Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pinned Photodiode Fundamentals

Delft University publishes a very nice PhD Thesis "Fundamental Characteristics of a Pinned Photodiode CMOS Pixel" by Yang Xu. Other than a lot of basic stuff on PPD principles and characterization, the thesis discusses some of the more advanced things, like optimizations for image lag and charge transfer speed:

NIT Announces Gated SWIR Sensor

New Imaging Technologies' latest logarithmic InGaAs offers short gating mode in QVGA and VGA resolution. The new version of its WiDy SWIR cameras allows low exposure time (down to 200ns) and low jitter (10ns) with minimum trigger delay of 200ns for pulsed illumination. The new cameras have 3 in-pixel memories for true CDS or in VGA - current highest resolution on the market - they come with dedicated software offering programmable trigger delay with customizable very short steps for trigger in or out synchronization.

Measured Shutter Efficiency with a phase shifted 4ns laser pulse

Getting Started with ST ToF Ranging and Gesture Sensor

ST releases its ToF development board in a form of Arduino Uno shield:

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Assorted News

1. Open source Sensors Journal publishes a paper on 75ps gated pixel "A 75-ps Gated CMOS Image Sensor with Low Parasitic Light Sensitivity" by Fan Zhang and Hanben Niu, Shenzhen University, China. Their pixel is mostly circuit-based:

2. Another paper "Quantum Random Number Generation Using a Quanta Image Sensor" by Emna Amri, Yacine Felk, Damien Stucki, Jiaju Ma, and Eric R. Fossum from ID Quantique, Switzerland and Dartmouth College, USA, presents an improvement on the image sensor based random number generators:

3. Guillaume Renault publishes a Youtube video presentation of Invisage's Quantum Film sensor.

Sony Kumamoto Fab to Fully Recover in August

Sony Corporate Strategy presentation has a slide on Kumamoto image sensor fab saying that it's expected to reach its "full utilization on a wafer input basis around the end of August":

Sony Reduces Image Sensor Sales and Margins Forecast

Sony President and CEO, Kazuo Hirai, provides an update on the progress of its mid-range corporate plan covering the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016 ("FY2015") through the fiscal year ending March 31, 2018 ("FY2017"). Few image sensor-related points:
  • Sony announced a significant downward revision to its full year results forecast in FY2015 due to lower than expected sales in the core image sensor business, caused in particular by slowing growth within the smartphone market.
  • The rate of profit growth in this business is expected to continue to decline through FY2017.
  • Sony plans to take an approach to management that prioritizes speed of response to changes in the market environment, and focuses on Sony's areas of strength.
  • At the same time, in terms of image sensors for mobile products, while the smartphone market itself is slowing, the shift to dual-lens cameras and the requirement for higher pixel density is expected to lead to increased demand in the future. With its technological expertise in these areas, these could be favorable market trends for Sony. By taking advantage of these shifts in the business landscape and also by continuing its existing efforts to expand sales volume, Sony is aiming to revitalize the profitability of this business from the second half of FY2016 and into FY2017.
  • From a mid-to-long-term perspective, Sony continues to expect significant future growth for the image sensor-business. This business accordingly continues to be positioned as a growth driver.
  • In terms of new image sensor applications, Sony sees potential growth in surveillance cameras, as well as in factory automation, IoT (Internet of Things) including drones, and automotive applications. While it is expected to be some time before Sony's image sensor business for automotive applications is fully established, it is an area where Sony anticipates growth and is investing in R&D aggressively.

Also today, Sony has held its "Sony IR Day 2016." The semiconductors business presentation by Terushi Shimizu revises down the previous forecasts of sales and margins:

Other slides about image sensors:

Mobileye Autonomous Driving Lecture

Mobileye's CTO Amnon Shashua delivers a keynote on Autonomous Driving, Computer Vision and Machine Learning at CVPR 2016:

Thanks to DS for the link!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Almalence Interview

Huffington Post publishes an interview with Almalence CEO Eugene Panich. His response on the question "Where are mobile phone cameras headed in the next five years?"

These are a handful of ideas that may be tested in the coming years:
  • Array cameras, from many small cameras placed in a small array, to an array of big (normal mobile size) cameras occupying large part of phone.
  • Mobile phones with four cameras placed at considerable distances (like in the corners) to achieve good 3D performance
  • Pop-up and other mechanically transforming cameras implementing either optical zoom feature or accommodating large sensors
  • Additional wide-angle, 180 or even 360 degree cameras
  • Attachable camera modules (making the device bigger but allowing better imaging)

IEEE Standards Association Automotive Image Quality Working Group

IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) forms Automotive Image Quality Working Group. IEEE P2020 standard addresses the fundamental attributes that contribute to image quality for automotive Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) applications, as well as identifying existing metrics and other useful information relating to these attributes.

Those who want to join the project should contact the Working Group Chair, Robert Stead.

Image Sensor Companies Ranking

EETimes publishes image sensor companies market shares, based on Yole's June 2016 report:

WHEC Company Introduction

China-Japan-based contact image sensor maker Weihai Hualing Opto-Electronics Co. (WHEC) publishes a company introduction video:

Another video compares the company's CIS with CCD:

Monday, June 27, 2016

More on ISORG Organic Photodiodes

ARMDevices publishes a video interview with Christophe Premont of ISORG:

SMIC - LFoundry Deal Details

SMIC publishes a webcast on LFoundry acquisition with few details on LFoundry business:
  • Aptina remains a bulk of the business
  • The utilization rate was 60% in the last few months, or 70% averaged over the last year
  • The drop in utilization is explained by too much "concentration on one customer"
  • SMIC copper process might be ported to LFoundry
  • No commitment on capacity expansion or R&D investment
  • All employees are retained

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Samsung Proposes Different Readout Order to Reduce Column-to-Column ADC Coupling

Samsung Patent application US20160173800 "Image sensor for performing coupling-free readout, and device having the same" by Kyoung Min Koh, Ju Ha Kim, and Jae Cheol Yun talks about the coupling between the column-parallel ADCs:

"A coupling effect is generated between adjacent analog-to-digital converters by parasitic capacitance that is present between the adjacent analog-to-digital converters. In particular, the coupling effect which is increased as a difference between pixels signals becomes large increases non-linearity of each of analog-to-digital converters. The non-linearity is one of sources of errors of an analog-to-digital converter."

Samsung team proposes to change the pixel readout order so that the pixels with similar values read simultaneously:

Friday, June 24, 2016

SMIC Buys 70% of LFoundry for 49M Euros

BusinessWire: LFoundry (Italy) and its investor Marsica Innovation S.p.A. (MI) announce the agreement to sell to SMIC a 70% stake of LFoundry for 49M Euros. At the closing, SMIC, LFoundry and MI will own 70%, 15% and 15% of the corporate capital of the target respectively.

In fiscal year 2015, LFoundry revenue was 218M EUR. LFoundry’s capacity is 40,000 8-inch wafers per month. LFoundry used to be Micron's fab manufacturing image sensors for Aptina and continues it now as an independent foundry. At the same time, LFoundry offers 110nm CIS process on the foundry basis.

Sergio Galbiati, the Managing Director of MI and Chairman of LFoundry srl, said, “This is the beginning of a new era for LFoundry and our Italian fab. We are pleased to become part of a very strong worldwide player, SMIC. Together we can further improve LFoundry’s strength on optical sensor related technology, which is well recognized worldwide, and continue to contribute to the growth of technology in Europe, thanks to our partnerships with many relevant players. The agreement with SMIC will enable us to have a stronger level playing field in Europe.

LFoundry, Avezzano, Italy

Thanks to ESG for the link!

SensL Interview

Yole Développement publishes an interview with SensL CTO Carl Jackson and VP Marketing Wade Appelman. These days, SensL is focusing primarily on LiDAR for ADAS and consumer robotics and drones. Few quotes:

"Our core product is the Silicon Photomultiplier (SiPM). The SiPM is a solid-state sensor that is closely related to SPADs (single photon avalanche diode). A simplistic description of SPAD is a binary photon-activated ‘switch’. An SiPM is formed of a close-packed array of SPADs with a summed output. This summed-matrix of SPADs, that forms the SiPM, acts as a quasi-analog sensor that retains single-photon sensitivity upon a large surface area.

SiPMs have very high internal gain and therefore do not require external amplification that would contribute additional noise to the signal. Therefore the SiPM will have a better SNR than the APD in many use cases.

The histogramming ToF approach reveals the time-correlated photons that would otherwise be lost in the background noise of the ambient light and is used to extract the distance measurement.

Softkinetic CARlib

Softkinetic publishes its automotive gesture control promotion video:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Noise Reduction in Multi-Aperture Cameras

Shizuoka University publishes PhD Thesis "A study on low-noise high-sensitivity multiaperture camera with selective averaging" by Bo Zhang. From the abstract: "a prototype 3×3-aperture camera is developed. Under a low-light condition, in which the maximum average signal per aperture is 11e-, the RTS noise and dark current white defects are removed and the peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) of the image is increased by 6.3dB."

ISORG Demos its Printed Photodioodes

IDTechExShow Show held in Berlin publishes Youtube video about ISORG products:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 Electronic Imaging Proceedings On-Line

Proceedings of the Electronic Imaging conference 2016 are available on-line, free of charge, with no registration.

Thanks to AT for the link!

Image Sensor Architecture for Continuous Mobile Vision

Robert LiKamWa publishes his presentation at ACM/IEEE International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) 2016, Seoul, Korea "RedEye: Analog ConvNet Image Sensor Architecture for Continuous Mobile Vision" by Robert LiKamWa, Yunhui Hou, Julian Gao, Mia Polansky, Lin Zhong (Rice University). Few slides:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

e2v Announces Gated NIR Imaging Optimized Sensor

e2v announces the Onyx EV76C664 1.3MP global shutter CMOS sensor. The new sensor features an embedded active imaging system which synchronises external illumination and internal electronic shuttering. This allows discernible color images to be produced at extremely low light levels and through diffusing environments (e.g. fog and smoke) by range-gating, making it ideal for Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) and security cameras.

The sensor has an innovative 10um-large pixel with extended sensitivity and performance in NIR, and can also cater for ‘all-light’ environments (typical of outdoor camera applications) where wide dynamic range is also needed. The new sensor is available in sparse colour and monochrome filter (EV76C664ACT) and black and white (EV76C664ABT).

2016 Harvest Imaging Forum Registration Opens

Albert Theuwissen announces a start of registration for 2016 Harvest Imaging Forum "Robustness of CMOS Technology and Circuitry outside the Imaging Core : integrity, variability, reliability."

The Imaging forum is split into two parts, divided over two days:
  1. The basic required knowledge to understand the robustness of CMOS integrated circuits. This first part of the forum will include physics, state-of-the-art CMOS processes and related design issues,
  2. The robustness of advanced CMOS integrated circuits. The second part of the forum includes:

    Signal integrity issues: cross talk, signal propagation, interference between ICs, current peaks, supply noise, substrate and ground bounce, on-chip decoupling capacitors and design consequences,

    Variability issues: difference between random variations and systematic variations, causes of process parameter spread, proximity effects, random dopant fluctuations, transistor matching and design consequences,

    Reliability issues and topics: electro-migration, latch-up, hot-carrier effect, NBTI, soft-errors (by cosmic rays and alpha-particles), electro-static discharge, etc.

Rambus Presents Lens-Less Eye Tracking Sensor

EETimes: Rambus presented a poster "Lensless Smart Sensors: Optical and Thermal Sensing for the Internet of Things" at VLSI Symposia 2016. The sensor utilizes a phase anti-symmetric diffraction grating on top of a conventional pixel array and computational algorithms that extract the relevant information from the image.

"In some applications such as range-finding or eye-tracking, it may not even be necessary to reconstruct a full image. Instead, extracting distance measurements may suffice and the particular phase anti-symmetric diffraction structure makes it very simple, explains the poster.

The ultra-low power 2x2mm2 image sensor with a 128x128 pixel array and integrated image change detection circuitry on the same die was enough to measure distances up to 50cm with an error of less than 8%, they reported.

"We do see this as a better, more accurate replacement for head-mounted eye tracking systems like those found in Virtual and Augmented Reality systems. We don’t target the LSS product for remote eye tracking, such as PC display or television based implementations", said Paul Karazuba, Director of Product Marketing for Imaging at Rambus.

Toshiba Proposes Single-Lens RGB-Depth Camera

Toshiba presented an imaging technique that can simultaneously acquire a color image and a depth map from a single image taken by a monocular camera at The 22nd Symposium on Sensing via Image Information (SSII2016) held at Pacifico Yokohama on June 8, 2016. The approach is based on color aperture in the lens:

Rumor: Sony Experimenting with Black Silicon

SonyAlphaRumors says it got this rumor from the known source:

"Sony is currently prototypeing Image Sensors based on SiOnyx or better known as “black silicon”. Basically it uses a porous silicon etch on the front side to reduce reflectance. However, while this works well in reducing the visible light reflectance of bare silicon wafers with no backside layers or materials from 46 % to a few %. For image sensors a sensitivity invrease of 30% is estimated."

Monday, June 20, 2016

Softkinetic Shortlisted for Automotive Gesture Control Integface Award

SoftKinetic announces it has been named a finalist for the prestigious Car HMI Award, part of the Car HMI conference taking place in Berlin, June 20-21, 2016, for the automotive ToF-based gesture control interface.

SeekThermal Announces Low-Cost QVGA Thermal Camera

PRNewswire: Seek Thermal announces the company's line of high performance, affordable, infrared thermal cameras for experts and contractors in industrial and commercial building trades. The CompactPRO is said to be the first thermal imaging camera built for a smartphone to ever feature 76,800 measurement pixels, a thermal sensor array of 320x240, and an unprecedented price point under $500. The camera has less than 70mK sensitivity.

Mobileye CTO on Autonomous Driving

Mobileye’s CTO and Chairman Amnon Shashua talks about the Three Pillars of Autonomous Driving:

Altera Demos AlexNet CNN

Altera shows a demo of its AlexNet Convolution Neural Network (CNN), said to be able to identify many common objects in the image:

Valeo on Automotive Vision

Autosens Conference publishes an interview with Valeo Senior Expert and Adjunct Professor of Automotive Electronics at the University of Ireland Patrick Denny. Few points on image sensor implications:

"The pervasive tendency in the industry is a transition from component-level thinking to system-level, where the products and applications are considerably more than the sum of their parts.

This calls for: glass-to-glass thinking for the video chain (for viewing), and; glass-to-bit appreciation (for machine vision).

These instincts must be further widened in multi-sensor architectures that support sensor fusion to include photon/phonon-to-bit thinking. The day of daisy-chaining black boxes to make an automotive product is gone and stakeholders in the video chain need to have an appreciation of, and accommodation for, the interaction of the elements which originate both inside and outside of the automotive industry.

"A typical colour megapixel automotive camera generates a data bit for every man, woman and child on Earth in under 6 seconds and is connected in turn to multi-sensor systems that perform ever more complex processing, and this is the tip of the data iceberg among the sensor fusion systems on a vehicle.

The introduction of cameras on to vehicles caused a leap in the volume, variety and velocity of data available to the vehicle and a rock solid mathematical appreciation of how these data sets work is vital for automotive technologists trying to make product differentiators.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mobileye Chief Engineer on ADAS Market

EETimes publishes an article "Mobileye Chief Engineer Explains EyeQ5" by Junko Yoshida. Few quotes:

"12 to 18 months ago, automakers were more inclined to develop an autonomous car that allows a driver to take his mind off driving on the highway, according to Mobileye. That would be a Level 3 autonomous car – according to the SAE standard -- defined as “within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks.”

Now, automakers want autonomous cars that can operate without a driver – much sooner than later, according to Mobileye.

In keeping up with its customers’ more aggressive timetable, Mobileye has also “slightly pulled forward” — to 2020 — its plan for EyeQ5.

[Elchanan Rushinek, Mobileye’s SVP of Engineering] said that EyeQ5 was designed to support more than 16 cameras in addition to multiple radars and LIDARs, including the low-level processing of all sensors.

More at the technical level, he explained, “There are 16 virtual MIPI channels and more than 16 sensors can be supported by multiplexing several physical sensors on a single virtual MIPI channel.”

“Camera processing is the most computationally intensive, so any solution would include dedicated vision processing ECUs in addition to sending some of the raw data to the central ECU. Both EyeQ4 and EyeQ5 can support both goals -- specific vision processing, as well as master ECU,” he added. “The EyeQ controls each sensor via I2C bus on a frame basis in order to get the optimized output, which is deeply aligned with real time algorithms.

Rumor: iPhone 7 Dual Camera Cancelled

BGR quotes a rumor that the upcoming iPhone 7 will not have dual camera: "Apparently, an unnamed Foxconn employee told people that the dual lens camera in the iPhone 7 Plus has been canceled because of “immature technology.” It’s not clear what that means, or whether the claim is even accurate."

Sony AR Glasses Demo

Sony publishes a promotional video of its SmartEyeGlass equipped with a 3MP camera:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

ULIS’ 17µm Gen2 Thermal Sensor Used by Bertin Technology

ALA News: ULIS announces the selection of its VGA 17um Gen2 thermal sensor in Bertin Technology’s FusionSight camera. “Bertin Technology’s choice of ULIS’ VGA 17µm 640x480 thermal image sensor is further evidence of the true competitiveness and sustainability of our 17 micron Gen2 products, designed to offer peak performance, environmental hardiness and reductions in the overall cost of system ownership,” said Emmanuel Bercier, senior marketing manager at ULIS.

Photometrics on New Generation of Image Sensors

LabRoots publishes Photometrics Youtube presentation on new generation of image sensors and image processing by Rachit Mohindra, Photometrics' Life Science Research Cameras Product Manager:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SPAD Imager Presentation

The 10th International Meeting on Front-End Electronics (FEE 2016) publishes "Single-Photon Imager" presentation by Edoardo Charbon, TU Delft. Few slides out of the deck of 92:

Pinned Photodiode Presentation

The 10th International Meeting on Front-End Electronics (FEE 2016) publishes "The Pinned Photodiode" lecture by Nobukazu Teranishi, University of Hyogo and Shizuoka University. Few slides out of the stack of 41: