Under the hood: Microbolometer-based thermal AI camera

By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio for EETIMES – China’s Hikvision is one of the top suppliers of surveillance cameras in a global market that has grown to $20 billion last year.

The demand for surveillance systems has kicked into high gear in the last several years, both in China and worldwide. Many municipalities and corporations find cameras indispensable in building so-called “smart cities” with surveillance everywhere.

Hikvision’s thermal camera, developed in 2016, caught the eye of analysts at System Plus Consulting, for one key reason: AI.

Hikvision offered one of the early camera embedded with AI features — by combining both AI hardware and software. It prompted System Plus Consulting, a Yole Développement company, to look under the hood to “understand the technology choices behind it.”

Most notable about the Hikvision camera, for System Plus, is that it embodied the best of the East and the West — “a made-in-China microbolometer and camera processor” combined with “non-Chinese AI / analog / other processing components.”

Hikvision’s competitors in this specialty include: Dahua and Uniview, both based on China, Bosch (Germany) and Axis (Sweden).

Setting Hikvision apart, however, is that “the company is able to design and manufacture its own products,” according to System Plus. The Chinese company has its own MEMS production line, MEMS packaging/tests, numerous surface-mount technology (SMT) lines and final assembly capabilities.

Intel, Hisilicon (a chip unit of Huawei) and Movidius (now an Intel company) supply three key components unique to Hikvision’s camera:

  • Intel’s reconfigurable solution was responsible for digital signal processing after digitalization of Microbolometer output, and thermal management along with Maxim Peltier controller.
  • Hisilicon designed a chip to do image signal processing, video encoding & encryption, ethernet interface.
  • Movidius processor enabled vision processing for AI applications.

In the following pages, we got System Consulting’s help to look inside Hikvision’s thermal camera… Full story