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AMBA and Fermi at Deutsche conference

Topic: Technology — Semiconductors
Sep. 17 2015, 10:52 AM ET - by VF member morlockx15 (186 red star (click for information on feedback))

AMBA and Fermi at Deutsche conference --

Listened a couple times to it. Very informative.

Can be accessed through the AMBA website


Fermi gave a nice summary of the advantages of the AMBA video compression technology.

With the nearest competitor, AMBA offers 30-40% better video compression, resulting in reduced storage costs and bandwidth requirements, amounting to a $13 per camera savings.

However, with the higher efficiency the biggest benefit- apart from a lesser battery drain- is that less heat is generated- heat that needs to be dissipated. The higher heat results in degradation of the CMOS chip- or the video sensor- and the images it can produce. This process is minimized in the AMBA chips.

Why did Yuneec bring on the QCOM Snapdragon? Fermi said that the drone producers AMBA works with from a financial perspective want a second source for video processing. Which is why QCOM was brought in even though it has a lesser chip.

Why no real competition? The SnapDragon is designed for a smartphone and only has been modified for drones. Fermi said that the market is too small for the big chip manufacturers to try to emulate what AMBA in the space. Fermi said that AMBA is the leader and only has 300 million dollars in revenue, while other semi-conductor markets are multi-billion dollar ones that attract the Intels and QCOMs of the industry. That could change in the future but Fermi sees no sign of it now.

Only AMBA and QCOM now offer 4K video solutions in the drone space. With QCOM's inferior efficiency in video, significantly more heat is generated. Their draw on average was 4.5 watts compared to AMBA's 1.5 watts seen with their 20 nm chip architecture.

AMBA has been working on a 14 nm chip, which has been in the works for six quarters and should be ready at the end of this year. The key members of AMBA have been working on video compression for 20 years, with the primary consideration being the lowest power consumption possible. In doing this they have found certain architectural nuances that they have incorporated into their chip along with the algorithms. (Hopefully, there is a large patent moat surrounding these!)

Drones? High end drones use gimbles for stabilization, presumably working off tiny gyroscopes, but the low end drones cannot afford them, so on-board digital image stabilization is necessary to make the video watchable with all the drone movement and wind factors and so forth. AMBA offers the best solution in both scenarios- for the high end they will supply the video chip, and for the low end they offer a System-on-a-Chip with the best digital stabilization capabilities.

Fermi was asked about wearable cams. AMBA has been shipping police cams to China and other markets for a couple quarters, and that activity should increase. Different compression algorithms are needed on the chip for light and dark conditions, and AMBA has those. More importantly, the video efficiency means lower power consumption, less CMSO degradation, and longer battery life. For police cams, an 8 hour battery life is needed based on shift duration. The coming 14 nm chip will help with that goal.

Fermi sees wearable cameras useful in government whenever there is an interaction between government employees and the public for documentation purposes, and not just for the police. There are also back-end considerations with this- how do you catalog and access the mountain of video information that each camera will generate? AMBA is working on this.

The IP security camera market is large as commercial and home-based systems switch over from analogue (tape) to digital systems. While still early, Fermi sees the Comcast/ATT deal as potentially huge as people outfit their homes with AMBA-based systems.

Automotive uses for the chips? Fermi is excited about the possibilities. Dash cams are important, but Fermi sees three areas with great potential that AMBA is working on with OEM's (original equipment manufacturers). 1) using AMBA technology to replace the rear view and side view mirrors with a video screen so that the driver can see in all lighting conditions- increasing the intensity in dark conditions and reducing glare in light conditions. 2) surrounding the car with multiple cameras that feed into a single chip to provide video to the driver so he can see all around him. 3) the autonomous car- self-driving- for which purpose AMBA bought the Italian company VisiLabs, which has been working on this for 15 years. AMBA is working to develop on silicon a compute vision algorithm to avoid collisions, which would also be useful in the drone space. In the IP and wearable space, facial recognition and tracking could be offered with the right type of computer vision technology, along with other benefits.

The long-range vision of Fermi is to change AMBA from a video processing company to a video analytics company with computer vision solutions.

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AMBA and Fermi at Deutsche conference