Optical Sensors

Battery-Powered Imaging Applications Require Unique Strategies

February 17, 2017 By: Ted Marena, Microsemi

Sensors Insights by Ted Marena

The Challenge

Portability of battery-powered devices is growing in all fields. With smartphones now ubiquitous, individuals across the globe have rising expectations for additional mobility.

Because of the low cost and low power of the smartphone chip sets, battery-powered devices are at the heart of virtually all portable devices. More than ever, devices such as application processors, wireless modems, cameras, and displays are adopted for numerous products. In particular, a wide range of portable product applications employ cameras and displays. However, many design challenges appear as these devices move further away from the smartphone-specific architecture.

One issue is the camera or display interface connections to non-application processor devices. Another issue is that unique peripherals, such as thermal image sensors or bar code scanners, are not found on a smartphone. These issues are problematic for architects who want to build portable products and leverage some of the smartphone chip sets. The question is, how can these design challenges be addressed?

Know Thy Architecture

To understand where the design challenge starts, one must be familiar with the smart phone and tablet key components (figure 1). The high volume of this platform can be leveraged by other applications. But why is the smartphone chip set so widely used in other products? The smartphone chip set is the logical starting point because its architecture has many features required at the lowest power and at aggressive cost points needed for the vast majority of portable products in medical, industrial, and other markets.

Fig. 1:  MIPI Alliance Mobile System Diagram
Fig. 1: MIPI Alliance Mobile System Diagram

As you can see, the core is the application processor—it is low power, highly capable, and supports many common peripheral interfaces. And the camera and displays found in many smartphones are even more widely used than the processor in embedded designs. The image sensors specifically are very compact, low power, and high quality.

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About the Author: Ted Marena

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