Beyond automotive cameras, what opportunities exist for specialized suppliers to the truck, transport, construction machinery, and aerospace industries? An interview with First Sensor

Courtesy of First Sensor

Since 2016, Yole Développement (Yole) has covered the explosion of demand for optical sensors and cameras in the transportation industry, with reports such as Sensors for Robotic Vehicles 2018 , LiDAR for Automotive and Industrial Applications 2019 and the recently updated Imaging for Automotive 2019. Pierre Cambou, Imaging Principal Analyst for Yole, took the opportunity to meet with Rainer Baumann, sensor expert from First Sensor, and learn a bit more about this global trend and the involvement of First Sensor in the transportation industry space. Discover the content of their discussion.

YD19026-Imaging-for-Automotive-device and techno segmentation

Pierre Cambou (PC): Mr. Baumann, what is your general assessment of the imaging industry – particularly optical sensors and cameras for the transportation industry?
Rainer Baumann (RB):
In general? It’s outstanding! While cameras in vehicles used to be the preserve of the premium segment, for example, ordinary vehicles now come with 1 – 3 cameras. According to forecasts, around 7 – 10 cameras will be installed in every vehicle by 2025! However, I can also see the difficulties this will cause for specialized developers and suppliers – for example in the transport, special vehicle, and aerospace industries.

PC: While electronics in general is becoming a key technology for OEMS and Tier-1s, does digital mobility pose a threat to specialized manufacturers?
No, there is no reason to be pessimistic. There will of course be market shakeouts, but there are a host of great opportunities for versatile manufacturers. Naturally, the sensor market will also respond to these challenges, particularly in the camera systems sector. Some sensor suppliers have realized what’s happening and are developing digital components and systems that open up far more opportunities for these industries with regard to robustness, future viability, and flexibility. But one thing is also very clear: Holistic thinking is now required to engage with this increasing complexity. Software, sensor fusion, and interaction are just some of the key issues. More than ever, experience shows that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Or, as we might say in this case, its components.

First Sensor - Anpassung Produktseite
Courtesy of First Sensor

PC: Sticking with optical sensors, your company’s “next big thing” is a new CMOS camera generation…
Yes, our Blue Next. The great third generation.

PC: Is this a response to the market requirements and opportunities you described?
100 percent. Personally, as an engineer, I am very proud of Blue Next. A huge amount of hard work and experience has gone into it. First of all, we asked ourselves:
“How can we create something great that combines the high-tech innovations of static mass production with the flexibility of cost-intensive custom production?”

The answer was an ultra-robust digital camera with high-end features normally only seen in mass production. It is also extremely modular, works with a wide range of interfaces, and conserves energy. The perfect design for new and creative applications.

PC: What mass-production features do you mean exactly?
One would be the six-axis alignment procedure – the ultra-precise positioning of the optical components (optics to imager) with live images. This ensures that image quality is extremely high, even at the edges, and can be reproduced across all products. However, this also requires special high-tech production which is usually reserved for large batches. But for the first time, Blue Next offers this precision and image quality on a smaller scale, which is really extraordinary.
I’d also like to briefly mention something that’s very important to many companies. We kept the entire development and production process in-house in Dresden, and it’s really paying off now with quick response times, high adaptability, and absolutely consistent quality.

PC: In your opinion, what should purchasers, engineers, and designers look for in such products?
It really depends on the industry in question and the application, but in general we can certainly say that image quality – not resolution alone, mind you – has become a key criterion for ensuring future viability. Object detection, sensor fusion, and HDR can only work perfectly if the initial data is perfect too. Another important issue I’ve already mentioned is flexibility with regard to configuration, interfaces, and suppliers. If the system can accommodate new trends and developments as well, then the manufacturer will be able to respond extremely quickly. This brings me to the next point. I am not entirely neutral of course, but our philosophy – with good reason – is to pay particular attention to the automotive qualifications of components and partners. Ideally in line with the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) 16949 quality management system. This offers peace of mind and saves on unpleasant follow-on costs.
Certain patterns that hinder success can be seen again and again in company practices. Particularly when purchasing and assembling camera and system components, errors are made that will take their toll at a later stage and would have been easy to avoid.
At this point, I’d like to mention our white paper, in which we analyze this exact problem and provide detailed information and tips.


Rainer Baumann - First Sensor

Rainer Baumann is a product manager at First Sensor AG and is responsible for cameras and camera systems.
He graduated from the University of Stuttgart with a degree in aerospace technology and gained a wide range of professional experience in sensor and system development at Dresden University of Technology and a number of start-up companies.


Pierre Cambou - Yole Développement

Pierre Cambou has been part of the imaging industry since 1999. He first took several positions at Thomson TCS, which became Atmel Grenoble in 2001 and e2v Semiconductors in 2006. In 2012 Pierre founded Vence Innovation, later renamed Irlynx, to bring to market an infrared sensor technology for smart environments and interactions. He has an Engineering degree from Université de Technologie de Compiègne and a Master of Science from Virginia Tech. Pierre also graduated with an MBA from Grenoble Ecole de Management. In 2014 he joined Yole Développement as Principal Analyst, Imaging at Yole Développement.

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