Series 14 – Episode 2 – Image sensors: why image quality still matters

26th January 2024
Paige West

Paige West speaks with Geoff Ballew, Senior Marketing Director, Intelligent Sensing Group at onsemi about image quality in sensing technology.

With a career spanning several years in Silicon Valley, working for both large and small companies, Geoff’s expertise lies in aligning business growth with technological megatrends, particularly in the realm of image and depth sensors.

onsemi, as Geoff explains, stands out as a semiconductor device manufacturer, not just for its product range, but also for its unique approach to the market, especially in the sensor area. The company produces a variety of components, some simple, others complex, with sensors being among the more intricate. It has a flexible supply chain, allowing the company to manufacture in-house or source externally, depending on technology fit or capacity needs.

The conversation delved into why image quality remains a priority in the design process. For systems integrating cameras, image quality is the core function, capturing data that is sharp, fast, vibrant, and detailed. This quality serves the system's function, enhancing its performance, energy efficiency, and overall user experience.

However, clear imagery is just one facet of image quality. For human applications, qualities like sharpness and vibrant colours are key. For machine vision, clarity might mean capturing detail in fast motion or overcoming environmental challenges like poor lighting. In essence, clear imagery means obtaining the best picture for the application, be it for human enjoyment or detailed machine vision.

Design engineers face numerous challenges in implementing sensing technology, such as uncontrollable lighting in outdoor settings or the need for security systems in high-ceilinged warehouses. Advances in imaging technology not only deliver better image quality but also address system-level considerations like power efficiency and cybersecurity.

onsemi's sensors, for instance, come with features like smart Region of Interest (ROI), which allows capturing a large scene in lower resolution while focusing on small, detailed areas in full resolution. This ability to focus on useful data reduces memory and bandwidth requirements, making systems more efficient and less costly.

Summarising key considerations for selecting an image sensor, Geoff emphasises identifying the most important aspects of image quality for the application, whether it’s for human or machine vision. Additionally, system features like power efficiency, bandwidth saving, and privacy need to be considered to ensure the sensor is a 'good citizen' in the overall system.

Looking ahead, Geoff sees ample room for advancement in classic image quality over the next five years. This includes bringing high-end capabilities, like wide dynamic range, to more segments, offering greater flexibility in resolution and frame rates.

To hear more about image quality, and much more, you can listen to Electronic Specifier’s interview with Geoff Ballew on Spotify or Apple podcasts.


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