Imaging requirements often drive unique camera design solutions. In the process of turning light into data, the camera’s elements – lens, image sensor, image processing, image compression and data storage – need to be cohesively architected and tuned to one another to deliver the highest possible image quality for the system. At Area4 we use our deep and broad experience in designing and delivering advanced professional image capture systems to meet your requirements.
We also believe that these are extraordinary times to be creating new imaging systems given the recent emergence of new technologies in imaging, image processing, compression, and storage. Together, our world-class team and these cutting-edge opportunities are enabling Area4 to produce the world’s most advanced imaging systems to provide the best solutions.
Unlike many design projects where engineers look at the product requirements and jump into designing the product, the Area4 Team approaches “design” as a phase in the process of product creation. This is how our CTO lead the product development effort that produced the world’s best-selling camera.
The Area4 Professional approach to product creation is more encompassing than many other company product design efforts. The following high-level phase overview is part of our Design Philosophy. The scope of a project determines the depth of each phase. As with all products, it begins with a concept to meet a need.
Design Philosophy Phases
VISION, the marriage of Possibility and Need. The Visionary is the necessary first link who conceives of the value item (product or service), defines its core parameters and articulates the how’s and why’s of its value proposition for customers and to the company. A Visionary can come from anywhere in or outside of a company, but they are most often found in Marketing (identifying what the customer both needs and wants) or Engineering (identifying what is possible to meet or create a market need). The Area4 Team works with the Visionary and connects with our enabling translator, the Technologist, who can quickly grasp the vision to create a path forward to the envisioned imaging product realization.
TECHNOLOGY is the physics and engineering of components and systems. The Technologist must understand, from first principles, how and why things work, where reality’s boundaries are, what is available today and what needs to be created for tomorrow. The Technologist must offer the Visionary present and future technical possibilities to enable and complement the Visionary’s list of features and wishes and they must offer the Architect present and future technical possibilities to enable and complement the Architect’s drafts. The Technologist is generally the one who invents most of the intellectual property as they discover the “what it is” that solves the need of “what the imaging product will do.”
ARCHITECTURE is the balanced coalescence of possibility, need, capability, form, and practicality (“we could do this,” “we must do this,” “we can do this,” “wouldn’t it be cool if we did this,” and “OK, we also have to do this”). It is the difference between creating an item and creating a value item. The Architect is the person who is able to see across the length of the creative process chain, understand the language spoken in each link and negotiate into existence both beauty and purpose. While architecture must be borne of vision, empowered by technology and provide the backdrop for design, it should be understood that architecture is neither vision, technology nor design. It is often the Architect that locks down much of the new product requirements that will go into the final Product Requirements Document. During the architectural phase, it is highly valuable for the Architect to involve the lead Designer in the architectural choices. It is valuable for the Architect to also include the Visionaries and Technologists in their process phase and to communicate their architectural plans with the production and distribution people.
DESIGN is the critical step of creating the first form, fit and function simulation of the value item. To be successful, the Designer must absorb the vision, technology, and architecture given to them, be skilled enough to leverage novelty, character, practicality and power into an item and experienced in creating a product design that can be manufactured with minimal pain and maximal efficiency. There are often several steps in the design process including Preliminary Design Review, Engineering Validation Test, Design Validation Test, and the Final Design Review, which are all steps that improve the product design. The Process Validation Test is the final design step. Although it does not test the design, it does test the process to be used to manufacture the design. This is the hand-off stage between Design and Production and as such the Designer plays a supporting role during manufacturing start-up.
PRODUCTION is the making, integrating, testing and packaging of the imaging product. At the very front end of production, the Designer and their peer operations personnel seek appropriate vendors for needed components and services to enable the production process. This generally begins before the formal design phase begins and lasts throughout the entire design phase. The Designer and their operations peers begin working with the manufacturer to bring up the value item’s design during the various validation tests described in the previous paragraph. At the end of the design phase, the Designer continues to collaborate with operations personnel and the manufacturer to validate the imaging product’s production process.
DISTRIBUTION is the establishing, utilization and maintenance of the sales channels and the logistics of moving product in the right amount to the right places at the right times. While Area4 does not provide this service, we may be able to help by taking Distribution considerations into account in all phases of creation of the product. In the Vision phase, was product regionalized specified? Different language screens? Different power standard? From the Visionaries’ concept to the customer using the product, this is at the core of Area4 Professional Design Services.
From Vision to Distribution
As described above, the Area4 Professional Design Philosophy has six phases: Vision, Technology, Architecture, Design, Production and Distribution. Herein, such Phases can be expressed as: Research (= Vision), Investigation (= Technology), Architecture, Design, Implementation (= Production), Delivery (= Distribution). Proposed as a flow from questions-to-answers, these Phases can be further articulated as:
- Research(Vision): What could we / should we build?
- Investigation(Technology): What are the pieces needed and/or available to build that?
- Architecture: What are the optimal pieces to use and the best way to put these pieces together?
- Design: This is what we’re building, what we’re using to build it with and how these pieces go together.
- Implementation(Production): We’re manufacturing and packaging it.
- Delivery(Distribution): This is what was built, what it does and how it is delivered to the customer.
These Phases can be readily mapped into Statements of Work (with Tasks, Schedules, Milestones, Deliverables, Resource Maps, etc.). When articulated in terms of the flow from questions-to-answers, these Phases can easily be seen to apply to both product development and design services.
From Design Philosophy to Product Creation – Area4 Camera & Imaging System Capabilities & Expertise
High-Level Capabilities Include:
- Imaging system architecture, design and component, and vendor selection
- Design for manufacturability and support for manufacturing bring-up
- Forward-looking Technology Roadmaps
- Design reviews
- Project management
- Key technology and vendor relationships for extended capabilities
- Embedded firmware
- Deep understanding of optics systems from design to manufacturing
- Solid understanding of image sensor systems from pixels to data output protocols
- Deep understanding of imaging SoCs from architecture to design to systems integration
- Hardware and firmware platform design and implementation
- History of hundreds of patents in camera and imaging system.
- History of hundreds of publications in camera and imaging systems
Deeper-Dive Capabilities Include:
- Deep understanding of imaging systems, components, and design trades
- Modeling of physical limits (photons-to-electrons, MTF, SNR, dynamic range, etc.)
- Illumination (brightness, color temperature, hyperspectral, polarization, coherent, etc.)
- Optics (lens selection, lens design, and bring-up, lens-sensor coordination, system optimization, vendors)
- Sensors (pixels, read-out path, noise sources, operational modes, bring-up, vendors)
- SoCs (Architecture, RTL, Implementation, Firmware, vendor management)
- Image processing (image signal processing pipeline, pipeline tuning, bandwidth map, memory bandwidth, computer vision, and machine learning, stitching)
- Image quality (testing and test metrics, objective and subjective quality, resolution, frame rate, bit depth, color)
- Embedded firmware
- Camera control
- Sensor programming
- Real-time Imaging algorithm implementation on DSP
- AI inference implementation
- Compression (H.264, HEVC, VC-5, etc.)
- Storage (SD, flash, eMMC, etc.)
- Interfaces (USB, PCIe, SDIO, HDMI, RGMII, XGMII)
- Mechanical and thermal (heat pipes and heat sinks, lightweight and robust cases, waterproofing, etc.)
- Transport streams