Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ams Acquires Heptagon

Austria-based ams is to acquire 100% of the shares in Heptagon dealing with optical packaging and micro-optics, that, in turn, has acquired MESA imaging an couple of years ago. Heptagon’s headquarters and manufacturing are based in Singapore while its R&D center is in Rueschlikon, Switzerland, and Silicon Valley, USA. The company has over 830 employees including around 120 engineers and 500 manufacturing staff. Heptagon's IP portfolio, primarily in optical packaging, includes more than 250 patent families.

Heptagon’s current 12 month revenue run rate is around USD 90m at negative operating profitability due to current underutilization of production capacity. Heptagon expects substantial revenue growth over the coming years starting mid-year 2017, based on its existing revenue and capacity pipeline and customer commitments. To prepare for this expected growth, Heptagon has already embarked on a major expansion of its Singapore manufacturing capacity with a total capital investment of more than USD 250m in 2016/2017. The expansion is based on a confirmed customer commitment for usage of the additional capacity and is fully funded from existing cash in the business, requiring no funding by ams.

The transaction combines an upfront consideration in cash and shares with a substantial deferred earn-out consideration. The upfront consideration includes USD 64m in cash from available funds, a capital increase of 15% of outstanding shares from authorized capital (excluding subscription rights) and shares from currently held treasury shares for a total value of the upfront consideration of approx. USD 570m. The earn-out consideration will be contingent on future results of Heptagon’s business over fiscal year 2017 with a potential maximum value of USD 285m. Following the upfront share transaction, current Heptagon shareholders which include financial investors, management, and employees are expected to hold around 20% in ams. The transaction is expected to close within the next three months.

Tech.eu estimates the total acquisition price at up to $919 million, or approximately €845 million, if Heptagon hits the targets set for its next fiscal year. "Heptagon has raised tens of millions over the years, including from GGV Capital, Innovations Kapital of Sweden, Innovacom of France, Nokia Growth Partners, High Tech Private Equity, Credence Partners, Jolt Capital, AAC Technologies and Heliconia Capital Management."

Alexander Everke, CEO of ams, commented on the transaction, “Combining ams and Heptagon creates the clear #1 in optical sensing technologies and fast-tracks our innovation capabilities. As a result, we expect ams to drive the optical sensing agenda in the years to come and broaden its market reach. Together with our leadership position in our other sensing focus areas Environmental, Imaging, and Audio, this strategic transaction is going to transform ams into the global leader in sensor solutions.

Omnivision Announces Low Power 1/3-inch 1080p30 Sensor for Security Applications

PRNewswire: OmniVision announce OV2735, a 1080p30 image sensor for mainstream security and surveillance cameras. "The 1/3-inch 1080p sensor is the most popular format in the mainstream surveillance camera market. Given its excellent performance and advanced features, the OV2735 is one of the most competitive drop-in camera solutions available for this segment," said Chris Yiu, senior strategic marketing manager at OmniVision. "The OV2735 leverages our proven OmniPixel3-HS™ technology to deliver low-light sensitivity in a more compact and power-efficient package."

The OV2735 is currently available for sampling, and is expected to enter volume production in Q1 2017.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Movidius VPU to Appear in Hikvision Smart Cameras

Movidius’ Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit (VPU) technology will be powering a new lineup of Hikvision smart cameras. “Advances in artificial intelligence are revolutionizing the way we think about personal and public security” says Movidius CEO, Remi El-Ouazzane “The ability to automatically process video in real-time to detect anomalies will have a large impact on the way cities infrastructure are being used. We’re delighted to partner with Hikvision to deploy smarter camera networks and contribute to creating safer communities, better transit hubs and more efficient business operations.

Thanks to Deep Neural Networks and stereo 3D sensing, Hikvision has been able to achieve up to 99% accuracy in their advanced visual analytics applications. Some of these applications include: car model classification, intruder detection, suspicious baggage alert, and seatbelt detection. The Myriad 2 platform allows these functions to now be processed instantaneously onboard the camera, rather than being sent to the cloud for processing.

There are huge amounts of gains to be made when it comes to neural networks and intelligent camera systems” says Hikvision CEO, Hu Yangzhong. “With the Myriad 2 VPU we’re able to make our analytics offerings much more accurate, flagging more events that require a response, while reducing false alarms. Embedded, native intelligence is a major step towards smart, safe and efficiently run cities. We will build a long term partnership with Movidius and its VPU roadmap.

Framos Compares ON Semi Automotive Sensors

Framos publishes EMVA 1288 comparison of ON Semi older AR0132 and new BSI AR0136 automotive HDR CMOS sensors, both are 1.2MP and 3.75um pixel:

e2v Launches Improved GS Sensors

e2v has launches Emerald family of CMOS sensors featuring what is claimed to be the world’s smallest true global shutter pixel available on the market today (2.8┬Ám). The DSNU of the new sensors is 10 times improved compared to other e2v CMOS products. This allows cameras to perform better in high temperatures and enables long exposures to be used in low-light applications such as microscopes or outdoor cameras for surveillance, speed and traffic applications.

e2v’s Emerald family comprises a 16MP (4096 x 4096 pixels), which is the first to be released, a 12MP (4096 x 3072 pixels) and a 8MP (4096 x 2160 pixels). These high resolution formats are a world first and include a one inch optical format, which can be interfaced with a compact C Mount lens.

Gareth Powell, Marketing Manager for Professional Imaging at e2v, said, “Our new Emerald sensors use advanced CMOS image process technology and pixel design to offer a low noise global shutter pixel, with an electro-optical performance tuned to meet the demanding requirements of the machine vision industry. The sensors deliver Quantum Efficiency of more than 65 %, a full well capacity of over 7ke, a typical temporal noise of 4e- and a new low-noise mode to offer typically around 2e-.

The whole Emerald family features the same pixel, processing, readout structures and ceramic Land Grid Array (LGA) package to simplify integration, helping to lower development costs for camera makers. The new products have dedicated embedded features including HDR modes, 8/10/12 bit ADCs, high speed outputs (60fps at 10 bits, full 16MP resolution), and a number of power saving modes.

e2v publishes a Youtube video on Emerald features:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fraunhofer Promises Automotive SPAD-based LiDAR in 2018

Fraunhofer Institute works on SAPD LiDAR for autonomous cars which, in theory, could prevent accidents like Tesla crash:

“A camera’s accuracy depends very much on the lighting available. In this case, it failed. The radar system recognized the obstacle, but couldn’t locate it precisely and mistook the truck for a road sign,” says Werner Brockherde, head of the CMOS Image Sensors business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg.

The researchers have dubbed the new generation of sensors “Flash LiDAR.” They are composed of photodiodes developed at Fraunhofer IMS known as single photon avalanche diodes (SPAD) “Unlike standard LiDAR, which illuminates just one point, our system generates a rectangular measuring field,” Brockherde explains.

“The first systems with our sensors will go into production in 2018,” Brockherde says.

Fraunhofer LiDAR SPAD sensor

ON Semi Powers Light's Multi-Aperture Camera

BusinessWire: ON Semiconductor helps Silicon Valley start-up Light providing its image sensors for L16 multi-aperture camera. Through close collaboration with Light, ON Semiconductor supplies specially customized sensor devices, based on its 1/3.2-inch format AR1335 CMOS sensor product. With up to 10 sensor devices capturing image data simultaneously, Light's L16 camera is supposed to deliver an impressive 52MP resolution, plus over 5X optical zoom without any degradation in image quality.

Meanwhile, Light publishes some info on calibration and alignment of its 16-sensor camera:

"A camera that has one optical path worries less about what is “true” or “real” because there is only one truth, one reality. This reality can be objectively tested and optimized, but it requires adjusting only one path.

A multi-aperture camera with sixteen optical paths (apertures + mirrors + sensors) contends with sixteen realities. In order to merge those realities to create one truth (final image), the camera needs to know precisely where each optical path is relative to the others.

In Light’s Palo Alto office, we’ve been using a specially-designed calibration box to “teach” each L16 prototype where all of its optical paths are relative to the others and relative to the world it will capture. This allows the sixteen paths to behave as one - maintaining the same consistency as a camera with only one optical path.

Light L16 calibration box

Chipworks Estimates iPhone 7 Camera Cost at 9.5% of BOM

Chipworks-TechInsights' iPhone 7 reverse engineering report estimates that camera and imaging functions costs about 9.5% of the BOM:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

All-New Tesla Autopilot Has 8 Cameras

Tesla announces that all its new cars will be equipped with its own design of autopilot hardware that will eventually provide fully autonomous driving:

"Eight surround cameras provide 360 degree visibility around the car at up to 250 meters of range. Twelve updated ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for detection of both hard and soft objects at nearly twice the distance of the prior system. A forward-facing radar with enhanced processing provides additional data about the world on a redundant wavelength, capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead.

To make sense of all of this data, a new onboard computer with more than 40 times the computing power of the previous generation runs the new Tesla-developed neural net for vision, sonar and radar processing software.

"Teslas with new hardware will temporarily lack certain features currently available on Teslas with first-generation Autopilot hardware, including some standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking, collision warning, lane holding and active cruise control. As these features are robustly validated we will enable them over the air, together with a rapidly expanding set of entirely new features. As always, our over-the-air software updates will keep customers at the forefront of technology and continue to make every Tesla, including those equipped with first-generation Autopilot and earlier cars, more capable over time."

Update: SeekingAlpha publishes its interpretation of Tesla announcement and 2.0 autopilot version development.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ST ToF Sensor in iPhone 7

Chipworks discovered a ToF proximity sensor, apparently made by ST, next to the front camera in iPhone 7:

"...when we looked at the selfie camera side and took out the sub-assembly, both the ambient light sensor and the LED/sensor module were different from those in the 6s model.

When we took them off and looked at the module, it looked very STMicroelectronics-ish to us. Looking at the die, it is not the same, but definitely similar in style and die numbering (S2L012AC) to the VL53L0/S3L012BA die with the two SPAD arrays, however this time the LED is bonded on top of the ToF die to give a very compact module.

Based on this we think it is safe to conclude that the proximity sensor is now a ToF sensor that can also act as an accurate rangefinder for the selfie camera. It was also in the 7 Plus, so a good design win for STMicroelectronics. So far nothing has been announced by either Apple or STMicroelectronics, but it is yet another one of the subtle improvements that we see in the evolution of mobile phones.