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CEA-Leti Unveils World’s First Autonomous Imager For Smartphones, Smart-Home Appliances and Automobiles

GRENOBLE, France – May 25, 2021 – CEA-Leti today announced the world’s first autonomous imager technology that activates smartphones and small appliances through face recognition or other specific patterns.

Called µWAI (micro-WAY) and sized as small as a 1€ coin, the autonomous imager features a novel readout and processing architecture co-designed with an optimized algorithmic pipeline, in which the recognition results from a sequence of elementary algorithms, to provide ultralow-power wake-up modes and compact silicon implementation to keep costs down.

It is the first smart image sensor jointly featuring auto-exposure for all lighting conditions and 88dB dynamic range, as well as motion detection and feature extraction for event-based functioning, and AI-based object recognition that triggers highly reliable identification. These key features also enable highly reliable decision taking for a few tens of pJ/pixel/frame, which outperforms existing off-the-shelf systems. The pJ/pixel/frame measures the energy spent by each pixel for each single image within a frame of images. A typical implementation requires about 10,000 times more energy than µWAI.

The autonomous imager is the world’s first highly efficient, compact and ultralow-power, smart-awaken system designed for everyday small appliances. It also includes:

  • Energy efficiency: consuming 10k less than low-power camera plus processor set,
  • Privacy-compliant, AI-based recognition: nearly human-detection performance (95 percent),
  • Wide operating lighting sensitivity to ensure accurate recognition in extremely variable conditions,
  • Five-year, always-on CR1025 battery lifetime, and
  • 3-6µW operation, which is required for the Internet of Things and can work with a button cell that lasts five years.

Applications and functions include automatic switching and face identification in mobile devices, contact-less smart switching of household appliances and sport-and-entertainment devices in smart homes. µWAI also provides face recognition, people counting, alarm triggering in smart buildings, vehicle-interior situation awareness, driver identification, parking-situation awareness and a smart-unlocking system in automobiles.

“The recognition engine is optimized to recognize faces when movement is detected. CEA-Leti’s team is working hand-in-hand with STMicroelectronics to develop specific smart-imager products as we consider extending the technology to other use cases,” said Antoine Dupret, CEA-Leti’s industrial partnership manager. “We target adapting the recognition engine as IP embedded in various cameras and optimizing the performance of the imager to the requirements of our partner’s customers.”

About CEA-Leti (France)

Leti, a technology research institute at CEA, is a global leader in miniaturization technologies enabling smart, energy-efficient and secure solutions for industry. Founded in 1967, CEA-Leti pioneers micro-& nanotechnologies, tailoring differentiating applicative solutions for global companies, SMEs and startups. CEA-Leti tackles critical challenges in healthcare, energy and digital migration. From sensors to data processing and computing solutions, CEA-Leti’s multidisciplinary teams deliver solid expertise, leveraging world-class pre-industrialization facilities. With a staff of more than 1,900, a portfolio of 3,100 patents, 10,000 sq. meters of cleanroom space and a clear IP policy, the institute is based in Grenoble, France, and has offices in Silicon Valley and Tokyo. CEA-Leti has launched 65 startups and is a

member of the Carnot Institutes network. Follow us on www.leti-cea.com and @CEA_Leti. 

Technological expertise

CEA has a key role in transferring scientific knowledge and innovation from research to industry. This high-level technological research is carried out in particular in electronic and integrated systems, from microscale to nanoscale. It has a wide range of industrial applications in the fields of transport, health, safety and telecommunications, contributing to the creation of high-quality and competitive products.

For more information: www.cea.fr/english

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