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Researcher pegs inertial sensor market growth at 20.3%

Posted: 02 Mar 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:inertial sensor? MEMS? accelerometers? gyroscopes? magnetometers?

Rapidly increasing use of accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers in cellphones, laptops, media tablets and gaming devices is fueling the growth of the inertial sensor market within the CE industry. The market is projected to achieve annual growth of 20.3 percent in the next five years, its value soaring from $847 million in 2009 to $2.56 billion in 2015, says Laurent Robin, analyst for MEMS and sensors market at Yole Dveloppement.

The MEMS accelerometer segment will be vital because many applications are expected to rely on 3-axis accelerometer + 3-axis gyroscope in a single package by 2015. There is thus a strong synergy between accelerometer and gyroscope technologies and players.

The gyroscope market is thriving, thanks to the successful introduction of 3-axis devices by STMicroelectronics and InvenSense. While adoption in handsets is only starting to surge (iPhone has been using gyroscopes since June 2010 while Android smartphones adopted them just recently), demand from the gaming sector is quickly growing and new markets are emerging, among them, media tablets and remote controls.

Compasses are also gaining market traction. 2010 was an excellent year for digital compass in handsets, but the market will achieve growth outside of the mobile phone area as well, particularly in gaming and DSC for advanced geo-tagging. It will be particularly interesting to monitor how newcomers will compete against AKM, which is way ahead in the market, notes Robin.

Competition is intensifying as the motion sensing market becomes increasingly attractive. More than 50 companies are targeting to enter the business, including large players and small companies. In the consumer market, however, only a few companies are actually making money out of this business, while the rest are struggling to make a decent profit.

Several levels of competition are shaping the market:

  • Competition among companies trying to offer a complete product family (accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers), either internally or with partners (e.g., STMicro is partnering with Honeywell on electronic compass).
  • Competition among devices: accelerometer, gyroscopes and electronic compass can provide functions, either alone or in combination with each other. So companies have to propose the best sensor or sensor combination for a dedicated function.
  • Competing business models: fabless companies (e.g., InvenSense) are competing against IDMs (STMicro, Kionix, Panasonic, Epson Toyocom and Freescale). Production cost optimization is one of the key success factors. It is thus necessary for all players to work hard to lower costs and produce on 203.2mm wafer lines at a reasonable yield.
  • Hardware competing against software: companies such as Movea are starting to impact the traditional supply chain model by bringing a novel expertise in software and sensor fusion.
  • Technology competition: companies are proposing discrete devices (a 3-axis accelerometer or a 3-axis gyroscope) or sensor combination (acceleration sensor plus gyroscope, gyroscope plus electronic compass) either in a system-in-package or on a single die, along with a transition from a sensor offer to a solution offer (with sensor fusion).

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