STMicroelectronics Proximity Sensor Solves Smartphone Hang-ups

Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:00am EST

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Geneva, February 25, 2013 -- Smartphones are set to become even more flexible and more satisfying
to use, thanks to a unique sensor system developed by STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM), a global
semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications. Combining
three optical elements in a single compact package, the VL6180  is the first member of ST's
FlightSense(TM) family and uses a new optical-sensing technology that reduces the incidence of
dropped calls[1] #_ftn1  and enables innovative new user interactions with smartphones. 

The VL6180  uses a ground-breaking
proximity measuring technology to offer unprecedented accuracy and reliability in calculating the
distance between the smartphone and the user. Instead of estimating distance by measuring the
amount of light reflected back from the object, which is significantly influenced by color and
surface, the sensor precisely measures the time the light takes to travel to the nearest object
and reflect back to the sensor. This "Time-of-Flight" approach ignores the amount of light
reflected back and only considers the time for the light to make the return journey.

"This marks the first time that Time-of-Flight technology has been made available in a form factor
small enough to integrate into the most space-constrained smartphones," said Arnaud Laflaquière,
General Manager of ST's Imaging Division. "This technology breakthrough brings a major performance
enhancement over existing proximity sensors, solving the face hang-up issues of current smartphone
and also enabling new innovative ways for users to interact with their devices."

The key to ST's patented new solution is an infra-red emitter that sends out light pulses, an
ultra-fast light detector that picks up the reflected  pulses, and electronic circuitry that
accurately measures the time difference between the emission of a pulse and the detection of its

Combining electronic, optical and packaging unique expertise from across the company, the VL6180  embeds both a robust ranging
time-of-flight sensor and a wide dynamic ambient light sensor die, along with an infra-red
emitter. Thanks to its all-in-one, ready- to-use architecture, the VL6180  is easy to integrate and saves the
phone-makers long and costly optical and mechanical design optimizations.

Addressing dropped calls is not the only benefit that ST's new technology brings to the smartphone
market.  The ability to measure a reliable absolute distance from the phone to a hand or other
object opens up new user interaction scenarios that phone manufacturers and app developers can
rapidly exploit. At the World Mobile Congress (Barcelona, Feb 25-28, Hall 7, Booth E110), ST will
demonstrate the proximity sensor performance and some innovative apps, underlining the Company's
commitment to Wireless and Imaging and the unique combination of strengths ST brings to the

About STMicroelectronics
ST is a global leader in the semiconductor market serving customers across the spectrum of sense
and power and automotive products and embedded processing solutions. From energy management and
savings to trust and data security, from healthcare and wellness to smart consumer devices, in the
home, car and office, at work and at play, ST is found everywhere microelectronics make a positive
and innovative contribution to people's life. By getting more from technology to get more from
life, ST stands for life.augmented.

In 2012, the Company's net revenues were $8.49 billion. Further information on ST can be found at 

For Press Information Contact:
Michael Markowitz
Director Technical Media Relations
+1 781 591 0354 


[1] #_ftnref1  35% of US smartphone users experience a dropped call at least once a week, some of
which can be caused by accidental hang-ups, according to 

STMicroelectronics Proximity Sensor_IMAGE 
STMicroelectronics Proximity Sensor 


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