Today, Yole Développement launchs a new report covering the camera module industry. Fueled by mobile manufacturers’ strong camera interest and the explosive growth of automotive cameras, this industry will reach $25B in 2015 and should double by 2020.
While mobile is extensively covered in this report, we’ve also dedicated a large section to the ADAS camera market and its technology. Sunex, a specialized lens manufacturer that’s part of this market’s great story, gave us the opportunity to interview Peter Hark, Director of Automotive Sales and Marketing, to discuss the rise of ADAS cameras and how the competitive landscape is shaping up.
Yole Développement: Can you give us a quick overview of Sunex’s activities?
Peter Hark: Sunex specializes in lens assembly for cameras that use CMOS or CCD sensors. We address a wide variety of markets, ranging from automotive and security all the way to consumer products like action sports cameras and even consumer drone cameras. Sunex has two factories in China with approximatively 500 employees. We’re headquartered in San Diego, and this year we expect to reach $50M USD in revenue.
YD: Sunex has situated itself as a major player in the automotive lens segment. What do you think is your market position?
Peter Hark: As a Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 supplier to major car manufacturers like BMW, Volkswagen, and Jaguar, Sunex has positioned itself as a technology leader in the automotive camera space. We’re one of the field’s top five manufacturers, especially for cutting-edge products like thermally compensated or high resolution surround-view cameras in the range of 2Mp. Sunex is also able to apply techniques learned from high-end security and consumer markets, where resolution can reach 12 or even 18Mp. Moreover, our knowledge of automotive and our ability to design optics with high durability under harsh conditions can be applied to other markets.
YD: Can you comment on automotive camera module growth? Where do you think the market is headed?
Peter Hark: We’re very excited about the automotive market’s growth. The low-end of this market concerning rear view cameras is very mature and not very dynamic. The high-end is more about high resolution surround-view cameras from which images are stitched together to give a bird’s eye view of a car, i.e. for parking assist purposes. This area is enjoying high growth. Another growth area are forward-facing cameras which, due to new regulations (especially NCAP in Europe, but also in the U.S.), are being increasingly adopted. There’s a lot of excitement about replacing mirrors with cameras – not only the side mirrors but also the rear-view mirror. Concerning forward-facing cameras, we’re witnessing a trend towards stereo cameras; and inside the car, there’s a need for driver monitoring systems (DMS) since the controls will be shared between the “autopilot” and the driver.
YD: What is the added value of optics in automotive camera modules?
Peter Hark: Over time, people have moved away from thinking, “we’ll fix this with software”. From the camera viewpoint, it’s always a matter of put the photons in the right place before applying software techniques. At Sunex, we’ve developed what we call the NoGhostTM technology, which is able to reduce straylight effects. This has great value for HDR sensors, and it’s the kind of approach that will elicit much better results from the software. Likewise thermally-compensated optics add value to computer vision applications such as forward sensing cameras where they can extend the operational temperature range. Usually the idea is that optics account for 1/3 of a camera system’s total cost – the three big drivers being the lens, the sensor, and the image processing unit. In the automotive space, the price can range from 1 to 2 depending on lens quality and camera application.
YD: What is the impact of video analytics and ADAS on optics specification?
Peter Hark: Until recently, rear and surround cameras were for viewing purposes only. Now, users want ADAS functions (lane-departure warning, rear crash mitigation, etc.). This directly impacts the specification, since there are enhanced requirements for color, contrast, temperature, and straylight minimization.
YD: What do you think is the major technology battleground in automotive lenses?
Peter Hark: It used to be FOV and F#, but these days everyone can do those. I think it’s turning more towards complex design features such as thermal compensation and straylight minimization. The battleground is actually changing, and the key is understanding the industry’s new requirements. For example, where once we worked in the visible range, the new requirement for driver monitoring cameras is to use near-infrared light. At Sunex, we’re constantly adapting to new market requirements.
YD: Is there anything else you would like say about Sunex?
Peter Hark: Sunex is really excited about the future – not only in automotive, but for other applications that require high-quality, durable lenses.
Peter Hark is Director of Sales and Marketing at Sunex specializing in the automotive market. He has more than 10 years OEM sales experience and nearly 20 years experience in the optics industry.
Specific areas of expertise include sales and sales team management, channel selling, business development, strategy development & implementation, leadership, driving sales growth, market analysis and development, technical program management, contract negotiation and management, manufacturing, supply chain assessment, global logistics, mentoring, and management.
Prior to becoming Director of Sales and Marketing at Sunex, Peter spent 10 years as a Sales Engineering with Sunex specializing in business to business sales of imaging lenses to the Automotive, Security, and Consumer markets. Before this he spent several years working as a Laser Engineer as well in technical sales for a catalog company.
He has strong cross-cultural working with customers and manufacturers in Asia, Europe, and North America.
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