3 New Image Signal Processors Target Power, Speed, and Autonomous Driving
The push towards autonomous driving is showing a flux of companies releasing image signal processors. What exactly is being improved?
As self-driving vehicles and next-gen security systems advance, image signal processors (ISP) have become increasingly relevant in these applications.
Processing and computing hardware types: data type vs. computing power. Screenshot used courtesy of Yole Développement
Recently, company's have been releasing ISP's claiming advanced features. This article will explore the latest ISPs from THine Electronics, Omnivision, and Pinnacle Imaging Systems to better understand what each company is developing and show how they enhance camera functionalities in today's applications.
Improving Image Quality with Advanced Features
The first ISP to explore is from THine Electronics. THine Electronics is a provider of high-speed serial interfaces and signal processing. In collaboration with its US subsidiary, THine Solutions, it recently released its THP7312-P ISP to provide uncompressed 4K 30fps video streaming.
In addition to prior features of the older THine ISP releases, the improved frame-rate video streaming resolutions are potentially suitable for advanced imaging applications.
It comes in two packages: the THP7312-P BGA and a smaller package, the THP7312-P WLCSP. The company hopes to achieve the best digital camera picture quality with its latest ISP releases through rapid image processing, noise reduction, and gamma correction.
THine's THP7312-P block diagram. Image used courtesy of THine Electronics
This device includes key specifications like <1ms low latency and <0.5W power efficiency, a bitrate and clock frequency of 1.2 Gbps/lane and 165 MHz, respectively, and a maximum pixel and pixel rate of 16MP and 300 MP/sec. Also, the MIPI(Mobile Industry Processor Interface) CSI-2 (Camera Serial Interface) host interface is capable of transmitting uncompressed 4K 30fps video in RAW 8, YUV422, UV420, or Jpeg format.
THine Electronics also upgraded its THEVAP7312-P GUI-based firmware development tool and its Camera Development Kit (CDK) tool that supports the THP7312-P ISP, making it unique to other latest ISP releases. These tools help support the ISP's high output speed in addition to allowing customers, especially Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), to produce their CMOS camera sensor module by seamlessly developing a customized ISP firmware version.
To add to the features included with this ISP, there are also multiple upgrades to several image-based applications, including:
- Gamma, dark area, memory color, and multi-axis corrections in adaptive image signal processing.
- Upgraded auto functions including auto white balance and autofocus.
- High-resolution face detection, JPEG encoder, and de-fog
- High-performance video streaming
With these upgraded features, the THP7312-P aims to be a contender in the world of ISPs, especially in driver monitoring applications. However, there are other recent ISP advancements to look at, the next specifically from OmniVision.
Compact High-Performance ISP: the OAX4000
Claiming greater design flexibility, this ISP allows OEMs to design ageless single and multi-camera architecture with functionalities relevant to future applications.
Electronic control modules usually require two ISPs to function optimally. Instead, one OAX4000 ISP can, in addition to ensuring improved image signal processing reliability, reduce design space and complexity.
Some relevant specifications of the OAX4000 ISP include the following:
- 30% power saving over older versions
- A frame rate of up to 60fps
- Temperature sensor incorporation
- A bitrate of 2.5 Gbps/lane
- Supports programmable data types
- YUK video output format
Omnivision also features advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR), which helps ensure high-quality image production in various lighting conditions for numerous applications.
As an Application-specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) that can process large data streams from up to four 3MP cameras or one 8MP camera, the Omnivision's OAX4000 ISP could be suitable for advanced automotive applications.
Advanced automotive applications of the OAX4000. Image used courtesy of Omnivision
Some applications include autonomous car cameras, interior cameras, e-mirrors, and surround-view systems, which are all becoming more prevalent with the advancement of autonomous driving.
Jumping on the automotive application boom, along with OmniVision is another ISP from Pinnacle Imaging Systems.
Denali 3.0 ISP: Building on Technology
The company designed its ISP range to compensate for HDR motion artifacts. The design flexibility and its fully programmable nature allow it to be compatible with several sensors, including ON Semiconductor and Sony. It also can achieve power and DRAM requirement reduction by running on Xilinx Zynq FPGA lines, thus setting it apart from some of the other recent sensor releases.
Block diagram for the Denali 3.0 HDR ISP. Image used courtesy of Pinnacle Imaging Systems
Some interesting features of the Denali 3.0 ISP include:
- Low latency
- Low power consumption
- Low DRAM requirements
- Noise suppression
- Up to 60 Hz artificial lighting sync
- Support for ON Semiconductor’s AR0239 Sensor
- 2 to 4-frame exposure merge block
- 120dB/20EV HDR
Another interesting aspect of this ISP is how it claims to be based on ON Semiconductor's AR0239 CMOS sensor.
Engineers and camera designers often integrate sensors and ISPs to develop mission-critical applications for ultra-fast response times and high-quality video signals. ON Semiconductor’s AR0239 CMOS sensor and Pinnacle Systems Denali 3.0 offers a configuration that implements a 20-bit data path. This configuration then produces a 120dB dynamic range while ensuring low latency.
With these specs and potential use in advanced automotive applications, will this help push imaging systems to the next level?
Global ISP Trends
A common application for the latest high-performance processors is autonomous vehicles. However, they are also useful in mobile devices, medicine, and security.
Their specifications allow for outstanding video performance, crisp digital pictures, and continuous frame capturing. These recent releases show that manufacturers are forward-thinking and continuously accounting for low power usage, design complexity, and portability in their image signal processors. These developments are sure to be just the start to making imaging systems even more functional, especially for autonomous driving and driver monitoring systems.
Interested in other new innovations geared towards automotive applications? Find out more in the articles down below.