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Smartphones, tablets boost combo motion sensor market

Posted: 10 Oct 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MEMS? smartphone? tablet? combo motion sensor? InvenSense?

As a result of the rapid uptake of smartphones and tablets, the market for combo motion sensors will rise by more than 700 per cent at the end of the year, stated IHS. Revenue for combo motion sensors will grow to $189.1 million in 2012, up from just $23 million last year.

Although combo sensors have been around for four years, revenue during the first three years was negligible because of the paucity of product offerings, with the sector beginning to take off only in 2011. Growth starting this year, however, will be phenomenal. Aside from the explosive year-end upsurge, another hefty increase!equivalent to 236 per cent!is projected for 2013, when revenue hits $635.6 million.

By 2016, combo sensor revenue will amount to $1.4 billion, accounting for 71 per cent of the overall motion sensor space in consumer and mobile applications. Discrete accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses will make up the remainder of the market, or 29 per cent, based on 2016 revenue of $561.9 million, in view of steadily shrinking usage.

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Figure: Worldwide Motion Combo Sensor Revenue Forecast (Millions of US Dollars). Source: IHS iSuppli, October 2012.

"Motion sensors!including gyroscopes, accelerometers and compasses!have become ubiquitous in smartphones and tablets," said J└r└mie Bouchaud, director and principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS. "Since these sensors work together and their signal must be fused, combo sensors not only save space, they are also easing implementation by offering a convenient plug-and-play integrated solution."

Combo sensors represent a useful way to save space by integrating more functionality into a single package. Various configurations exist!such as 9DOF (degree of freedom) units made up of a 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis electronic compass; 6-axis compasses that include a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis compass; and 6-axis inertial measurement units (IMUs) comprising a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope.

Among combo sensor configurations, the 6-axis IMU will be dominant. According to California-based InvenSense, the majority of its handset and tablet customers have converted!or are in the process of converting!to a 6-axis solution, which offers superior functionalities over a 3-axis design.

Another configuration, the 6-axis compass, features improvements such as a reduction in size, which provides more flexibility in the placement of the module while mitigating electromagnetic interference.

A third device, the 9DOF or 9-axis IMU, is also gaining traction among manufacturers, following introduction in the last few months by InvenSense and STMicroelectronics of their respective products. The 4 x 4mm form factor is attractive, and both handset and tablet manufacturers are now pressing sensor makers to ramp up production. Handsets and tablets featuring 9-axis IMUs will make their first appearance in retail by 1Q13, IHS forecasted.

Overall, MEMS suppliers are now starting to take the lead in integrating magnetometers into their combo sensor packages!whereas compass manufacturers historically had directed the way in the past.

While accelerometer suppliers have generally been in a position to develop a gyroscope!and vice versa!the manufacturing process for the compass is usually radically different from the process for MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes, causing a gap in integration efforts between magnetometers and MEMS technology.

This means magnetometer suppliers and MEMS companies must continue to cooperate in order to strengthen 6-axis compass solutions or enhance the compass component in 9-axis IMUs.

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