We find out why a successful UK chip company is set to become an increasingly important component player in digital cameras
What does a Pentax Q camera, a Cambridge high tech company and the name Zoran have in common?
CSR, which stands for Cambridge Silicon Radio, is a company that you may not have heard of, but it's another of those high-tech companies whose technology you almost certainly have in various gadgets, like smart phones, MP3 players, computers, etc. Yesterday I went to a CSR corporate event in the City of London where the company was unveiling its latest corporate news and strategies to investors and analysts. Don't worry, there is a photography link coming up!
Even if you have heard of CSR, you may think they are only focused on Bluetooth technology, which is the low power short range digital wireless communication standard developed to replace wires and cables. Indeed, CSR is the world leader in Bluetooth and have produced around 2.5 billion devices in a little over a decade since the company was formed. The company is a big British technology success story. But CSR is diversifying and has been on the acquisition trail. So what does any of this have to do with digital photography? One of CSR's most recent acquisitions has been Zoran Corporation. Around 30 percent of digital cameras use Zoran custom chips that provide the framework linking the camera's sensor, display screen, user interface and image processing. A good example of one of Zoran's customers is Pentax, who use Zoran technology in the new Pentax Q compact system camera. Zoran custom chips have been used by many manufacturers, including Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic.
The circuit boards on display are developement platforms for Zoran digital camera custom chips.
Zoran produce custom chips, also known as a System on a Chip (SoC), for various products that require video processing, including TV set top boxes and... digital cameras. Internally, these chips are referred to as COACH, or Camera on a Chip. One central custom chip provides functions like image processing, including JPEG image building, including colour control, interfacing with the camera image sensor, the LCD screen, menus and other user interface functions. Basically the product enables a camera manufacturer to simplify the design of their camera.
Now that Zoran has been acquired by CSR, the aim is to add CSR technologies to the COACH platform, like Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, for example. Another new CSR acquisitions SiRF, which produces GPS (global satellite positioning) chips. GPS is an increasingly prominent feature in digital cameras and will also be grafted into the Zoran COACH offering. Zoran's own key technologies will also be applied to other existing and new product ventures within the growing CSR portfolio.
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British high-tech success story diversifies into (literally) digital cameras
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