OSAKA -- Panasonic will once again develop image sensors after freezing such operations for the last few years, aiming for applications including 8K ultrahigh-definition technology.
Image sensors turn light into electronic signals, and are used in digital cameras, smartphones and other devices. CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors are a well-known type. Panasonic will spend around 10 billion yen ($80.8 million) to develop next-generation image sensors, with plans to release them in fiscal 2018.
The Japanese company aims to develop sensors that support 8K technology, which provides 16 times the resolution of conventional high-definition video, and feature fast image-processing speeds. Eliminating the boundary between videos and photos, the sensors will be able to capture fast-moving objects such as a child or animal in clear still images.
At first the company plans to use the new sensors in its own consumer and broadcasting cameras. It expects broader applications including self-driving cars and surveillance systems, and may sell the sensors to other companies for smartphone and other applications. Production will likely be outsourced.
Panasonic had frozen image sensor development since hemorrhaging red ink in fiscal 2011. It has also integrated its system LSI business with that of Fujitsu. As earnings sharply picked up, Panasonic apparently decided that developing its own key image-processing components is essential to gaining a competitive in edge in digital products.
The global market for image sensors is seen coming to 1.2 trillion yen in 2015, according to Techno Systems Research of Tokyo. Sensors that support ultrahigh-definition images are seen as a growth area.
Sony, which controls about 40% of the global image sensor market, is already developing 8K-compatible sensors, as are Canon and others. With Panasonic rejoining the fray, development in this area is likely to gain speed, mainly among Japanese manufacturers.