Safety Starts at Design: Stacking Up Five IP Camera Reference DesignsAugust 07, 2020 by Nicholas St. John
How do the surveillance camera reference designs from five big names—Renesas, NXP, Qualcomm, Microchip, and TI—compare to each other?
Last year, Global Market Insights revealed that the worldwide shipments of IP cameras are likely to exceed 100 million by 2025. With this demand increasing, many semiconductor companies have risen to the challenge—releasing reference designs for such devices.
The most recent reference design for surveillance cameras comes from Renesas and its collaborators, claiming that their CMOS image sensor-based design will offer 4K resolution with 8M pixels. Along with Renesas, NXP, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Microchip have also released their own security camera reference designs.
In this article, we'll briefly assess how each of these designs stacks up against one another.
Renesas, in collaboration with Novatek Microelectronics and Systemtec Corporation Ltd., has recently released a reference design for surveillance and security applications.
The reference design, centered around Renesas' RAA462113FYL CMOS image sensor, is said to enable ultra-high-definition (UHD) for improved object recognition and detection. The sensor also supports 30fps at 12-bit digital output.
The Renesas-Novatek-Systemtec reference design with Renesas' CMOS image sensor at its heart. Image used courtesy of Renesas
Novatek paired its 800 MHz dual-core SoC image signal processor with Renesas’s sensor, and Systemtec worked on the design of both boards: one from Renesas and one from Novatek. The design implements a phase-detection autofocus function and zoom lens software, which are compatible with low-priced lenses; this makes development costs cheaper for designers.
One reference design comparable to the one from Renesas, Novatek, and Systemtec is NXP’s i.MX27 IP camera reference design.
NXP's design provides a platform for high-performance digital IP video surveillance. The company also claims it allows real-time compression of full-color 720 x 480-pixel video at 30fps. This design accommodates low-power designs and industrial applications with its wide operating temperature range.
Block diagram of NXP's i.MX27 IP camera. Image used courtesy of NXP
Similar to Renesas’ design, the i.MX27 IP camera reference design is communicable to an SD card, SDIO, Ethernet, and USB 2.0. The unit also comes with a microphone, 64 MB SDRAM, 32 MB NOR flash, and 128 MB NAND flash.
Next, Qualcomm has two reference designs: its 300 and 400 platforms, which were made for smart camera and machine learning applications. The unit has dual ISPs, enabling 4K UHD resolution, and supports 16M pixels. Qualcomm says it accomplishes these tasks with minimal power via a heterogeneous computing design.
Block diagram of Qualcomm's platform. Image used courtesy of Qualcomm
The design includes:
- 24-bit audio interface
- 64-bit GPU operating at 780 MHz
- 10nm FinFET design
- Hardware security implementations such as hardware crypto engines and secure boot
The design also has 2 GB of LPDDR4, 16 GB of eMMC, and a micro SD card up to 256 GB. The press release also reveals that the design supports Type C USB, HDMI, JTAG/UART, and Bluetooth.
Microchip//Microsemi's Timberwolf ZL38AMB is designed to pair with its Ambarella video processors—supporting far-field microphones, sound locators, noise reduction, and an acoustic echo canceller.
Reference design of the Ambarella video processor IP camera. Image used courtesy of Microchip
Some other features of this design include an IP camera audio processor, a power over Ethernet (PoE) front-end, a dual pack of MOSFET-based full-bridge rectifiers, and a PoE lightning surge protector, among others.
Texas Instruments also has its own IP network camera design solution. TI's solution is designed for low-power systems with cloud storage and high security. It is able to communicate over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (along with other communication methods) and features similar audio capabilities as Microchip’s design.
A portion of TI's camera IP reference design. Image (modified) used courtesy of Texas Instruments
TI says its system is a power-tree design, which supports a number of input power sources and offers battery management. The company also describes how the design's motion-sensing devices operate over long ranges and detect false triggers.
Overall, these companies have truly novel designs to help engineers implement their designs in a simple and cost-effective way, with each design filling its own niche—whether the design is optimized for resolution, audio or visual capabilities, or data security.
Have you worked with IP camera designs before? What advice can you impart for other engineers working with these devices? Share your experience in the comments below.