LAS VEGAS – I've never seen anyone I know installing a small video recording device on their car windshield. Have you?
Chris Day, vice president of marketing and business development, at Ambarella, Inc., a Santa Clara, Calif.-based HD video compression chip company, calls this sort of gadget an “Asian-specific app.” Apparently, windshield video-cams are among the fastest growing products in the automotive after-market, especially in countries like China, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan.
These Asian consumers seem to have voracious appetite for auto video, according to Ambarella, because they believe the devices can help them prove what really happened in the event of an accident.
Equally important is that video evidence might convince an insurance company to reduce its rates. According to Didier LeGall, executive vice president at Ambarella, “Especially in Russia and China, I think people don’t trust their governments and police.” They want video proof to protect themselves from unfair rulings or fines.
Fair enough. But who knew?
It’s important to note that Ambarella, founded in 2004 and publicly traded on the Nasdaq exchange since October, is now a 450-employee company with two-thirds of its employees based in Asia, including 200 in Taiwan, 60 in Shanghai, 30 in Shenzhen and 10 in Japan. When it comes to Asia-specific apps, Ambarella is well-positioned to spot a trend and milk it.
While standard definition windshield video cameras have been around for awhile, Ambarella claims to be the pioneer of HD automotive cameras. It's new A7L-A reference designs will are being promoting as enabling full 1080p30 HD single and dual-view camera configurations. Why dual views? Because you’ve GOT to have video recording through both windshield and rear window ( not to mention inside the vehicle), said Day.
Considering that its prime purpose is collecting video evidence, the A7L-A’s combination of features -- wide dynamic range (WDR), smart auto exposure, and full–resolution oversampling -- could prove to be a crucial selling point. It can record license plates even at dusk, or see objects more clearly in high-contrast lighting conditions. The new chip can also run embedded vision software so that the lane departure warning system can be combined with visual cues and alerts for lane change detection.
An image captured by a camera without WDR.
Another image captured with WDR.
Ambarella announced in early December that its third quarter revenue was $35.7 million, up 24 percent from $28.8 million in the same period in fiscal 2012. While the company remains a strong player in the broadcast infrastructure market, Ambarella president and CEO Fermi Wang said recently that automotive cameras – in addition to sports cameras and IP security cameras – are seeing “especially strong growth,” during the recent fiscal quarter.
Perhaps that means I'll be seeing more people I know installing small video recorders in their cars.Related stories:CES slideshow: Gadgets galore at opener
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