STMicroelectronics Proximity Sensor Solves Smartphone Hang-Ups

Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:35am EST

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  GENEVA, Feb 25 (Marketwire) -- 
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] 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 Laflaquiere, 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 market.

    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

    [1] 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: 
Proximity Sensor_IMAGE: 


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