Eastman Kodak commits to the security space

New CMOS technology to allow for smaller, cheaper low-light megapixel cameras
Saturday, March 1, 2008

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--With an announcement of new image-sensing technology, Eastman Kodak has made a commitment to the security surveillance space, promising it will enable smaller, cheaper megapixel cameras that perform better in low-light situations. Kodak hopes to compete with Sony's CCD sensors and those made by the likes of Pixim and Micron in becoming the image-acquiring mechanism of security cameras.
"If we couldn't offer some of these advantages," said Fassell Mosleh, worldwide director of CIS marketing and business development for Kodak's Image Sensor Solutions business, "like wide dynamic range, better signal-to-noise ratio, we wouldn't even try to go into the market, but these capabilities naturally play into the security space." Mosleh most recently worked at Micron, which made a commitment to the security space in 2007. Though he feels the market is fragmented, and Kodak may have to work in some small volumes initially, he conservatively agrees with analyst projections about the growth of the security surveillance market. So, while the new sensor technology has a consumer application, in camera phones and the like, it should also impact security.
Key to the performance of this new sensor, he said, is the Kodak Truesense CMOS Pixel, a re-engineering of the fundamental design and architecture of traditional CMOS pixels. In a standard CMOS pixel, signal is measured by detecting electrons that are generated when light interacts with surface of the sensor.
As more light strikes the sensor, more electrons are generated, resulting in a higher signal at each pixel. In the Kodak pixel, however, the underlying "polarity" of the silicon is reversed, so that the absence of electrons (or, "the holes") is used to detect a signal. This change, he said, enabled a series of improvements to the design and structure of the pixel that ultimately results in CMOS imaging performance that rivals that available from CCD image sensors.
Further, Kodak has abandoned its own Bayer Pattern, which has become the red-green-blue standard of pixel architecture, and added another clear pixel to the collection pattern, which collects the whole spectrum of light, "increasing the luminosity component of the picture," Mosleh said, "like increasing the rods in your retina." This, he said, allows for faster video to be captured in lower light environments.
Thus, "if scene detail is very important, if digital PTZ is important, we can help," Mosleh said. "In only the space of 6 mm by 6 mm, we can give you five million pixels.
Some designers could take four of these and create fantastically powerful security cameras."
For now, however, Kodak is just showing off a prototype, letting potential customers design with the chip in mind.
The plan is to be in production by the end of this year, so new security cameras employing the technology could be ready by the first quarter of 2009.