Sharp, TI Fast-Track Camera Phones

Consumer electronics companies Sharp Corp. and Texas Instruments say they are teaming up to accelerate the reference design for camera phones that work on GSM/GPRS-based networks.

The move comes amid a market for camera phones that is proving bigger than originally expected. IDC recently said year-over-year growth in the camera phone market over the next two years may exceed 80 percent.

The GSM/GPRS, global wireless standard scheme is being used by chipmakers, device manufacturers and carriers around the world.

Sharp and TI said they would make changes in the turnkey reference design which they expect to lead to a significant cut in design time and resources required by manufacturers before they introduce new camera handsets into market. They also plan to combine technologies in order to meld computer processing and image and phone integration processing times.

As a result, the companies said, the reference design will combine Sharp’s 1 Mega Pixel CCD camera module, flash memory and liquid crystal module (LCD), together with TI’s TCS2100 chipset for GSM/GPRS cell phones and TI’s OMAP-DM270 multimedia processor.

The reference design also supports high level video including Nancy
Technology from Office NOA and MPEG-4 standards.

The goal: new camera phones that will pave the way for GSM/GPRS-based cell phones that are able to process both still and video e-mail applications. The companies said they expect to release the reference design to handset makers around the world by the end of 2003.

Sharp also said it is focusing on creating camera modules and liquid crystal displays (LCD) with its proprietary high-density, multi-chip mount technology to integrate image sensors, lenses and signal processing integrated circuits (IC) to create more compact, slimmer devices.

TI is considered a leading supplier of GSM/GPRS baseband chips and also the maker of the OMAP group of multimedia applications and digital signal processors.

In a related development, Toshiba America Electronic Components said on Monday that it is making available what it is called “the addition of low power SDRAM and a new, wider configuration of flash memory as options for its multi-chip package (MCP) products. Electronics maker Toshiba is planning to develop two- to six-chip MCPs with various combinations of its NOR flash, NAND flash, Static RAM (SRAM), Pseudo SRAM (PSRAM) and low power SDRAM to meet the complex memory requirements of digital camera phones and feature-rich 3G cell phones.

The wider, x16 NAND single-die flash memory doubles the bus width and reduces the time required to transfer data by approximately 50 percent compared to conventional x8 NAND flash memory.

In related camera phone news, The Internet Safety Group in New Zealand said it is issuing a challenge to New Zealand’s Telstra and Vodafone to set up social guidelines for the use of photo and video rights and permissions.

And in South Korea, Samsung is reported to have banned the use of camera phones in some of its plants over industrial espionage concerns. Samsung said starting July 14 the use of camera phones will be banned in its most sensitive labs and factories

Korean mobile phone giant Samsung has banned the use of camera phones in some of its plants, fearing they may be used for industrial espionage and shooting confidential documents.

A similar ban of camera phones is in the works in Ireland. The Dublin City Council in June banned the use of camera phones at city swimming pools and leisure centers.

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