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STMicroelectronics ToF Proximity Sensor & Flood Illuminator in the Apple iPhone X - Patent-to-Product Mapping

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iPhone X Proximity Sensor and Food Illuminator Patent to Product Mapping 2018

What are the main patented features of this Apple iPhone X proximity sensor and flood illuminator?

Apple iPhone X: a trove of new tech sensors

Released in November 2017, the Apple iPhone X marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone product line. With this new generation come several new technologies that make the iPhone X unique. Among the main new features we find are the screen design, OLED display, advanced true-depth camera, and optical array sensors (which enable facial ID). In addition to these new features, the iPhone X has an impressive number of sensors, especially those that are integrated into a small space at the top of the iPhone X screen. The sensor panel includes an infrared camera, flood illuminator, proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor, along with a front camera, dot projector, speaker, and microphone. To achieve such a complex solution, Apple successfully built and managed a strong network comprised of many players.

The iPhone X’s time of flight (ToF) proximity sensor and flood illuminator are good examples of this network’s aptitude. Indeed, manufacturing these two devices required the work of three companies: STMicroelectronics, Philips, and Lumentum. In such a complex network, understanding each player’s patented features, IP position, and strategy was critical.

With a CAGR of 82% from 2016 - 2023 (according to Yole Développement), the consumer market will drive the development of 3D imaging and sensing technologies. Today, the iPhone X’s sensors are part of the first generation of imaging and sensing devices to be integrated in a cellphone, but many will follow. In this report, Knowmade and its partner, System Plus Consulting, join forces and provide key information for understanding the roles, dynamics, and IP strategies of the players involved in the manufacturing of the iPhone X’s proximity sensor and flood illuminator.

Included in the same package, both components have been torn down and analyzed by System Plus Consulting, revealing their main characteristics. Based on this teardown analysis, Knowmade has identified the closest patents to these technologies and described the main proprietary features.

Apple iPhone X sensors



To reveal the main features of the Apple iPhone X’s proximity sensor and flood illuminator, Knowmade has analyzed the patent portfolios of STMicroelectronics, Lumentum, and Philips. For each player, Knowmade has performed:

  • A selection of relevant and related patents
  • A global IP analysis in order to understand each player’s IP strategy and position
  • A deep analysis of patents related to the Apple iPhone X product


iPhone X sensors Patent to product methodology



  • Identify the IP players involved in manufacturing the Apple iPhone X’s proximity sensor and flood illuminator
  • Understand these players’ strategy and position in the IP landscape
    From STMicroelectronics’ patent portfolio to Lumentum’s VCSEL-focused portfolio, more than 500 inventions related to ToF sensors and VCSEL have been identified. A global IP analysis allows us to understand the position of each player by positioning their patents within their IP competitive landscape and highlighting their actual IP dynamic regarding patent publication and geographic coverage.
  • Analyzing IP players’ product-related patents
    This report provides an understanding of the key features asserted by the patents of STMicroelectronics, Lumentum, and Philips. Each patent related to the Apple iPhone X’s sensor is detailed. Main characteristics and their impact on the manufacturing process, device performance, cost, etc. are highlighted too.

patent to product mapping KnowMade August2018 yole


Table of contents

Introduction 6

> This report’s scope
> This report’s key features
> Related reports
> Company profiles



Methodology 17

> Teardown analysis and patent mapping
> Patent database and tools
> Terminology for patent analysis
> Tear down



Patent landscape overview 31

> STMicroelectronics IP portfolio
> Time evolution of patent publications
> Patent distribution by legal status
> Mapping of granted patents and pending applications
> Patent citations analysis
> Philips IP portfolio
> Time evolution of patent publications











>Patent distribution by legal status
> Mapping of granted patents and pending applications
> Patent citations analysis
> Lumentum IP portfolio
> Time evolution of patent publications
> Patent distribution by legal status
> Mapping of granted patents and pending applications
> Patent citations analysis



Patent-to-product mapping 50

> Packaging
> SPAD detector
> VCSEL for proximity sensor
> VCSEL for flood illuminator



Conclusion 101



KnowMade Company presentation 104
















































About the authors

Knowmade is a Patent, Technology and Strategy consulting company involved in Microelectronics, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology and Life Sciences.

We provide Patent Search, Patent Landscape, Patent Analysis, Scientific Landscape, State of the Art, Technology Scouting, Technology Tracking, Alerts and Updates.

Our service offer consists of standard reports, custom studies & on-demand tracking, strategy consulting and training.

We combine information search services, scientific expertise, powerful analytics and visualization tools, and proprietary methodologies for analyzing patents and scientific information.

Knowmade supports research laboratories, industrial companies and investors in their business development. 
















































  • Link between key product features and patents owned by STMicroelectronics, Lumentum, and Philips
  • Essential patent portfolio analysis for STMicroelectronics, Lumentum, and Philips, related to VCSEL and ToF sensors. Includes:
    • Time evolution of patent publications, and countries of patent filings
    • Current legal status of patents
    • Citation network and competitive IP networks
  • Deep insight into technology data, including teardown analysis of:
    • STMicroelectronics ToF sensor
    • Philips’ VCSEL source
    • Lumentum’s VCSEL array