The race between Sony and Samsung for neuromorphic image sensors is heating up

Last September, Yole published a market and technology analysis named “Neuromorphic Sensing & Computing 2019”. It ambitiously looked at the immediate and long-term potential of neuromorphic “event based” image sensors and AI computing chips. Based on our analysis, we forecast that neuromorphic semiconductors, sensing and computing will become a $7.1B market by 2029. And here’s a short look at what happened in this area in recent weeks.

The two CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) giants Sony and Samsung have revealed some of their neuromorphic image sensor strategy. It all started on the 28th of October when Prophesee, the neuromorphic vision startup, announced that it had raised an additional $28M, bringing its total funding to $68M. Then, at the beginning of November 2019 we learned that Samsung had filed a trademark application for ISOCELL-Motion, number WIPO 88676829, for its Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS) technology intended for mobile and tablet applications. This was a surprise, since Samsung had originally marketed DVS mainly for automotive advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). In early December 2019 we learned that Prophesee and Sony would give a joint presentation at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco in February 2020, about an “event based” image sensor. This was a surprise too, because Prophesee has been developing its own image sensors so far. Therefore such an alliance is a sign of great interest in the neuromorphic sensing topic. And now, we have learned that the team at Insightness, another “event-based” image sensor startup from Zurich, Switzerland, has silently joined Sony.

This is a similar move to what Sony did in 2015 when it acquired Softkinetic for its 3D Time-Of-Flight (ToF) image sensors, which are now such a success in the Huawei P30 Pro and Samsung S10 5G. Sony can manage both internal and external growth with great prowess. Samsung, by contrast, relies mostly on internal growth, but as most of its DVS R&D is done in Tel Aviv, Israel, it has a similarly worldwide footprint.

We emphasize again that Sony and Samsung are the two largest CIS players. Their visible interest in neuromorphic image sensors is a sign we could get them in our smartphones soon. Remember that event-based sensors can already be found in some industrial applications. Before seeing those sensors in our pockets, we will ensure to keep you updated on a regular basis.

About the author:

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 (Yole).

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Neuromorphic Sensing and Computing 2019_bd

Neuromorphic Sensing and Computing 2019
Facing huge hurdles in data bandwidth and computational efficiencies, computing and sensing must reinvent themselves by mimicking neurobiological architectures.


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