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Toshiba CEO resigns amid $1.2B false accounting scandal

Posted by wicked July - 21 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

toshiba logo Shutterstock

To say the current corporate climate in Japan is terse right now is somewhat of a surreal reality. For a country largely associated with “pure” and honest business practices, a traditional commitment to protect the tenure of the employee (at times to the detriment of the company’s own well-being) and the origin of some of the world’s most respected companies, the current scandal Toshiba has been charged with is truly mindblowing, perhaps all the more so given how the numbers in this one continue to rise as it progresses.

Toshiba has been manipulating its accounting records for over half a decade

For over half a decade now, Toshiba has been manipulating its accounting records, ultimately resulting in the fradulent reporting of a staggering $1.2 billion in false profits. The scandal, which has been wreaking havoc on everything from the company’s share price to its daily operations has reached a new milestone as the President and CEO, Hisao Tanaka resigned today, along with two other top executives bringing the total to eight departures. No legal proceedings have been filed yet. The deception was set up in order to achieve performance expectations following the Lehman financial meltdown in 2008.

Specifically, “the resignations come after a report showed that top executives set unrealistic profit targets that systematically led to flawed accounting. The accounting irregularities were ‘skillfully’ hidden from outside observers, according to the investigation.” It is likely that more resignations might occur as the situation continues to unravel. Whereas the Olympus accounting fraud scandal from a few years ago was based on a lie spun in the 1980’s, this particular case has been of a much larger nature, and a modern one at that.

toshiba

Given the complexities involved, it would follow that the consent and understanding of any number of top-level executives was required, though the fact it took this long for the scandal to surface shows a highly contained situation. Many large blue-chip companies in Japan have multiple independent accounting firms auditing their books and thus it is all the more impressive for Toshiba have hidden this from so many.

While Toshiba isn’t a well known consumer brand in the Android world, the company is invested in the development of components that go in many mobile devices, including camera sensors and some specialized chips. The company is also heavily involved in Project Ara and is manufacturing some Android tablets.

While the outside world at-large might not care much about Toshiba, here in Japan it is a vital part of the economy, being involved in not just consumer electronics, but also the construction of nuclear power plants, air-traffic control systems, railway infrastructure, semiconductors and more. The very fact that it has been lying to investors – and ultimately to the very country it resides in – will likely serve as a permanent scar on its reputation, if not Japan large. As Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management said, the issue “leaves foreign investors with a vague feeling of uncertainty toward Japanese corporate earnings…it impacts all Japanese companies going forward, and we may see a lack of buying.”

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Who’s who in the smartphone camera business

Posted by wicked July - 10 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off
  • Qualcomm hybrid auto focus camera

Camera technology has always been an important feature in smartphones but this generation of flagships have been putting particular emphasis on the quality of their camera modules. So it seems worthwhile to dive on into the world of camera sensors and take a look at who is building the best and most popular products.

Sony

We’ll start with one of the biggest and that is Sony. The company has a long legacy in the image sensor market and has been at the forefront of mobile camera technology for a number of years. The company accounted for roughly 40 percent of all smartphone image sensors in 2014.

Sony’s image sensors have found their way into numerous smartphones and tablets, even if the company doesn’t provide the whole module. If you’re curious, the difference is that image sensors are responsible for converting the light into digital information, which determines the number of megapixels, pixel size and density, recording frame rates, etc. The broader camera module determines focus, aperture and other attributes.

flagship smartphones aa (9 of 18)

Sony’s Exmor image sensors are behind a number of high-end smartphone cameras.

Sony’s high-end image sensors fall under the Exmor RS brand name. Its latest model is the Back Side Illuminated (BSI) 21 megapixel IMX230, which has started to find its way into the latest smartphones. It’s IMX240 powers the Galaxy Note 4 and some S6 models, while the IMX234 forms the basis of the LG G4’s camera.

The company isn’t just catering to the very high-end market, Sony’s 8MP and 13MP mid-range sensors have been in high demand from Chinese smartphone manufacturers looking to decent cameras at a reasonable cost. The 13 megapixel IMX214 has proven particularly popular with manufacturers like Huawei and OPPO over the past twelve months.

Sensor Resolution Sensor Size Pixel Size Handsets examples
IMX 135 13 MP (4224 x 3176) 1/3.06″ 1.12 um LG G3, Note 3, Moto X
IMX 214 13 MP (4224 x 3176) 1/3.06″ 1.12 um Find 7, Honor 6, OnePlus One
IMX 220 20.7 MP (5344 х 4016) 1/2.3″ 1.2 um Xperia Z2, Xperia Z3, Meizu MX4
IMX 234 16 MP (5312 x 2988) 1/2.6″ 1.12 um LG G4, ZTE Nubia Z9
IMX 240 16 MP (5312 x 2988) 1/2.6″ 1.2 um Galaxy S6, Note 4

As well as basic sensor hardware, Sony has also developed Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) technology, in-sensor HDR, and high speed shooting modes for its sensors, which is helping to keep the company at the forefront of the market.

So important is its image sensor business that Sony is willing to invest billions into additional production capacity by issuing new shares for the first time since 1989, just in order to keep up with demand.

OmniVision

OmniVision is another big name in the smartphone image sensor business, but you’re more likely to find its products in the low and mid-tier markets, rather than high-end smartphones.

The company’s typical sensor selling price is just $1.79, compared with upwards of $7 from Sony. As a result, OmniVision is expected to capitalize on the new demand for lower cost CMOS sensors from the growing Chinese and Indian smartphone markets.

Sensor Resolution Sensor Size Pixel Size Full Video Capture
OV5640 5 MP 1/4″ 1.4 um 15 fps
OV8825 8 MP 1/3.2″ 1.4 um 24 fps
OV13860 13 MP 1/2.6″ 1.3 um 30 fps
OV16825 16 MP 1/2.3″ 1.34 um 30 fps
OV23850 23.8 MP 1/2.3″ 1.12 um 24 fps

OmniVision PureCel-SThat said, the company’s hardware has occasionally cropped up in high-end devices, including the last generation HTC One M8. The company also used to supply image sensors to Apple before Sony took the contract.

Not too long ago OmniVision announced its 23.8 megapixel OV23850 image sensor for smartphones, which comes with PDAF, video binning, and 4K video recording.

In a separate bid to cater to the high end market, OmniVision has been pushing its 13MP PureCel design. This is a slightly larger image sensor with bigger 1.3um pixels to capture more light for better looking images. You’ll probably recognise this idea from HTC’s Ultrapixel idea, which OmniVision was involved with.

Toshiba

Toshiba is another large company with a strong legacy in the mobile camera business. The company’s sensor may not be appearing many high-end smartphones these days, but it was behind the impressive 41 megapixel sensor that powered the Nokia 808 PureView’s camera.

Toshiba HES9 large image sensor

The company has most recently been working on further reducing the size and power consumption of its smartphone image sensors. The company also launched a 240fps slow motion capable T4K82 sensor back in March of this year.

Typically, Toshiba produces 13 and 8 megapixel sensors for smartphones and also has a 20 megapixel sensor for the high-end market. The Toshiba’s BSI T4KA7 is apparently powering the HTC One M9’s rear camera. Like Sony, Toshiba has integrated PDAF into its sensors and has its own 3D depth mapping technology and bright mode technology for improving the visibility of slow motion videos.

toshiba camera modules

Toshiba camera modules developed for Project Ara

At last check in, Toshiba was looking to focus on providing sensors to Chinese smartphone manufacturers and had turned to automotive and medical markets for further growth. Although it did show off some neat modular prototypes for Project Ara as well.

SK Hynix

SK Hynix, a South Korean semiconductor supplier, is also a key player in the low cost smartphone camera market. Much like its competitors, the company produces a range of sensors and its 8 and 13 megapixel option are moving popular in mainstream handsets and it is focusing its operations in the growing Chinese market. SK Hynix had also previously provided low end cameras for Samsung’s budget smartphones.

Last year the company announced that it had a high-end 21 megapixel sensor in development. SK Hynix isn’t really doing much that hasn’t already been done by the competition, instead it appeals to manufacturers based on its low price point.

Samsung

Samsung has tried its hand at producing many key smartphone technologies itself and is also in the image sensor game. Although not as large of an operation as Sony, Samsung has been attempting to grow its image sensor and camera module businesses.

Samsung Galaxy S5 camera

Besides hardware, Samsung has been working on software features, like picture re-focusing using depth information.

Samsung has quite a large catalog of sensors, including Front Side (FSI) and Back Side Illuminated (BSI) sensors. Its high-end technology uses the company’s own ISOCELL pixel type, which aims to reduce noise compared with its traditional BSI sensors by reducing interference between different color pixels.

Sensor Resolution Sensor Size Pixel Size Pixel Type Full Video Capture
S5K3H5 8 MP 1/3.2 1.4 um BSI 30 fps
S5K4H5YB 8 MP 1/4 1.12 um ISOCELL 30 fps
S5K3L2 13 MP 1/3.06 1.12 um BSI 30 fps
S5K3M2 13 MP 1/3.06 1.12 um ISOCELL 30 fps
S5K2P8 16 MP 1/2.6 1.12 um ISOCELL 30 fps

Although we may typically associate Samsung with high-end products, the company’s average sensor selling price is only $1.93. You can find a range of products from small 1.3MP sensors for the low end market, up to 16MP sensors found in the flagship Galaxy S6. Samsung also develops complete modules for its sensors.

samsung 16mp isocell sensor 2

Most recently, Samsung’s own image sensors have found their way into the Galaxy S5 and S6 smartphones. However, due to its limited production capabilities, Samsung has to mix its own and Sony image sensors in the Galaxy S6. Closer inspection revealed some noticeable differences between the two, but without a side by side comparison you would probably struggle to notice any major differences in quality, suggesting that Samsung is managing to keep up with Sony.

LG

Much like Samsung, LG is both a component and product manufacturer and is making strides with its camera components. LG Innotek is the division of the company that focuses on components and designed the impressive camera inside the company’s latest G4 flagship.

However, unlike Samsung, LG doesn’t make its own image sensor components, but designs the wider camera module instead. LG’s high-end smartphone cameras have all been based on Sony Exmor image sensors. LG has most recently pushed the boat with its f/1.8 aperture camera in its LG G4, which will let in around 80 percent more light than the G3’s f/2.2 module. This is the wider aperture that we’ve seen yet in a smartphone.

lg g4 review aa (11 of 34)

LG’s G4 took a Sony IMX234 sensor and paired it with its own lens, laster auto focus and color compensating technologies to produce one of the best smartphone cameras around.

Not only that, but LG’s research teams are also developing complimentary hardware components for its camera modules. Back with the LG G3 the company announced its laser autofocus system and the LG G4 comes with an infra-red colour correction circuit to better compensate for environmental lighting.

As the company doesn’t have to worry about sensor development, it has more time to work on refining the other module components, which has resulting in some rather interesting and practical camera designs.

HTC

Much like LG, HTC is not in the image sensor business, instead it has had a few attempts at designing its own camera modules.

htc one m9 vs htc one m8 3

HTC’s Ultrapixel idea didn’t end up working out to well, so the company ended up moving it to the front camera.

The company coined the phrase “Ultrapixel” for its larger 2.0um pixel smartphone cameras but these actually made use of ST Microelectronics and OmniVision constructed sensors, specifically the VD68969 and OV4688. The company has also experimented with dual-sensor set-ups with the One M8, making use of a 2.1-megapixel OmniVision OV2722 sensor to collect additional depth information.

Despite the novel ideas, the company’s camera technology does not appear to have kept up with the competition lately; the handset scored poorly in our blind test shoot-out.

What to expect next

There are a number of other manufacturers in the mobile image business which produce either their own lens modules or sensors, for example even OnePlus developed its own lens for its smartphone. Hopefully though, I have covered enough of them to give you an idea of what the market is like.

Samsung and Sony are likely quite safe at the top of the sensor market

Samsung and Sony are likely quite safe at the top of the sensor market, but smartphone CMOS sensor demand is inherently tied to the smartphone market. Huge growth in low margin handsets is driving demand for competitively priced image sensors with moderate specifications and this is opening the door for OmniVision, Toshiba and others to collect new business and expand their market share in Asia.

At the high-end, we’re quite likely to see OEM companies continue to differentiate their products by tweaking the broader camera modules to bring out subtle improvements in quality. Ideas like dual-image sensors, wider apertures and laser auto focus will probably keep cropping up from time to time, but final image quality is inevitably tied to the limited space for sensors within smartphones.

Toshiba begins production of 240fps, fullHD video image sensor

Posted by wicked March - 23 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

 

Toshiba logo

 

Today, Toshiba announced that it has begun commercial production of its new T4K82 CMOS image sensor for smartphones and tablets. The sensor packs in high-end features which could give a boost to next-generation products.

The T4K82 is a 13 megapixel BSI (back-illuminated) CMOS image sensor, which is a match for most modern high-end smartphones. However, the big talking point is that Toshiba’s new chip is capable of 240fps interlaced slow-motion video capture with a full 1080p resolution, which, on paper, is the highest frame rate available in the industry. It can also scale down its resolution to QVGA (320×240) for 900fps equivalent video capture.

To accomplish this, Toshiba makes use of its own “Bright Mode” technology to boost frame brightness by up to four times. This is achieved through “charge binning”, which adds the charges of two pixels and outputs the sum as one pixel with double brightness. Typically, high speed frame capture suffers from underexposure due to the shortness of time available to capture light. Toshiba provides an interlaced video output when using Bright Mode, effectively doubling the perceived frame rate of the video.

Charge Bunning to Interlaced Output

However, you won’t be able to view interlaced playback on a typical smartphone display. Instead, Toshiba provides its own interlacing-progressive conversion program to output high-speed capture to a progressive format. Depending on the quality of the conversion and how well charge binning works, the motion may or may not be quite as polished as a normal progressive capture could be at this frame rate and resolution. Even so, this technology should still offer additional smoothness and clarity over existing slow-motion implementations in the mobile space.

Toshiba Interlaced Video Conversion

Slow motion video capture has become an increasingly popular feature in high-end smartphones. The new Galaxy S6, HTC One M9, Xperia Z3, and OnePlus One, among others, all support 120fps slow-motion video capture at resolutions of 720p. Toshiba’s sensor will double the equivalent frame rate and increase image clarity over current smartphones capable of slow-motion recordings.

While no products fitted with the T4K82 sensor have been announced yet, entering mass production means that we could well see 240fps, full HD video capable smartphones available later in the year.

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Check out Toshiba’s first camera modules for the Project Ara smartphone

Posted by wicked February - 16 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

toshiba module

News on Google’s Project Ara modular smartphone has been picking up steam as of later, and we’re starting to see the first developmental modules for the device.

Today, we have pictures and information regarding Toshiba’s camera module for the device, which is still in development.

In these pictures,we can see a 2MP front shooter, as well as a 5MP and 13MP rear cameras. Development is set to be complete in 2016. Hit the break for more.

slidein

The modular device is expected to launch in Puerto Rico by the end of 2015, so we’ll be getting a ton of more information in the coming months about Project Ara.

Source: GSM Dome

 

 

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Toshiba builds, demos first working Project ARA camera module

Posted by wicked February - 16 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Toshiba can be very happy with its Project ARA work so far. The Japan-based company has contributed a lot to the framework and structure that will hold the modules of the Project ARA smartphone together – which if didn’t know is a modular smartphone project now spearheaded by Google. Toshiba has just recently showed off its camera modules for the project – one of, if not the first, camera module tested as working on the Project ARA framework.

The idea is this, that as with every major element, the camera module on Project ARA phones will be made on an entirely swappable module. This will allow smartphone owners to upgrade their cameras by simply purchasing a better module and replacing their existing one. With this in mind, Toshiba has been busy developing a 2MP front-facing module, a 5MP, and then a 13MP main (rear) camera module.

toshiba_mod_cam1

toshiba_mod_cam2

Toshiba has shown off the designs recently, and they are obviously happy with the progress so far. As far as we know, there have not been any other OEMs who have shown off working camera modules for Project ARA. See the video below for a short demo of the working 5MP module.

Do you feel the progress of Project ARA? We have very positive feelings towards the modular project, and it seems that progress for a modular smartphone in the future is slow but very sure. We should know more by the end of 2015 – but for now, understand that Google’s Project ARA is starting to become very real.

projectaracamera

VIA: Image Sensors World

Toshiba shows off three camera module prototypes for Project Ara

Posted by wicked February - 16 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

toshiba camera modules

Project Ara is inching closer to its commercial début in Puerto Rico later this year, so it is only natural that we begin to hear word of modules that third part developers have in mind for the build-it-yourself smartphone. Last week, Toshiba showed off some of its own reference design camera modules for Ara.

Toshiba discussed three swappable modules for Ara: a 2 megapixel front facing camera bar, as well as 5MP and 13MP rear camera options. The company will also be opening up its reference designs to third party developers, to bring a wider range of camera options, and other modules, to Project Ara.

“Also we took some of Toshiba technologies and our chips, and developed some module reference designs. We can open these designs out for everybody, so people can use it for their own technology and developing modules.”

The 5MP module fits in the standard 2×1 module size for Ara and comes with its own ISP chip to handle the processing, while the 2MP front facing bar contains an extra audio codec and can communicate with other processors through common I2S and I2C interface standards. Toshiba’s 13MP camera option is based on the company’s T4K82 mobile sensor, which allows for 30fps video recording at 4K and 2K resolutions and has 120fps 1080p recording capabilities.

Toshiba camera modules explained

In addition to these sensors, Toshiba also talked about its 8MP T4KA3 and 20MP T4KA7 products for mobile devices, both of which could also be worked into future camera module designs.

Here’s a quick video of the 5MP camera module being plugged in and used to capture video in real time.

These three camera modules are just the first stage in Toshiba’s plan for modular products. The company is also developing wireless charger, TransferJet, NFC and external memory reference designs for Project Ara this year, leading into an unspecified “unique module” in 2016.

Toshiba modular dev plan

Although still far from a finished product, Toshiba’s little range of camera sensor options are an exciting prospect for Project Ara and discriminating smartphone photographers alike.

Project Ara releases new MDK ahead of second developers conference

Posted by wicked January - 12 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Our favorite modular phone guys, Project Ara, has just made public the second version of their Module Developers Kit (MDK) – which basically contains all you need to know if you want to create a module for Project Ara based on the Spiral 2 prototype. This was done ahead of the Ara Developers Conference slated on February 14 – we guess that the contents of the MDK will be big talking points on the conference itself.

The MDK was a collaborative effort between the guys and gals at Project Ara and companies that include NK Labs, LeafLabs, New Deal Design, Metamorph Software, X5 Systems, Toshiba, Mixel, Quanta, Opersys, Linux Solutions, Linaro, BayLibre, NewOldBits, Oxford Systems, Foxconn and IDT Systems among others. Within the MDK are details on the many software and hardware upgrades on the new prototype, including the new Toshiba UniPro switch and ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) which we wrote about before. The new Toshiba chip allows for the connection between module elements, especially the processor to the other modules.

projectAra_jan12_mdk2

There is also the new contactless connection system between module and board, and the new “Greybus” communication protocol that handles the aforementioned contactless system. This new system was set in place to save on space and give the whole phone a sturdier build.

More of the content of the MDK will surely be talked about at the 2nd Ara Developers Conference, so be sure to look out for that event. Also, you can download the MDK here.

SOURCE: PhoneBloks

Toshiba’s NFC SD card lets you preview pictures with just a tap

Posted by wicked January - 9 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

toshiba-nfccard-press

Toshiba has just launched two new products that will help photographers out greatly during photoshoots. The Japanese technology company has just announced two new SD cards, including the world’s first NFC-enabled SD memory card, as well as a new Wifi-capable SD card.

The NFC-capable card comes in 8/16/32GB variants and can be used alongside any NFC-compatible Android device. If you’d like to use the NFC capabilities with this card, simply download the Memory Card Preview App on your device, tap it to your camera, and up to 16 image previews will appear on your phone, along with available storage space on the card. If you’d like to download or really do anything with the photos beyond looking at the previews, unfortunately the SD card doesn’t support those features quite yet.

Toshiba has also announced a new Flash Air III, the seemingly more useful device out of the two. This one is Wifi-enabled, meaning you can access all of your stored pictures and quickly share them with your computer as long as it’s connected to a WiFi network. This newer version of the SD card provides enhanced photo sharing and management features from the previous model, and should be able to transfer photos and videos faster than previous iterations. You can pick up the Wifi-enabled SD card beginning in March. The 16GB model will run you $79.99, while the 32GB model will cost $99.99. If you’d like to pick up an NFC-enabled SD card, they’ll be available sometime in February, though no pricing information has been mentioned yet.

Toshiba Releases Canvio AeroCast, A Wireless Hard Drive Able To Cast

Posted by wicked December - 11 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

toshiba_canvio_aerocast_picture1

Not wanting to be left out this holiday season, Toshiba has gone above-and-beyond simply keeping pace with its competitors. Today, the company has issued a press release unveiling what may be the gadget to purchase this December. It is a portable hard drive that is both wireless and capable of directly Casting to devices like the Chromecast.

toshiba_canvio_aerocast_picture2

No bigger than the size of your hand, their newest addition to the Canvio portable hard drive line comes with a 1 terabyte built-in capacity but also allows expandable storage via SD cards. With the downloading of Toshiba’s Google Cast Ready app, users will be able to cast personal photos, music, and video to their televisions.

Vice president of Toshiba’s Branded Storage division stated, “Storage needs are changing. By understanding the importance of mobility, we have taken storage to the next level. With integrated wireless capabilities, we empower our users to share and stream their personal digital content the way they want, wirelessly…the Canvio AeroCast Wireless Hard Drive fills a real need for consumers – they’re now able to enjoy the content that they own, wirelessly on the home television.”

Coming in at $219.99, the product will be available on Toshiba’s online store today, but it won’t be introduced alone. Toshiba is also releasing a Cast Wireless Adapter for $79.99. This device should allow older generation Canvio portable hard drives to become Cast-ready.

For me, I am already daydreaming about the devices and software this product could work with, like Chromebooks and Plex. I’m also left wondering how I might be able to integrate Google Drive sync on this puppy. Now all I need is Google Fiber…

 

Source: News.Toshiba.com

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Toshiba’s Shared Board is a 24-inch display running Jelly Bean

Posted by wicked December - 8 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

toshiba_shared_board_tt301

Some products just require a simple question: what were they thinking? This time around it is Toshiba being asked the all-important question. The company introduced the Shared Board (TT301) that is technically a tablet, but the display is massive for the category. The 24-inch display will be placed on a stand or mounted somewhere because it is certainly too large for traditional tablet use.

The specifications Toshiba went with for the Shared Board are.. underwhelming. The resolution of the 24-inch display, though, is Full HD (1920×1080). And then it all goes downhill from there. The processor running the Shared Board is an unnamed dual-core clocked at 1.0GHz with 1.5GB of RAM. The internal storage gets filled to completion at 16GB. It does have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. The disappointment ends when you find out Toshiba has the Shared Board running Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean. That exact version of Android was released on October 9, 2012.

Making up for the dated specifications is an accessory. The Shared Board works with a remote featuring an IR blaster that can be used during presentations. Right now, the Shared Board is confirmed for Japan; however, markets outside of that are unknown.

Source: Tablet News
Via: Android Headlines

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