MANHASSET, NY It won't be long before your ho-hum camera phone -- essentially a phone with a toy camera -- will turn into a real camera with a real phone.
You've heard that before.
But seriously, what will it take to make that happen? And will it affect all -- even the most basic phones?
Silicon Image, Inc. is introducing Monday (Oct. 12th) an 18-Megapixel image signal processor Intellectual Property (IP) core. The company claims that the new IP core, called "camerIC-18," supports resolutions ranging from 5MP to 18MP. The IP can "effectively place high-performance digital still camera features in mobile phones," said Ron Richter, director of business development at Silicon Image.
Silicon Image is neither alone nor the first to make such a claim.
Standalone image signal processor (ISP) vendors like Zoran, applications processor suppliers like Texas Instruments, SoC companies such as Samsung Electronics and NEC have been working toward that goal.
Their design options range from merging ISP with CMOS image sensors (Samsung); creating a discrete ISP chip (Zoran); making ISP a part of application processor (TI); or integrating ISP inside a baseband chip for a mobile phone.
There is no single answer as to where in a mobile handset such an ISP or a camera subsystem should reside. But Silicon Image is banking on a future in which a baseband SoC -- used in most basic feature phones -- will assume the responsibility of image signal processing.
As the pressure on cost and performance increases, Richter predicted, "Standalone ISP will be eaten up by both ends." On one end, ISP will be integrated into other chips in a handset, such as CMOS image sensor or apps processor. On another, more and more mobile phones are designed without an apps processor -- using a baseband chip only.
Silicon Image hopes to allow its licensees to develop a baseband SoC capable of supporting even HD resolution video camcorder functions.
The hardware-driven camerIC-18 core uses a minimum of CPU cycles, said Richter, so that image signal processing, post-processing and image data compression functions work without hogging a lot of processing power, like an ARM9 or ARM11 used in most baseband ICs.