Data acquisition vs. data processing
As Chronocam’s Verre explains, big GPU/CPU companies are still trying to figure out the best way to process massively collected data more accurately and more quickly. In contrast, “Our focus is not on processing side, but on data acquisition,” said Verre.
Chronocam’s sensor technology is designed to acquire data that’s simplified and tailored for machines to use. This dramatically reduced data load should allow cars to make almost real-time decisions.
Verre suspects that the Intel/Mobileye deal will intensify competition on the processing side, eventually knocking lesser players off the field.
However, Verre believes this market shakeout will spare the data acquisition side -- companies like Chronocam. “That’s my short-term view,” he said. The longer view, Verre suspects, is that those in the processing field will eventually start paying attention to more efficient, alternative data acquisition solutions designed from the ground up to reduce the amount of data collected by sensors.
Leading the pack
Only a handful of players in the electronics industry are on the path to machine sensing, and Chronocam leads the pack. The company’s technology is already out of the lab, getting close to the commercial market.
The French startup has developed an event-driven computer vision technology that captures imaging data not based on artificially created frames, but driven by events within view. Last October, Chronocam raised $15 million in series B funding from five companies including Renault, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Intel Capital.
Other players in the same field include iniLabs (Zurich), a spin-off of the academic institutes in Switzerland, whose mission is to promote neuromorphic engineering technology. Samsung also discussed for the first time its own event-driven vision sensor at this year’s ISSCC just last month.
Having interviewed Chronocam a year ago, EE Times returned to Paris to catch up with CEO Verre. We asked him how Chronocam is positioning itself on the market (any changes?), which segments of the machine vision market it’s now going after, how he views the emerging market.
Before getting into Chronocam’s story in full, here’s a recap as to how the company’s event-driven sensors work -- a story told a year ago by Christoph Posch, Chronocam’s co-founder and CTO.
These event-driven devices are not designed to acquire a sequence of snapshots. They deal with no more frames. Rather, they generate a continuous-time stream of information from an array of autonomous pixels. Each pixel independently adapts its acquisition process to the visual input it receives. As a result, these sensors can eliminate data redundancy – which is the problems with the conventional image sensors. The asynchronous pixel circuits also acquire scene dynamics at very high temporal resolutions, and it captures data at a dynamic range.
Shown on the screen are the movement of hands captured by Chronocam's sensors (Photo: EE Times)
Even the slightest hint of a market revolution is exciting to any inventor of a new technology. This isn’t a thrill, however, that stirs the incumbents who supply conventional image sensors.
With that resistance in place, it it’s tough to convincing others to consider a path they’ve never taken before. Talking them into embracing it, joining the revolution and building “an eco-system” is not a job for the fainthearted. Chronocam’s CEO Verre, however, is undeterred.
Verre said he’s moving as fast as he can, while navigating the complex vision market and adjusting strategies where necessary.
But here’s the question.
Next page: What value?