Arm has designed a sharper digital eye for intelligent devices such as surveillance cameras. The company has unveiled its new Arm Mali-C52 and Mali-C32 image signal processors (ISPs) to produce higher image quality in a wide variety of applications.

Thomas Ensergueix, Arm senior director of embedded, said in a blog post that chips based on the new designs will produce better image quality in a wide range of everyday devices including drones, smart home assistants, and security and internet protocol (IP) cameras.

Creating “digital eyes” for processing higher-quality images to give viewers the truest sense of an environment is among the many challenges faced by the Arm ecosystem, which includes chip design and hardware companies that license chip architectures from Arm. The chip maker wants to create a world with a trillion connected devices.

Arm said that it believes demand will be high for connected devices with embedded vision. The security (surveillance) and IP camera market is on pace for an annual growth rate of 20 percent through to 2021, when it will reach over 500 million shipped units, according to Arm.

And Arm said that personal robots are growing at a staggering 75 percent year-over-year rate and are expected to reach 2 million units shipped in 2021. The company also said the smart home market is growing at a 14 percent year-over-year rate, to reach 88 million units in 2021.

In response to the demand for higher image quality in those devices, Arm is announcing a new generation of image signal processors (ISPs), the Arm Mali-C52 and Mali-C32 ISPs.

In these chips, the key function is to deliver the most accurate and highest image quality when pulling data from an image sensor and processing each pixel, particularly where machine learning is involved. Three critical elements required to enable this image output are high dynamic range (HDR), noise reduction, and color management.

With Arm’s Iridix technology and other industry-leading algorithms for noise and color management, Mali-C52 and Mali-C32 ISPs deliver on each of these tasks.

HDR enables a security camera to discern details in images with a combination of bright and dark spots. Normally, digital sensors need multiple exposures to capture such a scene. To faithfully represent an HDR scene, image technology requires 20 or 24 bits of precision per pixel, but digital system displays are typically 8-bit or 10-bit, thus limiting the amount of data they can handle, Ensergueix said.

To do HDR, the ISP needs to process HDR data (at higher bit depth), then compress it and utilize it further. Ultimately, if the dynamic range is not managed properly, then the details in the shadows are lost, Ensergueix said.

The new Mali ISPs with dynamic range management and tone mapping technology are designed to overcome these device limitations and enable viewers to see enhanced shadows, without touching or changing the highlights of the image.

The ISPs can process 600 megapixels per second, which is essentially professional photography quality (e.g. DSLR) at premium smartphone-level frame rates.