Israeli Image Sensor Startup Sees the World in 3D

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

Israel-based CMOS image sensor chipmakers Newsight Imaging raised $7m to boost the product development process for automotive and machine vision applications...

What if machines could see in depth and more accurately for enhanced safety on the roads and in industrial environments? Israel-based Newsight Imaging Ltd., a developer of CMOS image sensor chips for 3D vision and spectral analysis, announced a $7 million round of financing to expand its sales and accelerate the product development process for automotive and machine vision applications.

“Machine vision is very important and key for itself, but machine vision together with AI or spectral with AI like we support in our chip, will surely change the world,” Eli Assoolin, CEO and co-founder of Newsight Imaging, told EE Times Europe. “Our technologies are key to monitor production lines, to avoid the spreading of viruses, and to allow the higher class of autonomous cars.”

Eli Assoolin

Founded in 2016 and based in Ness Ziona, Israel, Newsight Imaging develops advanced CMOS image sensor chips for automotive visual safety solutions, autonomous robotics, and drones. “The CMOS technology allows us to put all in one piece of silicon, pixels, analog-to-signal and digital processing,” said Assoolin. “This allows us to have a very low-cost solution, and with our patented enhanced Time-of-Flight (eToF) technology, we make it high performance too.”

Newsight claims its sensors have a high frame-rate (up to 100,000 frames per second on a single line), an AI-ready multi-set feature that enables the sensor to move from a range detection to machine vision picture from frame to frame, in-pixel accumulation, support of multi-triangulation. Its embedded eTOF technology also allows the acquisition of a full resolution depth imaging scene.

Late in 2019, Newsight Imaging announced the availability of its NSI1000 sensor chip for machine vision, automotive, and industrial applications. The chip, which features up to 50,000 frames per second (on the line resolution), supports the company’s eTOF technology that enables the customer to employ a low-power eye-safe laser, with a resolution of 1024X32 pixels, a multi-triangulation option and also supports line triangulation with a resolution of up to 2048 pixels.

(Image: Newsight Imaging)

Newsight’s CMOS laser LiDAR image sensor chips are used as visual safety solutions in ADAS and autonomous vehicles. “Our chips are key for high volume automotive safety system solutions,” Assoolin said. “We are in headlights, controlling AFS systems, we are in LiDARs as part of the ADAS systems, and we are developing spectral-based solutions for automotive.”

Newsight recently released its SpectraLIT, a compact development kit suitable for testing Newsight technology and developing proof-of-concept devices for the healthcare and food & beverage industries or other liquids analysis.

SpectraLIT is a development kit based on Newsight’s spectrometer-on- chip. It allows for spectral profiling of substances in wavelengths between 400-700 nm in a few seconds. The next generation of SpectraLIT will be able to support wavelengths between 400-1100 nm. The kit will allow diagnostic and analytical companies a fast market introduction of a portable, and low-cost diagnosis device.

Series A now, Series B soon

With the easing of the lockdown period in most countries, startups are slowly but steadily catching up again with funding rounds. Newsight said two factors contributed to the completion of its series A financing round with Israeli-Chinese equity fund Infinity Management Co. Ltd and George So, owner of AlinnoBio. First, Newsight Imaging managed to finalize the process before the “coronavirus [pandemic] stopped the world”. Second, “we shifted our spectral detection technology and were able to demonstrate a solution for virus detection in less than a second time, using our spectrometer-on-chip,” said Assoolin.

Newsight is indeed working on the development of a portable at-home diagnostic kit that can identify coronavirus infection in a matter of seconds using light only, based on its spectrometer-on-chip. The company explained that the device has an IoT interface that transmits results to the cloud and, using AI, runs on a growing database and improves the accuracy of the detection algorithms on a daily basis.

The $7 million investment is lower than expected, said Assoolin, but it brings the company’s total funding, including government grants, to $15 million. The plan is, however, to finalize a Series B funding round in a near future. “We look for strategic investors that can help us grow and scale up,” said Assoolin. “We are in the classic growth stage, we have the products ready with many design wins, many recognitions, and now we need to continue bringing all products to mass productions, deliver the new solutions and to expand our ability to scale up in sales and support many big customers in parallel.”

Asked about the company’s short-term strategy, Assoolin said they will continue to work on automotive lighting systems and spectral water monitoring systems through their strategic partnership with Austria-based ZKW Group and with Mekotor, Israel national water company. Other projects are underway, some they can’t talk about, others they “keep confidential until final signing.”

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