MIPI Deployment In Ultra-Low-Power Streaming Sensors

Low-power scenarios with streaming sensors connected to a processor via MIPI.


Streams of data from higher-speed sensors pose throughput and latency challenges for designers. However, optimizing a design for those criteria can come at the expense of increased power consumption if not conceived and executed carefully. A device like a high-resolution, high-frame-rate home security camera in a non-wired application requiring frequent battery changes or recharging will likely register strong dissatisfaction among most users, even if it delivers its stream at full quality when working. Interfacing streaming sensors with MIPI helps designers balance performance with power consumption by leveraging various modes of operation: high speed, ultra-low power, or something in between.

The MIPI Alliance was formed to shape data interfaces for mobile devices where extending battery life is a priority. With its wide adoption in smartphone cameras and, to a lesser degree, displays, MIPI became the de facto standard in these applications. MIPI-based cameras are now seeing increased adoption in non-mobile applications, including automotive, IoT, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), industrial, and medical applications. MIPI D-PHY and MIPI C-PHY modules feature two sets of optimized PHYs, controlled by state machines managing high-speed, low-power, and ultra-low-power states, including shutting down entirely for power savings when data communication is inactive.

This article focuses on low-power scenarios with streaming sensors connected to a processor via MIPI. After a short overview of low-duty cycle sensor principles, we explore how a streaming image sensor leverages those principles, show how one semiconductor company uses MIPI CSI-2 and D-PHY interfaces in their imaging solution, and touch on use cases for ultra-low-power streaming sensors deploying MIPI.

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