OmniVision Technologies has added a near infrared (NIR) capability to its family of single-chip CMOS image sensors. With the NIR feature integrated, OmniVision’s sensors can operate in dual mode, in the daytime or at night, eliminating the need for two separate systems.
The firm said process-level enhancements have expanded its sensors’ spectral light sensitivity to 1050 nanometers, or the equivalent of NIR sensitivity. As a result, with the aid of just a few low-power light-emitting diodes, OmniVision sensors can detect objects in complete darkness and automotive cameras can see beyond and outside the range of a vehicle’s headlights.
“During daylight hours, our sensor provides a standard color image and then, as soon as natural light levels fall below a pre-determined lux level, the sensor automatically switches to black and white night-vision mode,” said senior product marketing manager Inayat Khajasha.
The dual-mode vision capability is useful in driver assistance and safety applications such as pedestrian, object and sign detection, and rear view or backup camera applications. Khajasha said a growing number of automotive security applications are also using image sensors; for example, in “black box” anti-theft camera systems that record video when activated by motion detection around or inside the vehicle. Khajasha said the single low-power LED used in that application has a negligible affect on vehicle battery life, “so the system will remain active even when the vehicle is not operated for lengthy periods of time.”
OmniVision is currently sampling sensors incorporating NIR. It plans to offer the capability as a standard feature.