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Sensor overload: Wearables boost shipments

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sensor? wearable? smartphone? fitness? health monitoring?

Innovations in wearable devices are flooding the industry with millions of sensors. Driven by rising demand for fitness and health monitoring features, as well as by improved user interfaces, shipments of sensors used in mobile devices and body electronics will rise by a factor of seven from 2013 through 2019, according to IHS Technology.

Shipments of sensors will climb much more quickly than the market for the wearable devices themselves. Wearable devices will increase to 135 million units in 2019, less than three times the total of 50 million in 2013.

"Wearables are a hotbed for sensors, with market growth driven by the increasing number of these components in each product sold," said Jrmie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst, MEMS & Sensors, at IHS Technology. "The main factor propelling this phenomenon is a transition in market share away from simple products like pedometers and towards more sophisticated multipurpose devices such as smartwatches and smartglasses.

"Instead of using a single sensor like the simpler devices, the more complex products employ numerous components for health and activity monitoring, as well as for their more advanced user interfaces," said Bouchaud.

The average wearable device shipped in 2019 will incorporate 4.1 sensor elements, up from 1.4 in 2013. IHS expects components like humidity sensors and pulse sensors to move from handsets to wearable devices, such as new smartwatches introduced by Samsung, Apple and others. This will further boost shipments of sensors in wearables.

Sensor scan

The types of sensors used in wearables are motion sensors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and sensors for user interfaces, health sensors and environmental sensors.

Motion sensors represent the dominant technology in the wearables segment and comprise the component categories of accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, pressure sensors and combo motion sensors. MEMS sensors for user interfaces include MEMS microphones, proximity sensors and MEMS displays.

Meanwhile, the health sensor area is represented by pulse, pulse-oximeters, hydration and skin temperature sensors. Environmental sensors include humidity, temperature and ultraviolet (UV) components.


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