Analytics and HD for the mainstream?

Chipmakers like Omnivision and Stretch are trying to make that happen
Thursday, May 1, 2008

LAS VEGAS-As you walked around the show floor, looking at camera manufacturers touting all manner of new capabilities, how many of you spent much time thinking about the chips inside the cameras that make those capabilities possible? How much do you know about silicon's role in camera pricing?
For years, the suppliers to camera makers have been dominated by the CCD image sensor made by Sony and DSPs make by Texas Instruments. Lately, however, new entrants have come into the field with an intent to drive costs down, which may promise to make some of the more expensive pieces of the video surveillance puzzle less expensive and more mainstream.
For example, OmniVision, the leading CMOS chip maker (CMOS is a type of image sensor that is all digital, a direct competitor to the CCD sensor), has teamed with H.264 compression chip maker Mobilygen to create a ready-to-build standard definition IP camera reference design for light-sensitive applications. This means a camera maker can essentially just bend some metal around the supplied guts and have a very inexpensive IP camera that works in low-light.
"We think we've got a nice solution that we think can help grow the market," said Bruce Weyer, OmniVision's vice president of marketing. Specifically, he thought this kind of offering could make IP cameras for the residential market much more likely.
OmniVision executives say its efficiency in processing images allows for HD, megapixel, and high dynamic range cameras where one chip can substitute for as many as seven chips.
Similarly, Stretch, a DSP maker that does H.264 encoding and competes with TI, has teamed with analytics maker IntelliVision to release a camera reference design with IntelliVision's analytics software placed right on the Stretch encoder, allowing camera makers to put analytics on board cameras or DVRs using just one chip, instead of at least two, which is more common.
"It's all about price per channel," noted Bob Beachler, Stretch vice president of marketing."We can collapse the price by doing both the encoding and the analytics on the same chip. Then the surveillance companies can specify and design their cameras the way they want to." ssn