Philips Offers Technology for Tiny Video Cameras

BOSTON (03/07/2000) - Philips Semiconductors NV, an affiliate of Royal Philips Electronics NV, today announced the development of a new chip technology that makes it possible to manufacture video cameras and mobile phones the size of sugar cubes.

The technology, designed for use in video cameras, basically means a manufacturer can replace certain image sensors and have most of the remaining circuitry integrated onto the same chip, eliminating several additional chips and resulting in an ultra-compact video camera that is smaller, less expensive and uses less power than current designs, according to Philips.

"This type of chip is the first of its kind as far as I know," said International Data Corp. (IDC) analyst Kevin Kane, based in Framingham. The new technology means that manufacturers, who want to use embedded imaging in other devices, will have a whole new range of possibilities, he added.

Some production of embedded imaging devices has been stalled because of the size and cost of the sensors, according to Kane. Philips has addressed that issue so that manufacturers might be able to design almost any tiny products with embedded imaging, he said. In other words,consumers might soon see a whole range of new, possibly low-cost imaging products on the market.

The Philips technology, called SeeMOS, operates at 3.3 volts, as opposed to the 15 volts required by today's designs based on CCD (charge coupled device) technology, according to a Philips statement.

SeeMOS will allow manufacturers to make video cameras "no thicker than a pencil and about a centimeter long," said Chris Schaeffer, Philips Semiconductors' project manager for New Technologies, in the statement.

The SeeMOS features will pave the way to a wide range of low-cost, high-volume applications, Schaeffer said. The small size and power requirements are especially suited for handheld battery-operated products, such as upcoming third-generation phones integrating video phone capabilities, Schaeffer said.

Furthermore, according to Schaeffer, the new technology supports a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels and can be used in low-cost video conferencing for laptops and PCs, medical cameras and security cameras. The technology allows for cameras so small that they could also be built into a pair of glasses, Schaeffer said.

Philips Semiconductors, with offices in 40 countries, has its headquarters in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and can be contacted at +31-40-275-71-89, or on the Web at http://www.semiconductors.philips.com/.

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