A Match Made in Heaven: Intel and Semtech Aim for Consumer LiDARMay 21, 2021 by Jake Hertz
Intel and Semtech join forces to help develop better consumer LiDAR hardware. Could this collaboration be the push LiDAR needs?
LiDAR has long been too expensive and esoteric of a technology to ever find its way into consumer devices, but this has changed significantly in the past couple of years. From big and clunky––only to be used in autonomous vehicles to small and discrete––found inside an iPhone, LiDAR has undergone a massive rebirth. It is now poised for mass entry into a consumer market.
LiDAR examples with uses. Image used courtesy of Woodside Captial Partners
Still, more work needs to be done to help make LiDAR more affordable and easier to integrate. In this direction, Semtech and Intel recently made news when they announced their collaboration to develop optical semiconductor platforms for LiDAR.
To understand what this collaboration might mean for LiDAR technology, looking at both company’s backgrounds in LiDAR and what they hope to achieve by joining forces is essential.
Intel and Semtech's History with LiDAR
While this announcement marks their official collaboration, Intel and Semtech have worked on LiDAR in the past, both separately and together.
Intel has a history working in LiDAR, and earlier this year, it released its RealSense L515 LiDAR camera, which offers some impressive technical specs. Coming in a hockey-puck shape (61 mm diameter and 26 mm height), the camera claimed to be the world’s smallest, high-resolution LiDAR depth camera, owing much of its small size to innovations in micro-MEMS technology.
Breakdown of the Intel RealSense LiDAR Camera L515. Image used courtesy of Intel
This project heavily used Semtech’s devices, specifically where Intel leveraged the company’s trans-impedance amplifiers and laser drivers. The trans-impedance amplifiers from Semtech served to provide Intel with the necessary low noise pre-amplification of current signals from photodetectors while impressively operating anywhere from 155 Mbps to 100 Gbps.
Semtech’s laser drivers proved equally useful, helping Intel’s L515 provide high-frequency laser modulation for better, more well-controlled LiDAR operation.
New Collaboration = Mutual Benefits
After understanding their history together, it appears that Intel feels that Semtech’s offerings and expertise in the field are valuable, resulting in this new collaboration.
As previously stated, this collaboration aims to help develop LiDAR systems that are cheap, reliable, and power-efficient such that they can find their way into consumer devices.
A comparison of vision, radar, and LiDAR. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices
To this end, the collaboration, between Intel RealSense technology and Semtech’s Signal Integrity Products Group, will focus on enabling the L515 camera to work in very low signal-to-noise ratio environments.
Semtech, which already has two generations of LiDAR chips in production, claims to be currently working on future chipsets together with Intel. This partnership appears mutually beneficial, with Semtech benefitting from Intel’s history in silicon and LiDAR and Intel benefitting from Semtech’s history in optical, analog, and mixed-signal semiconductors.
Prospect for Consumer LiDAR
Together, the companies hope to create a world where LiDAR becomes integrated into consumer devices very soon. Consumer LiDAR will enable applications like robotics, logistics, scanning, and computer vision to be significantly augmented and potentially change how these technologies work together.
If these collaborations prove successful, the impact could be profound.
Interested in recent advances in LiDAR technology? Read on in the articles down below.