founders are Tim Baeyens, Tim Blanchaert, Jan Bogaerts, Bart Ceulemans and Wim Wuyts. Together they have more than 75 person-years of relevant experience in CMOS imaging technology, development, operations and commercialization. Gpixel NV is set up with financial and operational backing of Gpixel Inc. (Gpixel Changchun Optotech), a CMOS sensor supplier based in Changchun, China, founded by Xinyang Wang in 2012.

Imaging and CMOS image sensors are ubiquitous today,” states Tim Baeyens, CEO of Gpixel NV. “Nevertheless, there is still a strong need for dedicated companies such as Gpixel to address high end markets like industrial and professional imaging. Through our wide industry network and strong collaboration with Gpixel Inc, we anticipate growing Gpixel rapidly to become one of the key players in solid state imaging.

Xinyang Wang, founder and CEO of Gpixel Inc. states, “I am very pleased to join forces with Gpixel NV to grow Gpixel to become a dominant player in our application areas. I am also convinced that the addition of Jan Bogaerts as Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Wim Wuyts as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) for Gpixel worldwide will foster our company’s innovation and global sales significantly.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Synaptics Rethinks its Under-Display Optical Fingerprint Business in Search for Better ROI

SeekingAlpha: Synaptics quarterly earnings call has interesting info on its optical under-display fingerprint sensor business:

"...we really take a big scrub on all of our products in the ROI and what provides the best investment going forward. And as we did that analysis, it was becoming clear ...that optical was going to be one of those boom and bust cycles. And to a certain degree, we lived through that with our capacitive solutions a few years back, and we did fantastic. But invariably, because it's somewhat of an optional solution and there's alternatives, it quickly went from a multi-dollar solution to a sub-$1 solution. And so, we enjoyed good money.

But if you look over the entire period, it wasn't the type of sticky highly differentiated business that we now seek as a company. And so, it would've taken additional investment or continued investment from our perspective. It somewhat hurts because we clearly were the innovators in the industry, and yes, we do see broader adoption of in-display fingerprint in the marketplace from a unit perspective and so on. But we can see the ASP erosion has begun, and there'll be multiple suppliers in it. Just from a long-term investment, we have better fish to fry right now. And so, it was purely an ROI decision.

...the revenues were fairly minimal. I'd say kind of in the sub $15 million to $20 million range is what's going away. We have bigger plans for it, as you saw at our Analyst Day, so we were expecting it to contribute about $100 million in fiscal 2019, and then more than that in fiscal 2020. But the actual impact year-over-year is fairly minimal at a Synaptics level.

...Now, that doesn't mean we're stopping. From the very beginning, when we went into this business, we said the ultimate solution was when fingerprint was truly integrated into the display. And eventually, when the market was right, we would have TDDI FP, so we're going to continue the investments in research in that particular area when we think the market might be ready, so you could have true in-display across the entire screen with multiple cost to the – minimal cost, excuse me, to the end user.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ouster on LiDAR Specmanship

Ouster presentation at Autonomous Vehicle Sensors Conference held in Jan Jose, CA in June 2018 defines the requirements to LiDARs and proposes their realistic measurement conditions, so that different products and technologies can be compared:

Links to few other interesting presentations at the conference:

- LiDAR for ADAS and Autonomous Driving by Hamamatsu
- AEye iDAR
- Frequency-Modulated Automotive Lidar by Blackmore
- Road to Robots by Yole
- Sony Automotive Sensors
- Camera-based Active Real-Time Driver Monitoring Systems by Seeing Machines

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Himax Compares Smartphone ID Solutions, 3D Sensing

Himax quaterly earnings report presents the company's vision of 3D sensing market:

"Leading Android smartphone makers are exploring various 3D sensing technologies, namely structured light, active stereo camera (ASC) and, to a lesser extent, time-of-flight (ToF), trying to strike a good balance of cost, specifications and application. More software players are entering the ecosystem to develop 3D sensing applications beyond the existing applications, namely facial recognition, online payment and camera performance enhancement.

Himax has been working with an industry leading fingerprint solution provider to develop an under-display optical fingerprint product in the last two years, targeting smartphones using OLED displays. Himax provides a customized low-power image sensor in the solution. The Company is pleased to announce that the solution has entered into mass production with a major Android smartphone OEM for their new flagship model with shipment expected in the coming months. The CMOS image sensor used in the solution will have a notably higher ASP than the Company’s traditional display driver IC products.

SeekingAlpha: In Q&A session, Himax CEO Jordan Wu gives more details anout its optical fingerprint business:

"It appears to be to enjoy pretty good momentum right now in the Android market. Okay, because of cost issue. The business can change overnight in how they are, firstly, the cost, I’m talking about the total solution, which includes most importantly the CMOS image sensor, and as I said optics and certainly algorithm chip combined at the module. Initially, when the technology was promoted, we’re talking about $10 in total, but now, we are seeing $10 plus in total.

Now, we’re seeing the total cost is now coming down to $10 or even below. And because of certain cost saving measures adopted by module houses, in particular, in the optics side. So for that reason, again, customers want full screen design and they don’t want their capacity touch to be on the back, which is not convenient to use. So for full screen design, if you feel structured light too expensive, ToF is also quite expensive and even ASC is relatively expensive because ASC now, we’re still talking about $10 plus and this thing, fingerprint is already below $10.

So for that reason, it seems to be picking up momentum. However, I will have to say that the limitation of fingerprint is that it can do nothing out of the fingerprint, whether it’s all three kinds of 3D sensing, you can have a lot of other applications beyond unlocking your smartphone and payment. Right. So I think that is the most important thing. And certainly, under glass fingerprint, one reason why it is getting traction by it, it is not really becoming overwhelming. One of the issues is it still suffers from its lesser satisfactory accuracy, meaning when you try to unlock your phone, the failure rate still is too high. And when it fails, you have to – the user will have to key in the password, which people hate, right.

So in comparison, 3D sensing or face authentication, the accuracy level is a lot higher. And so they are certainly a big wildcard will be our first launch in expected September, right, in the new phones, whether they can introduce interesting attractive new features, application to 3D sensing. But I think it is still slightly too early to tell who is going to dominate which segment of the market as of today.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

How to Bring CIS Industry to China

Update: The correct translation coming from the company representation is posted here. The one below is based on Google automatic one and is not accurate.

SmartSens Founder Xu Chen publishes an article on the company web site "Let China no longer miss the era of CIS." Few interesting quotes with help of Google translation:

"Due to the late start and poor foundation of Chinese semiconductors, the development of commercial CCD chips is completely behind the scenes. The market is basically monopolized by Japanese manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic and Sharp, completely missing the CCD era. With the rise of CIS , how to break the technology and market monopoly of Japanese and European manufacturers in the field of image sensors has become a difficult problem for Chinese semiconductors.

In the year of graduation from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Dr. Xu Chen came to Silicon Valley in the United States with his own dream of engineers. He joined the world's first company to launch commercial CIS chips, and engaged in the research and development of pixel components , the most important component in CIS development. developed and applied for a close, during the 3 0 patents. Since then, Dr. Xu Chen has been engaged in technical development work at the CIS giant.

With the rise of Sony in the CIS field, the "Silicon Valley Power" has gradually declined, and "Asian Power" has entered the stage. It was at this time that Dr. Xu Chen first developed the idea of ​​creating a Chinese brand to challenge CIS Japanese and European giants.

In 2011 , it coincided with the introduction of a series of overseas talents introduction policies including the “Thousand Talents Plan” in order to accelerate the innovation of high-tech fields . Local governments also launched support policies to support the return of overseas talents. It is in this spring of the policy that Dr. Xu Chen returned to the motherland with his own ideals, beliefs and core CIS innovations.

Throughout Silicon Valley's successful innovation companies, they often have such characteristics — the founders who are proficient in technology and market-savvy, the united and powerful innovation team, the generous and people-oriented employee benefits, and the compatible and diverse corporate culture. The native of SmartSens only be obtained from Dr. Xu Chen from Silicon Valley, where such a temperament, but also has the world continue to absorb the educational background of creative talents, inclusive, and finally create a CIS in the field of "Chinese core" team, the quality of quality Based on the core of technological innovation, it has broken the monopoly of Japanese and European manufacturers, so that China will not miss the CIS era.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

TPSCo Pixel Offerings

TowerJazz-Panasonic publishes the parameters of pixels it offers to its customers:

1.12μm-pixel 65nm CIS Platform

Global shutter pixel offerings (* means 4 additional masks for the designated pixel)

Update: TPSCo site has been changed on August 8, 2018, and more pixels are presented now:

Oculus Presents Solution for Recognizing Mirrors in 3D Imaging

Facebook Reality Labs, former Oculus, presents its solutions for mirrors in 3D imaging. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces is a major problem in 3D cameras:

"Mirrors are typically skirted around in 3D reconstruction, and most earlier work just ignores them by pretending they don’t exist. But in the real world, they exist everywhere and ruin the majority of reconstruction approaches. So in a way, we broke the mold and tackled one of the oldest problems in 3D reconstruction head-on," says Research Scientist Thomas Whelan.

It’s surprisingly difficult to describe how a human recognizes a mirror as distinct from simply a window or doorway into a different space,” adds Research Scientist Steven Lovegrove.