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TransChip rolls out a single-chip CMOS imager

Posted: 22 Jul 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:transchip? cmos image sensor? tc5740? cmos camera module? 0.25µm cmos image sensor process?

Israeli startup TransChip is targeting mobile handset vendors seeking to upgrade cellphones to popular camera phones with a single-chip CMOS image sensor that integrates image processing and compression along with LCD controller functions.

Unlike most CMOS image sensor companies who view digital still camera vendors as their primary customers, TransChip is targeting mobile phones as its key customers.

"Camera phones have been our primary focus from the very beginning" since the company was founded in 1999, said Viktor Ariel, co-founder and CEO of TransChip. Rather than developing a CMOS image sensor with a standard camera interface, TransChip has designed a CMOS imager solution that includes added functions and an interface specifically optimized for mobile phones.

TransChip's new CMOS camera module, the TC5740, features a VGA format CMOS image sensor integrated with on-chip image processor, a real-time JPEG codec with motion JPEG capability and mobile display graphics. The camera module is embedded with a miniature lens module and flex cable.

Priced at $12 in volume, the VGA CMOS camera module, already sampling, has been tested in several mobile phone reference designs, according to Ariel. Fabricated by using TSMC's 0.25?m CMOS Image Sensor process, it will enter volume production in October.

With an on-chip capability to compress images and directly link the LCD for video preview, the TC5740 simply offloads computationally intensive image compression tasks from a baseband processor, saves the bandwidth necessary to send a full motion video stream to the baseband, reducing overall power consumption, Ariel said.

Ruie Adar, TransChip's director of product marketing, said mobile phone vendors offering mid-range to low-end phones do not need to upgrade their baseband processor to a more powerful, expensive, and power-hungry device in designing camera phones.

TransChip's imager chip could spark a new battle on the mobile IC market front as other chip vendors compete for a bigger piece of the growing camera phone market. Indeed, there is no clear agreement within the mobile handset industry on preferred partitioning among image processing, compression and display graphics tasks within a mobile phone chipset.

John Jackson, wireless/mobile technologies analyst at the Yankee Group, said, "The situation for handset designers becomes highly convoluted by the availability of: a dedicated applications co-processor that supports JPEG, MPEG-4 [and other] solutions such as TransChip's, and increasingly capable cellular baseband chipsets that can also be optimized to support this functionality."

Jackson cautioned that handset vendors need to carefully analyze "what part of the service offering portfolio - MMS, SMS, Enterprise, Email, Vidoe, Push-to-Talk - will require the use of a robust, dedicated applications processor, as opposed to a TransChip-type solution that can handle all image processing tasks independent of the baseband."

Neil Mawston, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, "TransChip's direct LCD drive simplifies system design." Setting aside attempts by various companies to differentiate their baseband chips, "any initiative that potentially reduces in-device costs will always be of interest to handset vendors."

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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