Is Apple preparing to design image sensors in Grenoble?

October 14, 2014 // By Peter Clarke
Apple has approached a former ST employee with a view to setting up a CMOS image sensor design center in Grenoble, according to a website that covers image sensors that classified the information as an unconfirmed rumor.

When this is put together with Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense Ltd. in Israel – the company that developed the Kinect 3D image-sensor used with Microsoft's Xbox 360 – in November 2013 and continued patent activity by that group it can be seen that Apple could well be interested in turning ST into a foundry supplier of CMOS image, proximity and rangefinding sensors of its own design.

Also of note is that ST has been supplying the VL6180x time-of-flight/ambient light sensor to LG Electronics for use in its G3 smartphone to aid autofocus. According to Image Sensors World Apple is interested in ST's single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) technology as used in the LG G3 and is working to gain access to the technology.

The same source said that STMicroelectronics NV is reducing its image sensor operations in Edinburgh, formerly the home of VLSI Vision Ltd. which ST acquired in 1999. And that meanwhile Apple has reportedly held a recruitment day for image sensor designers in the city.

Related links and articles:

Image sensor blog

News articles:

ST adds devkit for ToF/ambient light sensor

PrimeSense confirms acquisition by Apple

Teardown reveals PrimeSense in Google's Tango