Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MIPI Alliance Officially Releases C-PHY v1.0, D-PHY v1.2, and M-PHY v3.1 Specs

Business Wire: MIPI Alliance introduces the new C-PHY spec, a physical layer interface for camera and display applications. "The MIPI C-PHY specification was developed to reduce the interface signaling rate to enable a wide range of high-performance and cost-optimized applications, such as very low-cost, low-resolution image sensors; sensors offering up to 60 megapixels; and even 4K display panels," said Rick Wietfeldt, chair of the MIPI Alliance Technical Steering Group.

MIPI C-PHY departs from the conventional differential signaling on two-wire lanes and introduces 3-phase symbol encoding of about 2.28 bits per symbol to transmit data symbols on 3-wire lanes, or “trios” where each trio includes an embedded clock. Three trios operating at the C-PHY v1.0 rate of 2.5 Gsym/s achieve a peak bandwidth of 2.5 Gsym/s times 2.28 bits/symbol, or about 17.1 Gbps over a 9-wire interface that can be shared, if desired, with the MIPI D-PHY interface.

The MIPI Alliance also announces updates to the MIPI D-PHY and MIPI M-PHY physical layer technologies. The updated MIPI D-PHY specification, v1.2, introduces lane-based data skew control in the receiver to achieve a peak transmission rate of 2.5 Gbps/lane or 10 Gbps over 4 lanes, compared to the v1.1 peak transmission rate of 1.5 Gbps/lane or 6 Gbps over 4 lanes. The MIPI M-PHY v3.1 specification introduces transmitter equalization to improve support for challenging channels while maintaining the peak transmission rate of 5.8 Gbps/lane or 23.2 Gbps over 4 lanes, which was achieved in its v3.0 specification.

Synopsys MIPI D-PHY Cuts Area and Power by 50%

PR Newswire: Synopsys says its new DesignWare MIPI D-PHY is 50% lower in area and power compared to competitive solutions. The new IP is the first in the industry compliant to the MIPI D-PHY v1.2 spec (8 data lanes maximum instead of 4 lanes in v1.1), and delivers aggregated data throughput of up to 20 Gbps for high-resolution imaging (2.5 Gbps per lane, 8 lanes).

The new DesignWare MIPI D-PHY is available now in 16-nm FinFET processes, with availability in 28-nm processes scheduled for early 2015. VIP for MIPI D-PHY v1.2 is available now.

"By delivering an extremely small-area and low-power D-PHY to the fast-paced and competitive mobile market, Synopsys helps designers differentiate their SoCs in both silicon cost and battery life," said John Koeter, VP of marketing for IP and prototyping at Synopsys.

"The DesignWare MIPI D-PHY offered low power consumption, high performance and configurability options that were critical to the success of our Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit," said Sean Mitchell, SVP and COO at Movidius. As a side note, Myriad 2 has 12 lanes of 1.5 Gbps D-PHY in 28nm process, so I'm not sure it's relevant to this recent announcement.

Samsung APS-C BSI Sensor

Business Wire, Samsung Tomorrow: Samsung officially announces its 28MP APS-C sensor. Currently in mass production, the new S5KVB2 uses 65nm copper process, while most of the other large sensors rely on 0.18um aluminum techbnology. The 65nm process enables lower power consumption, less heating and lower noise.

The pixel size is 3.6um. Samsung says that BSI technology "improves the light sensitivity of each pixel and increases light absorption in peripheral areas by approximately 30 percent, resulting in crisper, sharper images compared to a conventional front-side illumination (FSI) pixel-based imager."

To satisfy the increasing market need for high-end image sensors in digital cameras, Samsung has introduced this new imager, which features excellent higher resolution, superior image quality, and faster shooting speed with low power consumption,” said Kyushik Hong, VP of System LSI marketing, Samsung Electronics. “Based on its leadership in CMOS imaging technologies, Samsung will continue to address new trends in camera sensor markets.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sony Presents 4D AF

Sony presents 4D Autofocus that the company calls "the beginning of new era." Yooutube videos show its advantages form a user perspective (video #1, video #2:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Technavio Reports on Image Sensor Market in China

Thechniavio prepares "Mobile Image Sensor Market in China 2014-2018" report. There is no much data is available in public domain, other than the forecast that Mobile Image Sensor market in China will grow at a CAGR of 15.35% over the period 2013-2018. Previous Technavio reports have been quite controversial.

Samsung Announces APS-C-Sized BSI Sensor

Business Wire: Samsung NX1 DSLR features what it calls the world's first APS-C-sized BSI sensor. The sensor has 28.2MP (pixel size 3.6um) and features 205 phase detect AF points covering 90% of the frame. The AF pixels allow the camera to achieve 15fps of continuous shooting while continuously tracking focus. The camera also supports shooting 4K video with H.265 HEVC codec.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Judge Finds L-3 Patent "Obvious"

Reuters: A federal judge has ruled in favor of Sony, overturning a jury verdict for L-3 Communications and invalidating several parts of an image sensor patent held by the defense contractor. The judge said that the jury in 2013 was wrong to find L-3's patent claims were not "obvious" and thus insufficiently unique to be patented. New York-based L-3 sued Sony in 2010 over two patents for the image sensors, which it said were originally developed for military low-light applications.

Law360: The patent in the lawsuit is:

US5541654 "Focal plane array imaging device with random access architecture" by Peter C. T. Roberts

This is a divisional patent. The original patent under the same name has been dropped earlier in the dispute:

US5452004 "Focal plane array imaging device with random access architecture" by Peter C. T. Roberts

Update: The official judge opinion on the case is published here.

Apple Proposes Global Shutter BSI Pixel

Apple patent application US20140246568 "Photodiode with different electric potential regions for image sensors" by Chung Chun Wan proposes a vertically stacked fully pinned PDs, whereas the bottom one is used as a storage node (SN) for a GS pixel: "The storage node in global shutter pixels is usually located on the same surface of a semiconductor wafer as the photodiode region, and thus typically needs to be shielded in order to maintain the integrity of the charge stored in the storage node. Also, positioning the storage node on the same surface of a semiconductor wafer as the photodiode reduces the amount of surface area of the photodiode that can be exposed to light, and hence reduces the sensitivity of the pixel." So, here is the proposal:

Omnivision Proposes Dual-PD-Size Dual-Exposure Pixel

Omnivision's patent application US20140246561 "High dynamic range pixel having a plurality of photodiodes with a single implant" by Gang Chen, Dajiang Yang, Jin Li, Duli Mao, Hsin-Chih Tai proposes a dual-PD-size pixel where each PD exposure can be independently controlled. This approach is known, "however, one challenge with manufacturing HDR image sensors using this approach is that additional photo masking and implantation steps are required during manufacture, which add to the overall complexity and cost of implementing the HDR image sensors." So, Omnivision proposes to use the same PD implant and masking layer:

Some other possibilities of the large PD implant layouts:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Anitoa Announces 3e-6 Lux Ultra Low-Light CMOS Bio-Optical Sensor

PR Web, Anitoa Systems, a Palo Alto startup established in 2011, announces what it calls the industry’s first 3e-6 lux ultra low-light CMOS Bio-optical Sensor and solution kit aimed to portable medical and scientific instruments. Anitoa’s single chip CMOS Bio-optical Sensor is capable of detecting 3e-6 lux narrow band light at 550nm with 20nm bandwidth with a better than 13dB SNR in the operating temperature between -25 to 85C, consuming only 30mW.

Anitoa sensor is a small, 5mm x 5mm, and said to be manufactured in mature 0.18um process by "a world-leader specialty foundry." The new compact sensor is expected to replace the bulky and expensive PMTs and cooled CCDs widely used today in molecular diagnostic instruments.

"Anitoa uses process optimization and novel circuit techniques to reduce the various noises of CMOS image sensor to achieve high signal-to-noise ratio. The excessive noise that cannot be eliminated in the chip, due to limitations of physics, is further computed and filtered through software algorithms that “understand” the statistical nature of different sources of noises and signals in the system," the company's whitepaper says.

Anitoa’s single-chip CMOS Bio-optical Sensor is available in the form of a “Solution Kit” for customer evaluation and early adoption. This Solution Kit includes Anitoa’s ULS 24 CMOS Bio-optical Sensor IC, an interface board, and integrated Intelligent Dark-current Management algorithm. The solution kit is priced at $1,500 each. Volume production of Anitoa’s ULS24 CMOS Bio-optical Sensor kit is estimated at 2Q15.

Anitoa executive team members have played leadership roles in well-known Silicon Valley IT and biotech companies such as Philips, ST Micro, Agilent, SST, Promega, Chiron, and Novartis. Anitoa partners with Zhejiang Nano-systems Institute (ZCNI), and the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University in China for clinical application validation and field deployment in that region.

Anitoa ULS24 imager
ULS24 parameters from article

Update: As noted in comments, Anitoa's whitepaper gives a table with different resolution, SNR and lux rating:

USL24 parameters from Anitoa's whitepaper