New sensor promises to bring ‘true colour’ to smartphone cameras


In the fiercely contested smartphone market, photography can be a key battleground. Alongside the insatiable desires for better batteries, durability, storage, and processing, camera quality consistently ranks as a key factor when choosing a phone.

At CES 2023, Spectricity, a startup based in Belgium, unveiled a new entrant to the competition: the S1 chip. 

Spectricity claims the S1 is the first truly miniaturised and mass-manufacturable spectral image sensor for mobile devices — and the company is targetting sector dominance. Within two years, Spectricity boldly predicts the sensor will be inside every smartphone.

The bullishness derives from a singular focus: measuring “true colour” in smartphones. According to Spectricty, this is something that even the best smartphones still can’t do. 

The problem stems from shortcomings in their white balance software, which is used to remove unrealistic colour tones. Our natural vision system does this remarkably well. When we see a white wall under sunlight or a fluorescent lamp, our brain adjusts the colour temperatures to make both scenes appear white. Smartphones attempt to do the same thing, but the results are often disappointing.

“None of these cameras can recognise true colour.

Limited by the three RGB colour channels of red, green, and blue, their auto-white balancing algorithms struggle to correct unnatural colour temperatures. As a result, photos taken under incandescent bulbs can appear more orange than under sunlight, while shady areas can look bluer.

“Even though there’s a lot of processing power behind these cameras, none can recognise true colour,” Spectricity CEO Vincent Mouret tells TNW.

To resolve this issue, the S1 sensor uses additional filters to analyse the spectral signature of an object. After sensing the light source in an image, the system corrects the colours accordingly.  

Spectricity founders